We are opposed to the proposed Free Schools in Lambeth

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July 12th, 2011 at 9:46 am

Fiona Millar – Looks at the improvement of Lilian Bayliss School and the Free School proposed on its doorstep

Fiona Millar writes a great piece in the education Guardian:

‘Some years ago, I was invited by Channel 4 to make a film about parent choice. Travelling around the country was an eye-opener. The public debate may have been about monolithic, bog-standard uniformity, but on the ground the diverse, hierarchical nature of English education was plain to see.

One day remains lodged in my mind. After a morning filming at the country’s top fee-paying school, Westminster, we moved barely a mile across the Thames to visit Lilian Baylis school. It had recently been subject to a very public naming and shaming after Oliver Letwin, then a prominent opposition spokesman, announced he would rather “beg” in the streets than send his children there.

The difference between the two schools was stark. In the first, the capital’s privileged youth were educated in exclusive splendour. At Lilian Baylis the bleak physical environment was as challenging as the intake. Over 70% of pupils were eligible for free school meals, the number of pupils from refugee families and on the child protection register were way above average and the GCSE results were way below. But inside the gloomy building, something exciting was happening. A feisty and inspiring young head was resolutely tackling the school’s problems to give his pupils a better chance.

Over the years, I have been back to Lilian Baylis several times. The school is now in a light, airy new building, courtesy of the Labour government’s now derided building programme. The intake remains similar, but its reputation has been re-built thanks to steadily improving results and a good Ofsted report, which judged the head’s, Gary Phillips, leadership as “exemplary”. The school is a touchstone for what has been achieved over the last 10 years.

But now a new “free” school is being proposed on Lilian Baylis’s doorstep. It has a slick website oozing all the usual buzzwords – tradition, character, high aspirations, excellent teaching.

There is no way of knowing whether these new schools will actually deliver on their grandiose claims since most haven’t appointed teachers, let alone admitted their first pupils. In countries where this experiment has been tried, there have been as many failures as successes.’

Click here for the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/11/free-schools-parental-choice-chaos?commentpage=last#end-of-comments

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