In Horsham we have some of the best Secondary Schools in West Sussex and a Sixth Form College with national recognition.
In the article last week about the application from Liberty for the North Horsham development, we find that another one is planned on this new site. This secondary school has been described as a ‘Free School’.
It may not be quite the kind of ‘Free School’ as proposed by Michael Gove, as from May last year all new academies established after May 2015 are regarded by the Government as free schools.
However, this presumably means they will be able to employ non-qualified staff and have no limit on how much they can pay their headteacher, two of the controversial elements of this initiative.
Parents need to be aware that their children may not be taught by people who have teaching qualifications and that Academies are funded and controlled by Whitehall.
Free schools have not had a great track record. A secret document prepared in 2013 for Lord Nash, then a schools minister, outlines a strategy to ‘step in fast to cut political damage’.
The confidential papers, leaked by the Times Educational Supplement in April 2013, warn that the ‘political ramifications of any more free schools being judged inadequate is very high and speedy intervention is essential’ to prevent any fallout landing in the DfE. Readers may remember that the Discovery Free School in Crawley was deemed inadequate and had to be closed.
The Swedish free schools have not shown any significant change in the standards of Swedish education.
By the time this school is opened it may be designated as a grammar school.
Here again this type of school might not be delivering the quality education for bright but disadvantaged pupils as was their original conception.
Of the 164 remaining in England, 161 of them have fewer than ten per cent of pupils who are on free school meals. The Institute for Fiscal Studies have found that bright disadvantaged children are less likely to attend a grammar school than advantaged children.
Horsham has a proud reputation for good secondary education. The pupils and families of Horsham deserve the highest standards of education with local accountability.
Dr Lesley Hendy
Comptons Lane. Horsham
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