Schools Place Time Bomb

by Anood Al-Samerai on 14 June, 2013

This week I have been in various discussions with parents, council officers and schools about the urgent need for primary and secondary school places in Southwark.

One of the problems which we have is that Michael Gove likes free schools! This means that new schools generally have to be free schools to get funding. I don’t particularly like free schools. I didn’t particularly like academies under the previous government. I’m a local councillor so I think councils should run schools!

However, I also live in the real world and I know that we desperately need new primary and secondary schools in Southwark. I also know that most parents just want good local schools whatever the ideology. And if the way to get new schools is to work with free schools then that is what we have to do. The same way that when we desperately needed investment in schools the only way to get that was through academies.

That’s why it is so frustrating that the only answer to the school places time bomb being given by Labour run councils is that they don’t agree with free schools. Every time Lib Dem councillors in Southwark raise the issue of needing new schools we are greeted with shrugs by the council and we are told it’s because the politicians running the council don’t like the government. This simply isn’t good enough. Not when there is money available for new schools sitting at the government waiting for applicants. Not when we need hundreds of places in our borough. Not while 10% of children starting school in September are doing so in temporarily expanded schools.

Children and parents need councillors to be pragmatic. That’s why I’m proud of my Liberal Democrat colleagues in East Dulwich who have campaigned with local parents; found a suitable site; and gone out to talk to people who already run other schools in Southwark to see if they will sponsor a free school. If it has to be a free school, then find one which has a proven record and which already works with the community. Because that’s what will lead to a good local school for Southwark children which is way better than no school.

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