When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Free schools prove to be a problem in Hampshire
THE controversial ‘free schools’ policy is struggling to get off the ground in Hampshire – with just six applications in three years.
The county is stuck in the slow lane of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s pet project, compared with most areas of England.
Just one free school – Rosewood School, in Southampton – has opened so far, free from local authority influence.
Hefty school fees And three of the six applications came from independent schools hoping to axe fees and receive Government cash to operate instead.
Mr Gove has promoted the policy as the chance for parents and teachers to set up new schools, where standards are low or places scarce.
But bids by Fitrah Southampton Islamic Primary School, The New Forest Small School and The Kings School, Basingstoke, were all from existing private schools.
This pattern has been mirrored across the country, apparently the consequence of the recession making it more difficult for many parents to afford hefty school fees.
Some critics also leapt on the revelation that 132 of the 517 applications in the past two years, across England, have come from religious groups.
‘Personal attacks’ They include Fitrah and the application by the Emmaus Learning Community, Whiteley, a Church of England bid turned down in 2011.
The list was published after Mr Gove bowed to a ruling from the Information Commissioner to release the details of all applications.
The British Humanist Association, which pushed for release, said the Government statistics were likely to underestimate the number of faith school applications by up to 50 per cent.
It said: “This is because it only shows schools with a formally designated religious character and not those with a ‘faith’ ethos.”
Mr Gove said he had not published details of applications in the past because of “personal attacks on individuals who simply want to improve education standards and choice locally”.
He added: “We have been told of instances where teachers have lost their jobs simply by virtue of their association with a free school application.
“One proposer even told us that they have been the subject of a death threat.”