Monday, 22 April 2013

“The only form of new school I would actively support would be a Cooperative Trust school” - Stella Creasy’s position on new schools in Walthamstow

Following a correspondence with supporters of Waltham Forest Defend State Schools, our local MP Stella Creasy has written to us with a statement that clarifies her position. The statement is copied in full and unedited, at her request, below. If you want to read it ahead of our comment, skip to the bottom now.

Here a few immediate observations.

Firstly, her message also makes clear her view that the government will not allow a new local community school to be built in Walthamstow. This is not in itself news. We have acknowledged this all along. However, disappointingly, she doesn’t address the possibility that the shortfall could be addressed by expanding existing schools, nor the fact that there is good evidence that this would be preferable in educational terms to building a new smaller school. In fact, publicly-available data show the forecast shortfall of secondary school places in the Borough as equivalent to 10 classes by 2016/17. This can be solved by expansion of our current Ofsted-rated  'good' or 'outstanding' secondary schools.'

Secondly, it is very significant that Stella states clearly that she will only give her active support to a Co-Operative Trust school. This is important because a Co-operative school is a very different model of school to either a Free School or an Academy. Co-op schools are founded on a Trust model that locks in community assets and gives a more democratic say to a school’s many stakeholders. This is very different from a Free School or an Academy in which the private sponsor appoints the majority of each school's governing body, and where academies are often closely supervised from head office. See this article for more details:

A co-operative school has a weaker relationship to local authorities than a community school but it would be markedly superior in protecting the interests of the community, parents and teachers to the kind of top-down, privatised schooling offered by either an Academy or a Free school.

Supporters of our community schools will have a range of views on Co-Operative Trust Schools, but it is apparent from this that our MP is not actively supporting either of the Free School proposals. We thank her for making this clear.

Here is Stella’s statement in full:

“The data regarding school places provided by the local authority creates a compelling case that Walthamstow faces a substantial shortage of school places in our area within the next few years- as those involved in the 1200 places campaign will be aware, Walthamstow residents have sought consistently to make the case to the Government that this need should be addressed as a matter of urgency to ensure that no child who lives in Walthamstow is without the opportunity of education in their local environment.

Since 2010 this case has become stronger, not weaker. The growth of the population not just in Walthamstow but in our city as a whole combined with changes to benefits and housing costs are bringing more people to our area and will continue to do so in the years ahead. If we are to meet the need for school places without compromising standards in existing schools, especially at secondary school level, then Walthamstow will need new schools as well as increased capacity in our existing establishments. Having been on the Education Bill and argued this matter through with the Government ministers as well as lobbied through the 1200 pupils campaign I'm now convinced that the Government will not enable community schools to be built, even to meet such a specific and identified need.

Given the restrictions that this Government has put on the options available to communities to address this need for places, Walthamstow faces some critical choices about the future needs of our children. Under the current legislation as the local MP I have no authority to promote or prevent any new schools, as approval for such provision will be the decision of the Department for Education alone. However, given how important this issue is for the future of provision and educational standards in Walthamstow I will continue to seek to meet with, work with and hold to account all those who are active in planning for educational provision in our area. To do otherwise risks failing our local young people who need these places and should be our prime concern as well as wasting vital public resources. I will also continue to seek to work with our existing local schools and the local authority in promoting school standards in our area.

In addition to this, as both a Labour and Co-operative MP I am passionate about the role of all stakeholders in education- pupils, parents, teachers, governors and the wider community. That is why in approaching the debates around the future structures of education in our community and the provision of new schools in our area, I have been clear that the only form of new school I would actively support would be a Cooperative Trust school. I have set out this test to all those who have approached me seeking help- both to create new schools as well as oppose them- and will continue to promote these values.

I recognise there are strong views as to the benefits and shortcomings of various models for school provision. The reality and urgency for all those who care about the future attainment of young people in Walthamstow is that we cannot avoid the question of how best to ensure we have the school places to the standards our children need in our community. I therefore welcome the commitment of all those in our local community to engaging in this question and the passion that they show for the educational attainment of all local children. I hope others will do the same.”

Stella Creasy

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm?

    Stella is a "Labour and Co-Operative MP", presumably receiving financial backing from the CoOp? Co-Op run an education arm, seeking to establish academies.

    What would you say if Iain Duncan Smith said the only new school he would support was one run by Harris Education Trust? The body set up to open academies by Lord Harris (Tory donor)?