17 June 2011

How are Hammersmith & Fulham's free schools being funded?

There was an interesting exchange in Parliament yesterday as Andy Slaughter, our local Labour MP, tried and failed to find out how Hammersmith & Fulham's free schools are to be funded. See below.

We're particularly interested in knowing how the West London Free School's takeover of Palingswick House (expelling over 20 charities) will be paid for. Will the council maintain ownership and ask the government for rent, perhaps at a reduced rate? Will they sell off Palingswick House to a private owner who will then lease it to the school, with the government paying?

You might think that as we're talking about public money paying for public education, we'd have a right to know now. But apparently we'll just have to wait. Transparent government this ain't.
House of Commons, 16 January 2011
Andy Slaughter MP (Hammersmith, Labour)
Since the beginning of the year, at the request of parents in my constituency, I have been trying to find out the funding basis of the several free schools due to open there. I have with me correspondence from the Department giving every possible excuse for not giving that information—it even makes “The dog ate my homework” sound plausible. The last correspondence, from two months ago, concerned my appeal against the refusal under the Freedom of Information Act. I have had no response whatever from the Department, which is concealing the information either because it does not know it because it is incompetent, or because free schools are being treated in a preferential way. Will the Minister please now answer those questions?
Nick Gibb MP (Schools Minister, Conservative)
Details of free schools will be published once they open, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to see all that information once that free school opens. We are concerned about disclosing details of proposals for free schools where they have been turned down, because that can cause embarrassment to the individuals who have made those proposals, who will sometimes be teachers who have existing jobs. There are all kinds of reasons why we have to maintain confidentiality for those proposals, but all those details will be made available for any free school that opens.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Another concern is how the admissions codes for these schools are contained within the Funding agreement - and also are not being released. All we can go by is what is on the school's website -

The WLFS admissions policy for its first year says in Point 14 The West London Free School will admit any statemented pupil whose statement names the West London Free School and for whom the School has
agreed to be named in the statement.'
The same statement is being used in the subsequent year's admissions policy.

Looking with an admittedly cycnical eye, this caveat would allow them to use their required interview for SEN children to prescreen and possibly refuse admissions to children they don't want to admit.

This also impliese that this 'caveat' is possibly being allowed by the Secretary of State through an exemption of some kind, but the grounds of such an exemption won't be known until the Funding Agreement is released.