Former Labour Cabinet Minister, James Purnell is backing the setting up of free schools. He is now Chairman of a Labour think tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research and writing for Prospect magazine he warns that Labour have become anti reform.
"Labour should turn the Tory trick back on its originators by supporting free schools and GP commissioning. That would make it hard for the Tories to use their stock accusation that Labour is just opportunistically opposing everything."
Evidence continues to come in by the day that Free Schools will be operating on a significant scale by the time of the next election – even with the foolish restriction on businesses setting them up.
The Crosby Herald reports on on what could be the first free school in Merseyside. The Bristol Evening Post reports on a meeting of over 100 parents who are angry with their Lib Dem council dragging its fight on selling a site for a free school. A new free school for Norwich will be helped by football coaches from Norwich City. Eton is planning a free school in Windsor and Maidenhead – a boarding school including places for children in care.
In Northampton, Sir Bruce Liddington, a former headmaster is looking at three sites for a free school for 900 pupils including a disused warehouse.
The point is which schools have surplus places? Yep, those will be the bad ones. Look at this data from Policy Exchange for each school. They conclude that there are 303,751 surplus places at secondary schools in England and half of these are at the worst performing 25% of schools – as measured by GCSE results. The schools where more than 75% of children get five good GCSEs including English and maths are over-subscribed. The Hackney parents should be straightforward in stating their case: There may be places available at bad schools which Hackney Council would like to see filled. But the parents want their children to go to good schools.
In Bradford a new proposal for a free school puts the case more robustly. They stress how they will be working with local employers dismayed by current low school standards and quote a report which says:
"Recent years have seen significant improvements in educational attainment among children, but a lower proportion of Bradford's adults than average have the minimum qualifications deemed necessary for employment."