Why the opposition Building Schools for the Future was an expensive failure

Hameldon Community College received a damning report from Ofsted inspectors
Hameldon Community College received a damning report from Ofsted inspectors

Why has the proposal to establish a Free School in the borough generated so much hysterical opposition from certain elements of the establishment?

Representatives of the clergy and politics are queuing to denounce this initiative with former Labour MP Peter Pike and Lib Dem Councillor Roger Frost being two of the most recent.

Coun. Frost goes as far as contradicting his own Party policy by denouncing the principle of Free Schools. Also he, Mr Pike and almost every other critic of the proposed Free School object to the use of a former school building once deemed “unfit for purpose”. Why did they not object so vociferously when a Muslim Girls’ School was proposed for the similarly “unfit for purpose” former Burnley College building? Following the disturbances of 2001 the Lord Clarke Report concluded that racial integration should be enforced beginning with schools. From that point on education in Burnley was given over as hostage to the multi-cultural experiment and the “reorganising” of secondary schools began. The rise of the BNP probably added to the panic and rather than a carefully measured and orderly transition the proverbial bull in a china shop approach was adopted.

Over the following years some buildings were abandoned, others were demolished and re-built while their pupils were herded back and forth from one side of town to the other.

The worst possible scenario occurred when an ill judged attempt was made to integrate two schools into what would then become Hameldon College. Inter-school rivalry was exacerbated by racial tension and resulted in the need of a permanent police presence on site. Academic achievement suffered and the amalgamated school was one of the first in Burnley to be placed in “special measures” by Ofsted. Hameldon College eventually moved to its new PFI structure but has never recovered from the stigma attached to its inception. Expected pupil numbers failed to materialise and only as recently as Tuesday was it reported that Ofsted has again branded the school “inadequate”.

Hameldon College was by no means the only school to suffer the indignity of “special measures” and I believe I am correct in claiming that at various points during this mayhem educational attainment collapsed at every one of the new schools.

Although there are many claims that these schools are now registering much improved results, it must be remembered that when you are at the bottom there is only one way left to go.

Clearly it is also an embarrassment for those who so wholeheartedly endorsed acculturation ahead of education that so many parents choose to have their offspring educated outside the borough. That embarrassment would be compounded if the Free School was to become an academic success in buildings that had previously been rejected as “unfit for purpose”. It would endorse the argument that “buildings do not educate” and that the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) debacle has been an expensive academic failure.

John Cave

Caernarvon Avenue

Burnley