Coalition’s free schools project spells disaster for many already facing acute educational disadvantage

Press Release: 5 September 2011

The free schools agenda is coming at a high price to many communities that already face educational disadvantage, says Race on the Agenda (ROTA). There are worrying signs that local communities are losing out.

These include 20 voluntary organisations that will be displaced by the West London Free School, whose choice of premises, Palingswick House, is the building from which they have provided services to vulnerable groups including refugees and homeless people for the past 30 years. Additionally Ark Bolingbroke Academy, another new school, has had a rethink following criticism for initially drawing boundaries for its feeder schools that excluded a nearby primary school on an estate that has high levels of deprivation.

ROTA has had difficulty in conducting analysis on the first 40 successful free school proposals due to the limited amount of information publicly available from both the Department for Education and many of the free schools themselves.

The Department for Education appears to be restricting the information about free schools that is in the public domain. During this research, ROTA has been unable to identify even one Freedom of Information request that has been granted by the Department.

Through our free schools research, we wanted to look at the level of involvement and engagement of underrepresented communities in free schools. We also wanted to ensure that the educational opportunities presented by free schools were available to all, regardless of background.

"It was ROTA's concern about risks that the Coalition's free schools project could make existing educational inequalities worse that led to us initiating our free schools research. Similar policy initiatives in the US and Sweden have led to ethnically and socio-economically segregated school systems in many local areas, with huge gaps in the quality of service provision," Dr Elizabeth Henry, Chief Executive of ROTA said.

"It was ROTA's concern about risks that the Coalition's free schools project could make existing educational inequalities worse that led to us initiating our free schools research. Similar policy initiatives in the US and Sweden have led to ethnically and socio-economically segregated school systems in many local areas, with huge gaps in the quality of service provision," Dr Elizabeth Henry, Chief Executive of ROTA said.

- Ends -

Notes to editors

  1. For more information or to request an interview with Elizabeth Henry, ROTA's Chief Executive, please contact our Senior Policy Officer, Barbara Nea onbarbara@rota.org.uk or 020 7842 8531.
     
  2. ROTA will be holding an event on 15 September 2011 in partnership with London Civic Forum to consider how the changing educational landscape will impact on access to quality education in London. To find out more about this event please visit the 'what's new' pages of ROTA's website at www.rota.org.uk.
     
  3. Race on the Agenda (ROTA) is a social policy organisation focused on issues that affect Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. As a London-based BAME-led organisation, all ROTA's work is based on the principle that those with direct experience of inequality should be central to solutions to address it. Our policy priorities of health, education and criminal justice are shaped by the lived experiences of BAME communities and their organisations.
     
  4. To find out more about ROTA's free schools research please contact our Senior Policy Officer, Barbara Nea on barbara@rota.org.uk or 020 7842 8531.