In a speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today, Boris Johnson promised to help boost the number of free schools in London by launching a group, known as ‘Schools for London’.The nightmare gets worse. As if it is not enough for London schools to have to cope with Michael Gove we now have Boris Johnson butting in. Help!
Johnson described himself as being a “passionate supporter” of free schools in his speech and praised them for their traditional teaching methods.Rachel Wolf, founder of the New Schools Network, said: “With nearly 200 schools now open or approved to open, the free schools movement has accelerated at a pace that means the centralised processes around finding sites can’t cope. London is particularly problematic, and a number of schools were unable to open or faced delays because of the challenges in finding sites for new schools.“We are delighted that the Mayor will be helping free schools across the capital find sites and look forward to working with the GLA to ease this bottleneck and secure more great schools for London’s parents.”Johnson said that Schools for London would be aimed at promoting free schools and he will be looking at opening up the police and fire service property portfolios to house the new schools.Darren Johnson, a London assembly Green Party member believes that the Mayor should be working with local authorities to build new LA run schools rather than “throwing money at free schools in a wasteful fashion.” He said: “Transparency and value for money are vital. I will be asking the Mayor to justify his enthusiasm for free schools by removing the veil of secrecy which has been drawn over the financing of the policy."He added that free schools aren’t enough to tackle the shortage of school places in the capital: “Free schools tend to be quite small and this means they are unlikely to meet the huge demand across London for school places in the coming years. There is no planning with these schools, so they don’t always open in the areas with the biggest demand for school places.”Whitehall figures estimate a shortage of 78,923 primary school places and 12,227 secondary school places across the capital between now and 2014/15.