Here is a an informative article that we need to absorb fully the implications of:

Plans to build two state schools in Coventry using land and cash from property developers have been scrapped after a clash with the education secretary, Michael Gove. Coventry city council secured the funding – and land worth around £3m – for the new primary schools from developers building more than 1,400 homes on two former industrial sites…. (see rest of article)

At stake is the willingness of Local Authorities (who, despite their faults, have sought to serve the children in their communities, generally to the best of their ability to do so, for many years, bringing a local flavour to education that sought to fit in with the needs of their ratepayers/council tax payers) to build new schools for the children they are serving. We face exactly this issue in Milton Keynes now – the council is, in accordance with the Development Plan for Milton Keynes, seeking to build more schools to serve the houses that they will see built in the eastern, western and southern expansion areas. In essence, they will have to provide the land in the plan and then seek sponsors to build the academies. There is no incentive for Local Authorities to do anything now. They lose, whichever way you look at it. The only lever that LAs have is to build on existing sites and make schools larger. The need for new schools is there. Local Authorities could go ahead in most cases and just build them. But instead, because of these stupid, ideologically driven decisions, they will have instead to accommodate children by extending schools.

In Milton Keynes, these are the principles for addressing demand for new school places (from the 2012 Setting and School Organisation Framework – worth a read):

1. Where possible, new school places will be provided by expanding high quality providers on existing school sites. If this is not practically or economically feasible consideration will then be given to the use of an alternative site

2. When commissioning new school places on alternative sites consideration will first be given to expanding existing provision that is judged ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted that is within statutory walking distance (two miles for primary provision, three miles for secondary provision) of the demographic need for additional places. This is known locally as Expanding the Best.

3. Where expansion of existing schools is not deemed to be appropriate, new school provision will be commissioned on new sites. This would be in line with section 37 and schedule 11 of the EA 2011 that set out the expectation that any new school provision would be established as an academy or free school. The council would notify the DfE of its intention to seek proposals for a new school. The DfE would then publish details of the consultation on its website and alert potential providers/sponsors to the new academy’s requirements. The DfE would then confirm the successful provider.

MK has made several moves to try and sort this problem out – schools have raised their pupil admission numbers, have agreed to take expansions in ceratin year groups, or moved from 2-form entry to 3-form entry. One imaginative way of expanding provision whilst slipping around the DFE academy/free school requirement is to open second campuses of existing “outstanding” schools in the western expansion area to the north of Grange Farm. That limits the possibilities somewhat (certainly WE won’t be asked!) The phrase that keeps cropping up in the School Organisation Framework is:

“To be commissioned as second campus of existing school judged outstanding by Ofsted or opened as an academy”

So this is where we stand. Just to give an idea of the problem, look at these three graphs:

And then today, Boris the Blonde has “noticed” that if we make all the schools academies, the iron chain to the DfE firmly in place, and competition rife, then what mechanism for supporting all of these new schools will exist? The report for the mayor, entitled “Going for Gold” (wow, what an original title!) also has some less helpful aspects to it as reported by the Independent, and these give a guide to the Tory elitist tendencies that keep bubbling up, like decomposing bodies in a lake….

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

One response »

  1. […] very strongly reasoned for-and-against arguments that I found enlightening. Following on from an earlier blog of mine dealing with the MK situation, I see that one of our local infant schools, the Heelands School, is […]

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