This is quite surreal. It’s from tomorrow’s Mayor and Cabinet papers and it shows that the Government opposes a new school in Lewisham because it would be a “community” school.
The Secretary of State was mindful of the fact that Lewisham originally aimed to open the new school in 2009, and that the timetable had already slipped to 2010. He was also conscious of the fact that any further delay could result in additional costs for the authority. Further, the Secretary of State was conscious that further delay could have knock-on effects for the recovery of Crofton School, and was aware of the desirability of not losing momentum in that school’s recovery.
However, he was also mindful of the fact that the authority’s BSF plans have yet to be approved by the Department. Given the time-lag between the last version officials saw, and the new plan recently submitted to PfS, a full reassessment of the plan will be required, and the consequential timescale may not be extended by the Secretary of State’s decision. In addition, the Secretary of State was conscious not to fetter future discussions on the authority’s plan.
In summary, taking all the above factors into account, the Secretary of State felt that the nature of the this school as part of a hard federation would make some valuable contributions to education in Lewisham, and was content with the level of local consultation on the plans. However, the Government has made clear that it wants all new schools to open as self-governing schools, preferably working with an outside provider acting as a charitable Trust as defined under the Education and Inspections Act 2006. A local authority would therefore need to demonstrate clear reasons why a community school was better suited to their need and, in this case, the Secretary of State considered that there were insufficient arguments for the school being a community school, rather than a self-governing one.
Had the proposal been for the establishment of a new foundation school as part of this hard federation, the case for approval on diversity grounds may have been stronger, and we would encourage Lewisham to consider this option.
If you wish to discuss this letter further, please do not hesitate to contact me. Yours sincerely
School Organisation Unit 4
School Admissions, Organisation, and Governance Division
Now that’s what I call arm-twisting.
Next time you hear anybody from central government speaking of communities or independence of local government you know what you’re listening to.
Update: click here to read about what happened at the meeting.