First person: John Tomasivic on free schools
MICHAEL Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has publicly stated his case for free schools as wanting "a school system in which teachers have more power and in which they are more accountable to parents – not politicians".
Nottingham is facing a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape education provision for the benefit of local people.
When self-interest is put to one side, the arguments against free schools do not stack up. Take funding. The money that funds free schools comes from central government, not local authorities.
If a Nottinghamshire free school is not opened those resources will go into education in another county. Notts could 'win' substantial additional funding if the proposed Trent Bridge and Nottingham Free Schools are granted. This is a win, win situation for parents and for children.
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Take choice. In the world outside education, choice is welcomed and it is our belief that this should be the case in education. Concerns raised by local schools about the impact of the free schools are groundless.
We have experience of a free school being established near our flagship Toot Hill School in Bingham. New schools open all the time, as population shifts occur. This is no different.
The challenge for schools is to make themselves as attractive as possible to parents and believe that parents will 'vote' for them with their decision on where to send their child to school.
Take resources. Some of the teaching professional associations have expressed strong opposition to free schools on the basis that they will be academies and take resources away from existing schools.
Once again this is a misreading of the trends in education over the last 15 years.
All but a few secondary schools in Nottinghamshire are now academies. The reason for this is that schools believe they can best provide for their student needs rather than a local authority.
Each day more families are expressing a firm interest in the two schools and we are well on the way to securing the minimum number of names required to achieve Department for Education support.
What has come over very strongly is that parents want a choice of outstanding schools.
They very rarely criticise existing schools, but it is a case of wanting more diversity of choice. Ultimately it will be parents who decide if either of the two schools come into operation.