17 March 2011
Last night (Wednesday 16th) a farcical “public” meeting was held to present proposals by E-Act to open a Free School on the site of the current Downshall Centre in September (see post below). Below are some of the issues beginning to emerge
- E-Act have already advertised for a headteacher for the “proposed” school. The closing date for applications is this Friday, 18th March! If you wanted to apply, you’re already too late: the project briefing days for applicants were earlier this week.
- Back in October the Ilford Recorder ran a story about E-Act’s interest in bidding to open a free school in or near Newbury Park. It reported that a disused building such as a former office block would be used.
- The Department for Education website shows the proposal was approved to the “business case stage” on 14th January.
- About a dozen people attended last night’s “public” meeting held by E-Act. Most were representing voluntary sector groups using the centre. Also present were local councillor & Labour Group Leader, Bob Littlewood & union representatives. None of these people had been sent notice of the meeting. Only a couple were prospective parents, one of whom arrived minutes before the meeting ended.
- E-Act claims to have been running a consultation since December 2010. This has consisted of a survey carried out by MORI of a about 300 prospective parents about whether they would want to send their children to a free school in the local area. No consultation of existing users of the Downshall Centre. No consultation with local residents or their elected representatives.
Some of the questions which need answering are:
- When was the possibility of using the Downshall Centre first raised with Keith Prince, Leader of the Council, or Alan Weinberg, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services?
- Why was a true consultation of all stakeholders not implemented as soon as consideration of using the centre had been agreed?
- What consideration has been given to traffic management at the crossroads on which the Downshall Centre stands? This is already a longstanding problem which will be greatly exacerbated as the school builds from its opening capacity of 120 children to 420.
- What alternatives were considered?
- How can the results of the totally inadequate “consultation” be regarded as valid when those surveyed were not told the location of the school? Nor were they told it will take over the home of many servics provided by the voluntary sector & one of just four centres across Redbridge for the borough’s Youth Service.
Everyone accepts that there is an urgent need for more primary school places in the borough. That is why the last Labour government funded the building of new, purpose built primary schools on the old Port of London playing fields and off Winston Way. But the current proposal is not the way to go about it.
The Department for Education says free schools are “set up in response to what local people say they want”. We say:
- This is the ConDem government hurriedly pushing through its ideological free schools agenda with the connivance of local Tories & Liberal Democrats. This denies local people the chance to say what they want.
- This is no way to plan for the future.
- This is top down, not bottom up government.
- This is not transparent government.