Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Oasis-WSSI report on consultation meeting

Oasis and the WSSI, the two organisations proposing to build a Free School in Walthamstow, have now produced a report on the recent consultation meeting, held on 8 October at St Mary's School.

You can read their full report here:

Several supporters of this campaign attended this meeting and can check the account above against their own recollection.

A few comments on this report though. The first is that perhaps inevitably it is a slightly slanted account. What was in fact a tense and meeting is referred to politely here as a 'lively discussion'.

There were a range of questions broadly around the theme of the impact that the Free School would have on the borough's schools. In the above account this is reduced to the folllowing:

"3. Concern about the negative impact that this will have on other schools in the borough. PR advised that Oasis’s intention is to create a fantastic learning community in Walthamstow and a local school which children can walk to, rather than attending secondary school out of the borough.

JP advised that WSSI and Oasis have been advised by LBWF that additional secondary school places are needed in the area and we are seeking this data from the council. "

There are a couple of things to note here. Firstly, there was indeed a fairly lively discussion around whether there was a properly researched need for a new school with several people making the point about the future dip in projected demand and the problems this could cause in the future. A local authority school-led expansion in places could later be adjusted for if demand proved not to be long-term. Building a new school which would be unable to run a deficit on the other hand would merely import a damaging new competitive element into the school system.

This point was made more than once but more than one person, yet it does not appear in the record of the meeting. Neither do the answers given under heading 3 remotely address the issue. What Oasis say they intend is neither here nor there. The question is what will be the actual practical impact of this proposal and what will be the result of their actions.

The minute attributing to Jen Powell the claim that Oasis and WSSI have been advised by the council of the need for additional secondary places is also slightly misleading. It almost appears as though the Council approached Oasis and WSSI for assistance in providing this supply. In fact, neither WSSI or Oasis appeared to be conscious of the council's own documents projecting future demand (linked from this site). The only claim made by one individual was that a Council officer had said, off the record, that they were 'glad someone was going to build a new school'. Quite apart from the dubious act of quoting an off-the-record discussion in a public consultation, (how can this be checked or verified? Should we ask the council?) this is not quite the same as the claim made above.

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