Oasis have announced that their secondary Free School will NOT be opening in 2014 as had been planned. This news comes just weeks after United Learning Trust announced that their primary Free School would also be delayed a year. It’s not clear why Oasis have decided to put back their opening – they still haven’t conducted their statutory consultation, one of the few things the legislation around Free Schools actually requires them to do. Oasis’s press release claims that they are about to announce a site for their school and it may be that they have decided to delay until the process of acquiring and developing the site is further advanced. It may also be that the DfE is less keen than it used to be on schools opening in temporary accommodation due to the extra costs it imposes, something that was criticised in the recent National Audit Office report.
It says a lot about the chaotic process for setting up a Free School that both United Learning Trust and Oasis were allowed to begin an admissions process for schools which will now not exist for at least a year. Oasis were also running their own admissions process, outside of the pan-London Local Authority system. It would be disastrous if parents encouraged to put Oasis as their first choice had not also put other schools. This is entirely possible. We have to hope that parents putting down Oasis as their first choice were actively encouraged to participate in the local authority admissions process too, and did so. This is something we’ll be checking with Oasis.
While we are deeply concerned about the possible impact on local children whose names had been put down for the school, Our Community, Our Schools welcomes this delay. It’s clear that Oasis and presumably the leading parental promoters of their school, remain determined to press ahead with their plans. In the meantime, we think the delay gives us an opportunity to keep raising the issue of Free Schools in general and the Oasis, Tauheedul, ULT and DV8 proposals in particular with local parents and residents. We think parents entering the admissions process this year and next deserve to know about the people who will own and run these schools. Watch this space for more soon.