Vast majority of free schools are not complying with Equality Act 2010

An assessment of how free schools are complying with the law which requires them to address equality issues has found that the vast majority of free schools, 87%, are not compliant. Only More »

Five songs that aren’t about free schools (but could be)

It’s Christmas, so we’ve let our hair down. Here are our top five songs that aren’t about free schools (but could be): 1. Young Hearts Run Free Schools Candi Staton’s tribute to More »

Sulivan Primary School faces closure to make way for new Free School

SULIVAN Primary School faces closure and amalgamation with New King’s School in order to free up a site for the new Fulham Boys Free School. Hammersmith and Fulham council are currently considering More »

 
Equality-Act

Vast majority of free schools are not complying with Equality Act 2010

An assessment of how free schools are complying with the law which requires them to address equality issues has found that the vast majority of free schools, 87%, are not compliant.

Only two schools are fully compliant, while seven are partially compliant.

Education consultant Bill Bolloten worked with Race on the Agenda (ROTA) to investigate whether the 78 free schools that opened in 2011 and 2012 were meeting the public sector equality duty (PSED) introduced by the Equality Act 2010.

“The overall impression we have is that [free schools] are not taking it seriously and that’s a real concern. The vast majority of schools don’t seem to be aware that the Equality Act existed.” Bill Bolloten

The Equality Act 2010 replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single act, which prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of age, disability, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity. The Act applies to all public authorities.

The PSED has two parts: the ‘general equality duty’ and the ‘specific duties’.

Under the general equality duty, all schools are required when making decisions and developing policies to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate all forms of discrimination, harassment and victimisation prohibited under by the Equality Act 2010
  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Foster good relations

To advance equality of opportunity, schools must also have due regard to the need to:

  • Remove or minimise disadvantages
  • Take steps to meet different needs
  • Encourage participation when it is disproportionately low

The specific duties are designed to help schools meet the general equality duty. They also make the schools transparent and accountable.

Under the specific duties all schools must publish, at least annually, equality information to demonstrate how they are complying with the equality duty. Equality objectives, which the schools think they need to achieve to further any of the aims of general equality duty, should also be published at least every four years.

The recommended place of publication is on the school’s website.

There is no one body to blame for the non-compliance of the majority of free schools. Although the governors and founders of the free schools must take some responsibility, Mr Bolloten says:

“The main issue is the failing of the Department of Education.”

The Department for Education (DfE) funds free schools directly and also funds the New Schools Network, which helps and supports free schools when they set up.

 “There has been a failure to provide appropriate support, guidance and clarity about what is required.”

Mr Bolloten’s assessment recommends the DfE improves the quality of the guidance it gives to free schools and puts a higher priority on the equality duty.

However, Department for Education itself does not seem to be very compliant with the Equality Act.

 “It would very much help if the Department for Education was also compliant with the Equality duty because I cannot see on their website where their equality objectives are so they are not exactly setting a positive example to schools.”

Furthermore free schools are also performing badly when compared to maintained schools and academies.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that 21.2% of primary schools and 23.2% of secondary schools had published one or more equality objective whereas only 7.7% of free school had.

Mr Bolloten’s assessment made clear recommendations to free school governors, directors and trustees, Ofsted, the DfE, the New Schools Network and the EHRC.

Free school governors, directors and trustees must take steps to ensure that they know what the Equality Act requires and they should hold school leaders to account. They must also ensure that schools are transparent and accountable to parents and local communities by publishing equality information and objectives.

The DfE is advised to immediately publish its own equality objectives and thus demonstrate that it takes the equality duty seriously.

Merry-Christmas-from-EFS-300x187

Five songs that aren’t about free schools (but could be)

It’s Christmas, so we’ve let our hair down.

Here are our top five songs that aren’t about free schools (but could be):

1. Young Hearts Run Free Schools

Candi Staton’s tribute to the West London Free School, and the man behind it. Or a song about youthful relationships?

2. Funky Cold Al-Madinah

In which LA rapper Tone Loc takes a surprising interest in the travails of the Al-Madinah Free School – deciding the story needs to be set to a beat. Or a song about a fictional aphrodisiac?

3. No I In Free Schools

Interpol’s helpful reminder to free school senior leadership teams of the need to always work in a collegiate manner. Or a song about, ahem, livening up a relationship?

4. Qualified Teacher Status

New Orleans blues artist Dr John wades into the debate about qualified teacher status for academies and free schools. Or a song about…actually, we’re not too sure.

5. New Schools Network Sensation

INXS tip their hat to the free schools charity in this toe-tapping hit. Or a song about young lovers?

Merry Christmas from the EverythingFreeSchools team. If you enjoyed this post then do please give us a retweet.

News round-up: High Court setback for Blackburn free school

A free school in Blackburn has suffered a setback following a legal challenge to planning permission which had been granted for a new building, the Lancashire Telegraph reports:

PLANS by the Tauheedul trust to open its purpose-built new boys’ school in Blackburn in September have been put at risk by the High Court.

This week it quashed the planning permission to demolish the former YMCA building in Clarence Street to make way for the 700-pupil Islamic academy.

Judge Mark Pelling accepted the case, made by nearby resident Ibrahim Shafi on behalf of neighbours including Blackburn Subscription Bowling Club, that advice given to councillors was incorrect.

You can read the full article here.

News round-up: Poll finds huge support for council oversight of free schools

The Guardian reports the findings of a new poll, that shows parents of children who attend free schools to be strongly in favour of local authority involvement in oversight of them:

A huge majority of parents who send their children to free schools in London believe the schools should be subject to greater oversight, according to a YouGov opinion poll.

The survey found that 91% of parents with a child at a free school think local authorities have a key role in ensuring high standards. Free schools may be set up by parents or private companies, and are state-funded but outside local authority control.

You can read the full article here.

Labour launches ‘no unqualified teachers’ petition

Following a couple of weeks in which free schools have been high up the news agenda, Labour yesterday launched a petition calling for unqualified teachers not to be used in academies and free schools.

The move came on the day of an Opposition Day vote in Parliament on the use of unqualified teachers, and shortly after new shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt set out his views on the matter. (For a detailed run-down on the debate in the Commons, check out this summary by the excellent Laura McInerney).

It also comes hot on the heels of Nick Clegg’s speech last week, in which he set out his view that – contrary to what is currently the case – all teachers in academies and free schools should gain QTS.

While the vote could be seen as an attempt to capitalise on Clegg’s public stepping out of line, the Lib Dems side-stepped the issue by abstaining in the vote, meaning it was not passed.

Separately, for an interesting perspective on the unqualified teachers debate, check out this post by fact-checking website Full Fact.

News round-up: Galloway accuses DfE of ‘suppressing’ report into King Science Academy

George Galloway, the MP for Bradford West, has accused the Department for Education of ‘suppressing’ a report into the city’s King Science Academy, the TES reports:

An early day motion was tabled in Parliament yesterday claiming the Department for Education (DfE) had “suppressed” the publication of a report into a free school, which is now mired in controversy.

On Friday last week it emerged that the DfE was forced to report the King Science Academy in Bradford to the police over serious concerns around financial mismanagement at the school.

An investigation led by the department found the academy had misspent more than £86,000 of taxpayers’ money, including £10,800 that was “supported by fabricated invoices for rent”.

You can read the full story here.

Sulivan Primary School faces closure to make way for new Free School

SULIVAN Primary School faces closure and amalgamation with New King’s School in order to free up a site for the new Fulham Boys Free School.

Hammersmith and Fulham council are currently considering whether or not to make and print a will with the consultation results before making a decision

The Schools:

Sulivan Primary School

  • Primary school for boys and girls aged 3-11, currently running at 89% capacity
  • A diverse community school in Fulham
  • Ofsted 2010 – Good with Oustanding features

New King’s School

  • Primary school for boys and girls aged 3-1
  • Governors want to convert the school into an academy in partnership with Thomas’s Day School
  • If the schools amalgamate, the new governing body will almost certainly want to pursue becoming an academy
  • Ofsted 2012 – Good

Fulham Boys School

  • Fulham Boys School is a new Church of England Secondary Free School which has been approved by the Government but at the moment only has a temporary site.
  • In its first year the school will take in 120 boys in year 7 and then intends to build by 120 boys each year until it reaches its full capacity of 800 boys in 2020.
  • 50% of places in each year will be open to applicants of all faiths and none. The Council states that as many of the places would be allocated on proximity as faith.

The Council:

 

Consultation has now closed but here is a summary of the proposals:

Hammersmith and Fulham Council are insisting that this amalgamation is beneficial for all and has “real advantages.”

It argues that both schools are under-subscribed and combining the schools will be of benefit to both as they will be able to receive more funding and build “state-of-the-art facilities not usually found in primary schools.”  It also argues that these changes have nothing to do with cuts and says that the sum which will be saved by the amalgamation – “approximately £400,000” – gives the school a great opportunity to reinvest the money in staff and equipment.

“We think that bringing together these two schools on one site, building on the best from each, will have a significant impact on raising standards further and will help the amalgamated school attract more families, fill current surplus places and provide a securer long term future.”

According to the council both schools are in need of repair anyway and it has said that it will invest “at least £2 million” in significant building refurbishment at New King’s. It says it will make “every effort to ensure a smooth transition.”

Meanwhile, the council states that the Department for Education has confirmed that it will fund the building of Fulham Boys School “at a cost of £13.5million.” This school will address the current imbalance in the borough where there are 3 all girls schools but only 2 all boys, one of which is for Catholics only. The school is said to have been able to show parental support in the area.

Consultation has now finished and the council are considering the results before making a decision.

In this document the council outlines why it thinks the changes are a good idea:

  • Both Sulivan and New King’s are under-subscribed and are chosen by relatively few families as their first or second choice schools.
  • The amalgamation will make the combined school more attractive to families and improve building and facilities.
  • The council would support New King’s with its conversion to academy status, if the amalgamation goes ahead.

Under-subscription: (Full table available in this document )

Sulivan:

Reception

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Total

Class size

36

44

38

39

39

27

30

253

Spare places

9

1

7

6

6

18

15

62

New King’s:

Reception

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Total

Class size

20

28

22

25

20

29

25

169

Spare places

10

2

8

5

10

1

5

41

Reaction to the council’s consultation:

GetWestLondon reports that Sulivan School governors are considering legal action because the Council has ignored the consultation results.

The governors claim the council has ignored the consultation results which showed that 2,226 people objected to the closure of  Sulivan and 1,367 were in favour.

Rosie Wait, chairwoman of governors at Sulivan Primary School, has said they may consider applying for a judicial review of Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s decision.

“They have made a mockery of having a consultation at all. The fact is that out of nearly 3,600 votes, only 60 parents from Sulivan or New King’s are in support of closing Sulivan, which makes this decision outrageous,” Ms Wait said.

Paul Kennedy, chairman of Hammersmith and Fulham Liberal Democrats, called the council’s decision “perverse and ideological,” saying:

 “As the council admits, supporters of Fulham Boys School would like the Sulivan site for their school. Their wishes are understandable, but are not a proper basis for closing a successful and popular primary school serving the local community. Other sites may be available and there has been no proper consultation on the free school itself.”

In a desperate move to save it from closure, Sulivan has now applied to the Department of Education for academy status.