Monday 21 January 2013

Brent Council confirms Birbalsingh Free School in Wembley Park

Arena House opposite Wembley Park Station
Cllr Mary Arnold, lead member for Children and Families announced that she had heard today that Katharine Birbalsingh is acquiring the ex-CNWL site at Wembley Park for her Michaela Community Free Secondary School.

Arnold said that the Council had not been consulted by the DfE. Although the school will have to apply for planning position the Council has no powers over it.  However she said that the Council was concerned about teaching and learning, equalities and conditions of employment in the school. They would have talks with the providers in order to try and apply the Council's free school criteria.

Cllr Michael Pavey (Labour Barnhill) said that he shared Cllr Arnold's concern.  As Chair of Governors at Wembley Primary he said that his school did not educate its pupils in order to hand them over to unqualified teachers at a Free School. Free Schools had an average of 9% of children on free school meals whereas Wembley Primary had about a third. Schools should be run to nurture and educate children, not for private profit.

To applause, he urged the Council to take a strong and principled stand on this issue.

The school will be subject to planning permission but this is unlikely to be a problem given the very lose regulation around Free Schools and the buildings previous use as a further education college.  Play space will be limited but I suspect a deal may be done with the Ark Academy which is just across the road and has extensive playing fields.


John Rhodes said...

Is there any news on this Free School ? Is it actually opening in Sept 2013 ? Have there been any parents meetings ? May we have an update please ?

Martin Francis said...

Hi John,

There's an article quoting Birbalsingh in the Kilburn Times (p6) this week but no opening date. The building is in quite a poor state and I can't see it opening in September and I presume there will also have to be a planning application for any changes to the site. The website has no news since November 2012 which just announced the acquisition. No details of any consultation with other schools have been announced as far as I know and no community meetings. The KT reports that Michaela Community Free School is to meet with the Council this week. I cannot see that the school and Birbalsingh would be able to satisfy the conditions for support set out by the Council but of course she doesn't need that to carry on. The website is so sparse that there isn't even any information on how many pupils have signed up. It would be scandalous if she got the cash from the government on the basis of so little information.

John Rhodes said...

I have just noticed that Opening 2013 has been removed from this page on the website....