DfE decision to open free school – wrong place, wrong time

By on 04/02/2015 in Cllr Jones, News

The city council is concerned about the Department for Education decision to agree the opening of Perry Beeches V in Small Heath in September 2015 as it is in the wrong place at the wrong time, causing an excess of school places.

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, has today written to education minister Lord Nash. She said: “The decision by the Department for Education to allow the school to open in September on this site is not in the best interests of the children of east Birmingham. We’ve been discussing opening Perry Beeches V elsewhere in the city with DfE officials for a long time, so it’s incredibly disappointing that they made this last minute decision to move it, which goes against all the advice we have given them. We’ve always supported Perry Beeches, but that support has been conditional on new schools opening in areas of need, which now isn’t the case.

“We’re spending £20m extending the ‘outstanding’ Starbank school into an all-through school, and there are lots of good and outstanding primaries in the area that will be put at risk should the Perry Beeches proposal go ahead. We also have some less good schools which we are working to improve; Perry Beeches opening would destroy all that hard work that has gone in to turn around the lives of those young people in those schools, as improvement partners have told us they would be forced to pull out.

“This isn’t the fault of the Perry Beeches group, as they acted in good faith – the DfE has let them and us down by allowing it to get this far. We have some really exciting opportunities we would love for Perry Beeches to work with us on to improve schools and benefit all children in that area, and we have simply asked them to have a chat with us about this.

“Opening a school of that size there, now, would exacerbate the inequality of access to strong provision in that area and has significant potential to further reduce the life chances of children in east Birmingham. It would benefit a few children that go there at significant cost to the majority of children who don’t, and at huge expense to the public purse.â€

Although the city council supports Small Heath business park as a suitable location for education provision, it made clear to the DfE that it could not support primary schools of 100 places per year group as this would create over-supply and destabilise local education.

The council has also voiced concern about the lack of consultation by the DfE with Ark schools which has recently been approved as sponsor to Oldknow primary. The council has every confidence that Ark will turn that school around, and would not want this to be destabilised by the opening of a competing school next door.

Councillor Jones added: “This decision is a sad symptom of a government education ideology that flies in the face of economic competence and diverts education funding from the children who need it most. As the leader of the Perry Beeches Trust himself has said, it’s not the type of school structure that matters – it’s about all council schools, academies, free schools and the DfE working together as a family for the benefit of children. This decision isn’t consistent with that.

“Perry Beeches Academy Trust is an outstanding education provider, has acted in good faith and been put in an extremely difficult position by the DfE’s actions; but this council cannot support the opening of Perry Beeches V at this time and at this location because it is not the best way for us to make the biggest difference to the children and families of East Birmingham. We would love for Perry Beeches to work with us to find the best solution for the children of this city and look forward to meeting them next week.â€

Ends

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