As I was out shopping the other day in Padiham I was given a leaflet about the proposed Free School. I was a little taken aback as the leaflet contained a number of incorrect facts.
Fact number one: The Department of Education has not given the go-ahead for a new free school for Burnley. This decision will only be made after the consultation period which is not due to finish until December 16th. Fact number two: This school is not filling the gap in Burnley for a school with a Christian ethos. We already have a Christian school, Blessed Trinity College, plus Faith spaces in the majority of our colleges where respect and tolerance are shared through a project called Faith Friends.
Fact number three: This school will take away existing funding from our present colleges which will affect the quality of education for all students in Burnley. The proposed Free School, however, will cater for only a minority of students.
Fact number four: Everything the proposed Free School say they will offer our existing colleges already do “excellent education individually tailored to each student”, “staff as coaches”, “specialisms when requested”, “focus on sustainability” and “active partnerships with all parents”. These are standard requirements for all schools under the rigorous OFSTED criteria, except for Free Schools.
Fact number five: The proposed Free School will be outside of standard regulations. This could mean, for example, your children may be taught by unqualified staff who are not following the National Curriculum or in a building not fit for purpose, etc.
I would urge all parents to get behind our existing colleges instead of supporting a free school for the sake of a minority of students. The new free school will take away much-needed resources from existing schools in Burnley and will be divisive for the education attainment of all our young people in Burnley. This point of view is supported by the majority of our churches and the council.
To have your views heard please fill in the consultation document at www.burnleyhighschool.co.uk or submit comments to Department of Education, Free Schools Group, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith St, Westminster, London, SW1P 3BT.
Bea Foster (Christian) and Fr Michael Waters of St John’s RC Church.