Sunday 21 April 2013

Barry Gardiner says no demand for Michaela Free School and urges residents to make their views known

In a letter to a constituent, Barry Gardiner MP (Labour, Brent North) has said that he has seen no desire in Brent for the Michaela Free School which is run by Katharine Birbalsingh:
Although there is a shortage of school places in Brent, I do not think that a free school In Wembley is the best solution to this problem, especially as there has not been, to my knowledge, a call from the community to open such a school.
He goes on to urge residents to make their views known on the issue before tomorrow's deadline:
The school has not yet been approved by the DfE and as the consultation period is still open, I would urge you and other concerned residents to complete the online questionnaire so that the views of local people are taken into account. The deadline for submissions is on Monday 22nd April 2013 and the questionnaire can be found here: .
Be aware that the questionnaire contains some seemingly fairly innocuous statements which few would disgree with but where agreement can be used to claim that the school is supported.

Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, had written to Gardiner on behalf of Michael Gove and claims that Michaela have had 'production meetings' with Brent Council officials:  
The proposers of Michael Community School are committed to opening a school with a distinct ethos and high expectations that will serve disadvantaged communities in London. The Department considered that their application to open a Free School was strong   and we have been working with them seince September 20122 to develop their school. As Free School projects develop, there are often aspects of the original application that evolve and change. Ministers will consider the final location, evidence of demand and revised plans for the school before making the final decision to open the school.

The Michael Community School is proposing to open in Brent for September 2014. Following an extebnsive site search, the Education Funding Agnecy has been helping the proiposers identify as site which ahs the ca[acity for their proposed school and can serve disadvantaged communities. We believe it is likely that the school will help meet rising demand for places across Brent. The Secretary of State will also consider any evidence that the school proposers provide that the school will improve choice for parents alongside any evidence of basic need for places before deciding whether to enter a funding agreement.

Brent Council has been aware that the Michaela Community School was looking at potentially opening in Brent since last summer. I understand that representatives of the school have had productive meetings with council officials. The Department will write to Brent Council during the school proposers' consultation to seek their further views on the school before a final decision on whether to open the school is made. (My emphasis)

The Secretary of State will ot make the final decision on whether to pen the Michael Community School until the school is ready to enter into a funding agreement. By that point, the school's proposers will have completed a public consultation on the opening of the school. The Secretary of State will also consider the evidence of demand for the school and the potential impact on other nearby state-funded schools.

Finally, we are fully committed to making the Free School programme transparent and accountable. The Department will publish the final pre-opening development cost of each project shortly after the school opens. The Department will also publish the final capital cost of each school once it has been established, which can be after the opening date as sometimes work continues after a school has opened.
Clearly it is important that we know what Brent Council has said during the consultation. The fact that only 8 people in total turned up to the consultation meetings and most, if not all, were opposed to Michaela should have given Brent Council the message that the school is not wanted her.

It is telling that we cannot know the cost, which might well contribute to our views on the project until after the school has opened.



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