The front page headline on a local paper today is that the ex -Stroud MP David Drew has said, along with other members of the local labour party, that he is against the opening of the proposed Steiner free school.
The free school team responded by saying that nearly 1100 cuildren are signed up. Such figures are being bandied around, and no-one knows exactly how many families originally expressed an interest and how many still wish to send their children to this school.
Last week our MP Neil Carmichael wrote a letter to the same newspaper saying how interesting the debate has become, and that although there is no need for more school places here, Gloucester and Cheltenham do have that need.
He also praised local schools for the improvements they are making, and mentioned that local schools have had “fantastic inspection reports”.
Last week in “Stroud Life” three local secondary heads expressed their dismay that £6.6 million could be spent on this new school when they are in need of funding themselves. One head teacher of an extremely highly- rated school said there were leaking temporary buildings in use at her school, and she had been told there was no money to replace them.
Clearly priorities have to be sorted out, and the proposed school, now referred to as “Steiner Academy Five Valleys” by the Steiner group, will need to prove it is required here.
The BBC website provided this explanation of the Academies Bill when it was being debated, and answered a question;
So is there a difference between free schools and academies?
Essentially not, because free schools will be established as academies. But the free schools programme will give parents and teachers the chance to initiate in the creation of a new school if they are unhappy with state schools in a particular local area.
The day-to-day running of free schools will often be by an “education provider” – a group or company brought in by the group setting up the school. The provider would not be allowed to make a profit from running the school.
The Steiner school has been marketed to parents as a fluffy, colourful, dreamy “alternative”. Anthroposophy has not been mentioned at the outset, and nor has the anticipated impact on other local schools.
Everyone here will be affected; future parents will have a limited choice of mainstream schools for their children if this proposal goes ahead. There will be a large school in the area catering for those who are drawn to New Age, spiritual/religious occult ideas, and limited choice for everyone else.
Let’s get our priorities right.