Campaigning in the local press against the Nottingham Free School

I made a statement on behalf of “Hands Off Our Schools” yesterday, a little bit of which is quoted in an article in today’s Nottingham Post.

Letter about the ‘free’ school in Nottingham Post

Here is the text of a letter which, in edited form, appeared in the Nottingham Post, Monday 23 June (text in italics did not appear in the newspaper):

“I feel I must respond to Cllr Philip Owen’s letter (‘Free schools will raise educational standards’, 15 June). I’m no apologist for Labour so I’ll let Cllr John Peck defend its record and his remarks, but Cllr Owen’s comments about ‘free schools’ must be challenged.

Where is the evidence of the “enthusiastic support” for the ‘Nottingham Free School’ which, according to him, is the only reason this ‘virtual school’ (it currently only exists on-line) is about to spring into the real world? These parents, currently clamouring to be allowed a free school are, apparently, dissatisfied with existing  provision, which will surprise the many good schools in the Sherwood area where, it is rumoured, this school will be sited. If these schools  are so poor, maybe any available resources should go into improving them rather than starting from scratch in a hastily refurbished derelict building somewhere (remember, they’ve got just over a year to conjure up a fully-functioning school from thin air).

Free schools are “influential in driving up standards”, claims Cllr Owen: tell that to the parents of children at The Discovery (free) school in West Sussex, just rated ‘inadequate’ by OFSTED. As for offering greater choice, in my experience what parents want is a good local school they feel happy to send their children to. 

Not the site for the new 'free' school (probably)

Not the site for the new ‘free’ school (probably)

In any case, looking at the ‘Nottingham Free School’ website, I can’t find very much in their ‘offer’ that’s different from any other school, apart from an option to do Latin and LAMDA public speaking exams. Even then, don’t expect them to keep to that ‘offer’ since they are still apparently planning to share resources and staff with their ‘sister’ school, the ‘Trent Bridge Free School’: they don’t seem to have noticed that the Department for Education and Science turned down the TBFS application! They, like Cllr Owen, need to keep up with what people actually want and what is happening in the real world, not indulge in some ideological fantasy.

Colin Tucker”

Also posted on ‘Hands Off Our Schools’

Campaign against the Nottingham Free School

The DfE has approved a new ‘free school’ to be established in the Sherwood district of Nottingham. The local ‘Anti-Academies Alliance’ group, ‘Hands Off Our Schools’, has opposed this and the sister ‘Trent Bridge Free School’ (which was NOT approved by the DfE) from the word go. It will continue to campaign against the school being set up. The local MP, Vernon Coaker, and the new Labour Nottinghamshire County Council Education Chair, John Peck, have both publicly come out against the school. The following has just been posted on the ‘HOOS’ website:

“We will be repeating our successful ‘stall’ in Sherwood, where we understand the new ‘free school’ is due to be established. Reaction from members of the public to our campaigning literature was extremely positive and many signatures were collected on a petition. We will be there again on Saturday 13 July, from 11 am, outside the Co-op in Sherwood Shopping Centre. If you can come along to help distribute literature and talk to members of the public, you will be very welcome.

We will also be giving out leaflets to parents at primary schools close to the expected location of the ‘free school’. This will be in the week commencing Monday 8 July. If you are available to help (you would need to be there by about 8.20 am) please contact us via the ‘Contribute’ button or by email if you are a member of our email group. We will then tell you the exact location of the school we will be visiting on each day.

We are also making plans to continue the campaign into the new school year including lobbying Year 6 parents at ‘open evenings’ and a public meeting in Sherwood. Information will be posted here as soon as arrangements are finalised.

Please look out for letters and articles in the local press. Join the debate if you can.

This school does not yet exist and is by no means a ‘done deal’: they haven’t even announced where the school will be housed! We believe a campaign of information can prevent them persuading Year 6 parents to make it a ‘first choice’ when they complete their applications in late September.”

Please click here to visit the HOOS website and show your support with a comment.

D’ya wanna be in my gang?

tomasevic image
Activists in Nottinghamshire have been organising to fight proposed ‘free’ schools in Arnold and Trent Bridge. These are the brain-child of a successful local head teacher, John Tomasevic (right). He has taken Toot Hill School through from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘outstanding’ in OFSTED terms and on the way has supported another Nottinghamshire school that was struggling. All well and good but suddenly these two schools are ‘The Torch’ group and Mr Tomasevic is the Chief Executive, proposing the two new schools.

The so-called ‘Trent Bridge Free School’ seems to be the leading edge. Although no premises have been identified it does, bizarrely,  have a website, complete with pictures of pupils in TBFS uniform. The area it is proposed to serve already has two ‘outstanding’ schools, both, as it happens, academies. There does seem to be a shortage of places but this could easily, and more economically, be addressed by expanding the current schools.

Torch have held some public meetings, fairly poorly attended and anti-academy campaigners who attended the meetings say Mr Tomasevic gave a mediocre account of himself. There has been discussion in the letters page of the Nottingham Post along with some reportage of the meetings and a short article by the man himself. In the most recent article (27 November) Mr Tomasevic claims to have had about 120 expressions of interest in each school and hopes to have about 180 by the end of the year so that he can apply to the DfE for the go-ahead. Check back here for further developments.