No Need

A report in the Guardian today (other newspapers are available!) on the rising cost of establishing a free school says that the cost is now £6.6 million, double the original cost.

It also points out that

“Ministers and civil servants have been asked by the National Audit Office (NAO) to target spending on areas with the greatest need after discovering that a quarter of all places at the schools were unfilled in the first year the schools opened.”

This does not bode well for the proposed Steiner school here, where it has been established that there is no need for new school places.

Also mentioned is the fact that children attending free schools are likely to travel twice as far as those attending neighbouring mainstream schools and that free schools have been “largely colonised by the middle classes”, with Free School children being less likely to receive free school meals.

There is also a reaction to the National Audit Office report from the Local Schools Network.

The idea of a free school does seem unsuitable in a town the size of Stroud, where it will have a significant impact on choice, especially if other schools end up in difficulties. In a city perhaps it would have a different effect, providing more choice, if that is really what parents want.

In my opinion, most parents just want improvement in the quality of existing schools, and for ideology to be left out of education.

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2 comments

  1. BJ

    Whatever they might not be good at, the Steiner free School team are certainly very practiced at spin, using the media and securing the support of influential people. Stroud Life this week devotes a whole page to the pro-Steiner message. I wonder what response a non-Steiner supporter might have had if they tried the same thing? Radio Gloucestershire, a few days ago, featured 2 very effusive interviewees from the Steiner Free School PR team saying all the same things: No, we don’t have any truck with anthroposophy, students will learn from qualified teachers (yes, but WHAT qualifications and from where?), parents need to be able to exercise choice (involving a real or fabricated option ?)… etc. No-one with differing views seemed to have been invited to input – but perhaps this happened later and I missed it.
    1100+ children are already signed up to the proposed free school. If the government gives the go ahead in January, it will happen. Parents who have convinced themselves it offers a positive alternative may have an epiphany later on. It could be very damaging to the Steiner movement if they were found to have lied to or mislead the public in order to achieve their goal. Perhaps they are just so certain of the power of indoctrination. But then what about the children who have been failed by the school – in the event that it has to close, or they are withdrawn by their enlightened parents? Ultimately, Stroud could end up with mainstream schools struggling to cope with a sudden influx of children with varying levels of education. Having already cost the taxpayer £6.6 million to set up the free school, I wonder what people will think then?

  2. Helen

    You make very good points BJ.
    When I started this blog Stroud news dismissed my efforts at publicising it and said it was “not news”. They have since changed their minds, and it was Stroud Life who initially ran a story on it. That was of course for their own ends, but at least they saw the significance of the issue locally.
    The radio programme did have a phone- in, but I hadn’t realised when the presenter commented here about it that he had invited guests from the free school initiative in to the studio to make their presentation. (Or may be they invited themselves?).
    He asked some pertinent questions on the programme and had done his research, and it was noticeable that the answers given were not convincing to anyone who knows anything about Steiner schools.
    On the free school itself, I have heard some proponents of Steiner themselves say they do not think state funded Steiner schools are a good idea, for the reason you mention – damage will be done to the movement when disillusioned families begin to leave and schools have to close.
    Even a Montessori free school was made to close last week, and their methods are much more sound than Steiner.

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