Here is the text of a letter which, in edited form, appeared in the Nottingham Post, Monday 23 June (text in italics did not appear in the newspaper):
“I feel I must respond to Cllr Philip Owen’s letter (‘Free schools will raise educational standards’, 15 June). I’m no apologist for Labour so I’ll let Cllr John Peck defend its record and his remarks, but Cllr Owen’s comments about ‘free schools’ must be challenged.
Where is the evidence of the “enthusiastic support” for the ‘Nottingham Free School’ which, according to him, is the only reason this ‘virtual school’ (it currently only exists on-line) is about to spring into the real world? These parents, currently clamouring to be allowed a free school are, apparently, dissatisfied with existing provision, which will surprise the many good schools in the Sherwood area where, it is rumoured, this school will be sited. If these schools are so poor, maybe any available resources should go into improving them rather than starting from scratch in a hastily refurbished derelict building somewhere (remember, they’ve got just over a year to conjure up a fully-functioning school from thin air).
Free schools are “influential in driving up standards”, claims Cllr Owen: tell that to the parents of children at The Discovery (free) school in West Sussex, just rated ‘inadequate’ by OFSTED. As for offering greater choice, in my experience what parents want is a good local school they feel happy to send their children to.
In any case, looking at the ‘Nottingham Free School’ website, I can’t find very much in their ‘offer’ that’s different from any other school, apart from an option to do Latin and LAMDA public speaking exams. Even then, don’t expect them to keep to that ‘offer’ since they are still apparently planning to share resources and staff with their ‘sister’ school, the ‘Trent Bridge Free School’: they don’t seem to have noticed that the Department for Education and Science turned down the TBFS application! They, like Cllr Owen, need to keep up with what people actually want and what is happening in the real world, not indulge in some ideological fantasy.