As predicted here, following pressure from local campaigners and head teachers, Hammersmith Tory council has seen the light and no longer appears to be putting the West London free school ahead of the Cambridge school for pupils with special educational needs. But another school for vulnerable children looks set to lose out and we urge local people to let the free school know their concerns by 22 February.
The council now wants to give Cambridge the Bryony Centre in September after all, as was the plan until the snap decision on 17 January to give the Bryony to the free school.
Instead, the council has "asked" the free school to consider taking Cambridge’s vacated building (for two years until Palingswick House, whose 21 charities are being kicked out, is ready).
We welcome this for Cambridge, but it would still disadvantage the Bridge Academy, a pupil referral unit for excluded and vulnerable young people. The original plan was for the Bridge, which is is in a terrible condition (rains pours through the roof), to get the building once Cambridge pupils moved into the Bryony (see the last three paragraphs here). This won't happen if the free school moves into Cambridge.
The free school’s consultancy EC Harris has just sent out a letter to “key stakeholders” inviting comments by 22 February. We think that everyone, not just a select few, should be able to comment and would encourage you to click here to see EC Harris's letter and send in a response.
The letter says, “[T]he Trustees of the WLFS have been asked by LBHF and the headteachers of two local schools to consider an alternative site for the temporary location of the [free school]. This would be instead of the Bryony Centre.”
In preparation for the Cambridge pupils, the Bryony Centre “will undergo works to be made fit for purpose as a special needs school before September 2011”. (The fact that the Bryony can be made ready for Cambridge as soon as September supports our view that discussions about the move continued behind the scenes after the cancellation of Building Schools for the Future last July.)
The letter concludes, “Any comments on the use of the Cambridge School as an alternative temporary site [for the free school] would therefore be most welcome.”
Our comment? This is excellent news for the Cambridge School, whose years of planning for the move to the Bryony will finally come to fruition. H&F Tories were wrong even to consider handing the Bryony to the free school and we welcome this apparent U-turn.
However, the council should be giving the vacated Cambridge building not to the free school but to the Bridge Academy as originally planned.
We are also confused by what it means for local democratic accountability that it is EC Harris rather than the council who has sent this letter and is consulting. After all, decisions about the use of council buildings are meant to be the council’s, not the free school’s.
To make your concerns known, please send a comment by midnight on 22 February to Louise.firstname.lastname@example.org (Put “WLFS - Consultation Response” in the Subject box). If you want to send us a copy at email@example.com, we’d be happy to post it.