Blackburn’s National Union of Teachers in alert over free schools
FREE schools are already having a ‘devastating’ effect on Blackburn primary schools, according to a teaching union.
Blackburn’s National Union of Teachers chapter said some local authority controlled schools have lost as many as 30 children this year.
The loss of pupils, said to be the brightest from each school concerned, comes after the opening of the Tauheedul Trust’s Olive Primary School for more than 600 pupils.
The move by Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School to ditch fees and become open to all as a free school from next year is also said to have added to the problem.
Simon Jones, Blackburn with Darwen representative for the NUT, said it was placing incredible strain on some schools.
He said: “Not only are they taking children from the local schools, but they can be selective and take the brightest children.
“It’s having a devastating impact on some primaries, and will affect their budget and their performance. Many Blackburn headteachers are very concerned.”
Head of Cedar Primary School Steve Bladon said 33 children had left over the summer. He said: “It can be argued that free schools offer parents greater choice but, in reality, it’s had a profound and unprecedented impact on local schools.
“They have opened on such a large scale when there was already capacity for pupils. Many local schools are now in a similar position to us, having lost high numbers over the summer.
“It has had a significant impact on the make-up of our classes and school, and on our school budget. It makes future financial plann-ing very challenging too.”
Director of admissions at QEGS, Paul Oliver, said: “It’s inevitable that free schools will impact other schools and we have doubled in size, with an extra 140 primary places. However, we draw from around 28 schools, so the impact on any one school should not be too large.”
Mufti Hamid Patel, chief executive of the Tauheedul Trust, said: “We are absolutely committed to working in partnership with our family of schools in the borough.We recognise that any change can be unsettling. It is becoming well recognised there are shortages of school places across the country, with authorities educating children in mobile classrooms.
“Free schools also offer an opportunity to drive up standards. Some surplus pl-aces and healthy competition means all schools will need to raise the bar.”
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