Monthly Archives: April 2012

Who Are The Free Schools’ True Neighbours?

There was some discussion today on the New Statesman’s politics blog about free school meals at West London Free School and its neighbouring schools:

 

Lisa Nandy wrote this:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/why-labour-should-not-embr…

 

Toby Young replied with this:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/right-reply-free-schools-a…

 

The figure of 23% FSM at WLFS is not disputed, but how do we get 32% FSM for neighbouring schools?

 

Look at WLFS on the DfE web site and compare it with nearby state secondary schools:
http://www.education.gov.uk/establishments/urn/136750/west-london-free-school…

 

Hammersmith Academy has no data, so the nearest five state schools with published FSM statistics are: Sacred Heart, Cardinal Vaughan, Fulham Cross, Phoenix and Henry Compton.
http://www.education.gov.uk/establishments/compare/pupilsworkforce?urns=10036…

 

In total, the five schools have 3,800 pupils, of which 1,223, or 32%, are on FSM.

 

DfE claimed in September 2011 that Free Schools were “targeting deprivation” and “deprived communities” in “disadvantaged areas” to “support the very poorest pupils”
http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00197713/new-free-schools-ar…

 

By analysing FSM and SEN statistics for free schools and their nearest comparable state schools neighbours, SchoolDuggery challenged those claims.
http://schoolduggery.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/free-schools-and-disadvantaged-…

 

Andrew Adonis echoed the old DfE claims by talking about “disadvantaged communities” and “disadvantaged areas” in his New Statesman piece:
http://www.newstatesman.com/education/2012/03/free-schools-labour-academies

 

Lisa Nandy, once again, challenged this view. What the comparison with the nearest state school neighbours shows is that, far from targeting disadvantaged children in neighbouring state schools, West London Free School’s real target is, as Toby Young admits in his response, middle-class children in neighbouring fee-paying independent schools.

 

At a time when state investment in education is being squeezed, I think this is an inappropriate use of limited public funds, and that’s why I, like Lisa Nandy, don’t support it. If the DfE really does want to target the very poorest pupils in disadvantaged areas, there are better ways of going about it.

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