Friday, 15 July 2011

Michaela Community School: Kennington Association to hold Public Meeting concerning proposal

I've stayed out of the Michaela Free School debate so far due to a short break from blogging and because I felt that I didn't have enough solid information to make an informed post.  At present, it's not clear where the proposed school would be situated or whether any funding has been agreed for the proposed opening in 2012.  Yesterday, however, I wrote a long  post on the protest concerning the retention of the Shelley site (something that was raised at the last KOV meeting and which I've been tracking closely), which unfortunately has not yet received any comments, except to ask my views on the Michaela Free School!! So...

A representative from Michaela emailed me in May, requesting that I publicise the Michaela Free School website and noted that an open day would take place on the 21st May, which I had hoped to attend.  Unfortunately, the open day was cancelled at the last minute on 20th May, and I've not spotted a public meeting since.  Consequently, I was delighted to note that Kennington Association have seized the mantle and agreed to hold a public meeting to discuss the proposal on Monday (18th July), 7pm at Ethelred Estate Community Youth Club, 7 Lollard Street, SE11 6QH.  After that, Lurking about SE11 hopes to have enough information to put forward a reasoned response.

In the mean time, many of the arguments for the retention of the Shelley site can be marshalled for the Michaela Free School, mostly concerning the secondary school aged population projection within the next few years.  At present, Lambeth is unable to send all students that live within the Borough to Lambeth secondary schools, and has to ship them out of the Borough for secondary education.  In addition, the demand for secondary education will increase on account of the building due to take place on the VNEB developments, especially because the Vauxhall (and thus Lambeth) developments appear to being approved faster than the Wandsworth developments.  Even worse, the VNEB proposals thus far do not appear to have accounted for a secondary school, so there is a clear argument (although perhaps the case is equally strong for Wandsworth) that additional secondary school places be provided for local students.  It's not clear (and seems unlikely) that the proposed Michaela School would have capacity for all of the additional students required across Lambeth (or Wandsworth), so it may be necessary for the council or free school trust to open one large new school or two/three smaller new schools.  Alternatively, (unless the LEA wishes to continue to send its pupils outside of the borough), some inventive means to expand current schools would need to be found (which should not include eating up local Playground space!).

The reason the Michaela School appears to have become so contentious is on account of its founder, Katharine Birbalsingh.  Birbalsingh made a speech at the October 2010 Conservative party conference about how she perceived the State to be failing to provide for the nation's children and to admit that she had voted Tory for the first time. Consequently, one can see how a slightly controversial start might have put some backs up in Lambeth, which is an entrenched Labour stronghold.  That, I suspect, is most likely the reason that some local hackles appear to have risen.

There is a Guardian article, outlining some of her views on State schools, written earlier this year and you can find further information about her from a comprehensive Wikipedia article.  Birbalsingh has written about 121 articles for the Telegraph (click "older entries" to read through the list), with the most recent article published today (just before Monday's meeting), on why she thinks middle class women on bikes (in Lambeth?) want to prevent working class children from receiving a good education.  It seems a tad impolitic to raise local backs further, before people have had a chance to hear about the Michaela School proposals, but presumably she hopes people will hear the free school ideas with open minds despite an article that appears deliberately provocative.  I am already wondering whether we're going to hear open and positive suggestions about Michaela free school from a diverse range of staff and parents or a Birbalsingh-only version of what Michaela Free School might look like.  The two are potentially quite different, so it's worth listening closely...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I dont know why people are against this. We're short of secondary schools, let alone ones which are any good.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Both plans - the free school and expansion of the existing school, recognise that just throwing money at schools does not work. You have to have passionate, committed people. We have that, uniquely, at the existing school, so they want to expand on it instead of throwing money at other, less performing schools. And the free school has a plan and such to do the same. Those who want the other schools to get better, then get the teachers and parents involved.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Both plans - the free school and expansion of the existing school, recognise that just throwing money at schools does not work. You have to have passionate, committed people. We have that, uniquely, at the existing school, so they want to expand on it instead of throwing money at other, less performing schools. And the free school has a plan and such to do the same. Those who want the other schools to get better, then get the teachers and parents involved.

anono said...

There is also now another group who are petitioning to set up a free bilingual German-English school at the Shelley Site too. They've sent around an email about it wanting people to support it. I believe they're a group of parents from Southwark who are quite an active group. From their website it says they have put in a submission to Lambeth's public consultation for the Shelley Site on 14th July.

Anonymous said...

The rumour mill says that Kate Hoey is supporting the Michaela Community School. Perhaps the blog could get confirmation?

Anonymous said...

Kate Hoey is one thing. But what about councillor Morgan and the other local councillors? We need to know what they think about the new school.

mr chas said...

I can confirm that the Michaela Community School (MCS) is officially backed by Kate Hoey. Peter Truesdale also supports the project as does John Whelan. Councillor Morgan spoke to members of the steering group recently, and is now fully conversant with the timetable and process for getting MCS up and running in Sept 2012

Anonymous said...

"born in New Zealand to West Indian parents and grew up in Canada. She was then educated at Oxford"


SAYS IT ALL!

SE11_lurker said...

I think it's important to judge the Free School proposal on its merit and debate with individuals on their ideas and conversation.

People cannot choose where to be born or to whom and thus it seems rather unfair to use a person's background against them as the most recent anon suggested.

I'm going to try to type up some notes from the meeting later.

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