Another week, another Free School in trouble, and another orgy of blame gaming following along behind: this time, it’s in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF), which changed hands in May as the Tories’ supposedly favourite local Government regime was booted out by the electorate, many of whom must have wished the deed had been done rather earlier.
Yes, "Oiky", it's another of your foul-ups
The Fulham Boys’ School had been scheduled to open its doors in September. This event will not now happen, and opening has been put back by at least a year. Cue much of the proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth from The Usual Suspects out there on the right, who see dastardly deeds by rotten lefties behind the news, rather than straightforward ineptitude from Michael “Oiky” Gove and his minions.
Under the previous LBHF regime, it was all going to be so different: “A group of parents in Fulham is asking local families to back plans to set up a Church of England free secondary school for boys in the south of the borough” the Council website told back in 2011. Note that gender segregation and faith schools are fine, so long as they come together in a Christian environment.
However, and here we encounter a significantly-sized however, the site the new school had believed it would get its hands on is currently occupied by the Sulivan primary school, which LBHF’s new Labour-controlled council has decided will now not be merging with a nearby Free School, and so not closing. The reasons for this change of heart have been spelled out for all to see.
“The change in housing policy, signalled in the new Administration’s manifesto, places a greater emphasis on the need for new affordable homes to rent which could have a particular impact on the South Fulham Riverside development where 1,000 extra homes are being built”. Then the blame gaming started, with the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole of the Guido Fawkes blog an early participant.
“Labour begin trashing Hammersmith and Fulham” he blubbered. But, as has now been revealed, The Great Guido is just another Tory cheerleader. The Telegraph was in similar mood: “Sources close to the Education Secretary blamed the new Labour administration at Hammersmith and Fulham Council for pulling ‘longstanding plans’ to allow the school to move to a permanent site in the borough”.
That means they are also taking their instructions from the Tories, in this case “Oiky” himself. But the Fulham Boys School had more than two years to find a suitable site, and it should have been clear from the opposition to closing Sulivan primary that a change of party in LBHF would be all it needed to scupper that idea. Meanwhile, nobody seems to have any problem with single-sex faith schools.
Followers of The Prophet may allow themselves a wry smile at that news.
Note that FBS already have a site - like WLFS they were given a special school's existing site while the school was decanted to the north of the borough. This is the former Queensmill School on the Gibbs Green estate and was supposed to open in September 2014, so must presumably (remind me to check) have planning permission, EFA funding etc. and work underway. Obviously the Gibbs Green site and entire estate was then going to be razed to the ground as part of the Capco deal.
There is, of course, nothing to stop FBS opening there and looking for a new site other than Sulivan, so someone's up to shenanigans here. What's clear is that in LBHF the council has had a much larger degree of influence over Free Schools than Oiky and Captain Bellend have previously pretended, insofar as the previous regime was actively collaborating with FS promoters to meet their education place requirement, leaving those promoters reliant on council goodwill rather than being truly free.
"waiting and gnashing of teeth" Wailing.
You're quite right, I'm not channelling Dr Paisley too well today. Corrected.
And for those dentally unequipped, in the immortal words of the said NI god-botherer, 'Teeth... will be... provided.'
"Note that FBS already have a site". Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Capco were on the verge of formally making over the Queensmill site to them, but got cold feet about the future of the development and decided to shelve the handover of the temporary site. Unsurprising given the attitude of the incoming LBHF administration.
The fact that FBS don't actually have a guaranteed site to move into in September 2014 is what may have prompted DfE to pull the plug.
The spirit of Dave Allen lives amongst us still.
"Well, up to a point, Lord Copper."
Hence reminding myself to check - who owns the various FS sites in LBHF is a very interesting issue. How did Capco get hold of it, then? Does it go:
- Phibbsograd kicks out Queensmill
- Phibbsograd hands over Gibbs Green to Capco as part of deal
- Capco subs it to FBS for a couple of years
- EFA forks out for refurb
- Phibbsograd kicks out Sulivan
- FBS takes over
- EFA forks out (again) for new school
- FBS move in, Capco regain Queensmill, demolish, flog to Russians?
Post a Comment