Friday 24 May 2013

Brent Council accepted Michaela Free School as a 'fait accompli' in letter to DfE

In Brent Council's  letter to the DfE regarding the application by Michaela Community School to set up a secondary free school in Wembley, Krutika Pau reported on the views that came out of a meeting of a group of Brent headteachers, councillors and council officers who met with the Michaela proposers. She said  that Katharine Birbalsingh's 'highly laudable intention to provide excellent education' in a way that 'helps them overcome social disadvantage' accords with the aims of existing Brent secondary schools. However concerns are expressed about the 'experimental character' of the school and the risks arising from this and the fact that it does not have a track record.

The position of Arena House and the facilities offered, even after refurbishment, also concerned the Council and particularly the need for external play space.

In a key sentence Pau accepts that the school is a fair accommpli despite the fact that the results of the very poorly attended public consultation have not yet been reported:
It is fair to say that this local authority would not have invited the Michaela Community School into the borough as part of its school expansion plans but given that its opening is a fait accompli, we plan to work with the school both constructively and with vigilance.
In another (redacted) document released as a result of my freedom of information request, Sara Williams, Assistant Director, reports on her meeting with Tome Legge and Katharine Birbalsingh of Michaela Community School. The report is undated but before March 2013:

·         The purchase of Arena House has gone through

·     The school will open with 4 forms of entry in September 2014.  They will open in Year 7 only though they are open to suggestions for provision in Year 10 if we need it

·      Under the free school legislation, there has to be a period of consultation (Section 9/10?).  The timing of this hasn’t been nailed down yet.

·     Tom has agreed that the school will do a presentation to a group of Brent stakeholders as part of the consultation:  I will organise this once we know the timeframe of the consultation.  It needs to be handled carefully (including the invitation list) but will be a good opportunity I think.

·      The school will enter the authority’s admissions process

·      It will sign up to the Fair Access Protocol

·      They will send their admissions policy for us to vet

·      They want to balance the intake through banding like Capital City (good practice in my view)

·      They are interested in an admissions ‘node’ in the south of the borough (like Ark).  We are suggesting near QPCS as that school is very oversubscribed yet the transport routes to the undersubscribed schools are not good.  Carmen will talk to Mike Hulme about this to give him the heads up.

·      They will admit SEN pupils like any other school and aim to be inclusive

·      The curriculum will be depth before breadth – extra Eng, Ma, Sci with no D&T or ICT as discrete subjects

·      Music and art will be included in the curriculum

·      There will be an extended school day

·      They will look to rent PE space from other schools

·      They will recognise TUs if their staff want to be members

·      They will require QTS (Qualified Teacher Status)

·      They will have an LA rep on their governing body

·      They will have parents on their governing body

·      They will share performance data
They will let the premises to the community and encourage suitable community uses
 Williams notes:

The consultation is not a process whereby the local authority can realistically prevent the school opening – or this is my understanding from reading up on it.  Jean can you look into it and give me some wording on the legal position? 

Krutika Pau's full letter with additional information on banding and catchment HERE

Sara Williams' full notes HERE

1 comment:

Gastronomix said...

The more I read about these the gladder I am that I don't have kids who could end up being 'taught' within this deregulated system. Whilst some motives may be honest it seems like education is rapidly being returned to a scenario where not only can an unqualified and untested individual or organisation have a strong influence on a child's education but local authorities are as good as powerless to stop them. Another fine example of the populace being sold an unwanted, financially and politically driven 'solution' when none was required.