As we found with the extended search for a new secondary that eventually resulted in the ARK Academy, appropriate sites for new schools are not easy to find in built up areas. Perhaps the critics of the Planning Committee in the ARK application might think about that. Perhaps Michael Gove might reflect on whether abolishing Building Schools for the Future was a good idea. Or quite probably they won't, since critical self examination does not appear to be their thing.
It should, however, lead politicians to reappraise the drive for free schools. David Cameron at the moment appears to be heading in exactly the wrong direction. Brent Council was trying to steer a direction which preserved important aspects, such as qualified teachers, but still obeyed central government diktats in order to fund the school places that are so desperately needed. These were list at the time (on page 91 in this link) as:
1. An absolute commitment to the ethos and values of inclusive education for all Brent’s children and recognition of the positive role schools should play in the wider community.
2. A commitment to a close working relationship with the local authority in order to maintain an appropriate focus on borough-wide priorities, including local authority nomination of a member of the governing body and a commitment to sharing performance information.
3. The ability to deliver school improvement in an urban context.
4. That the establishment of the proposed education provision would be supported by demonstrable parental demand and with a genuine commitment to providing school places for local children.
5. Appropriate staffing arrangements to ensure high quality teaching and learning from qualified staff and good employment practices, including in relation to support and contracted staff.
6. A commitment to meeting the needs of Brent’s diverse community.
7. A commitment to ensuring the future employability of young people (in particular in secondary and 16 to 19) through links with business, industry and higher education.
8. A commitment to community access and use of facilities through agreed extended opening and lettings policy.
9. A commitment to good pupil nutrition and healthy eating.
10. A commitment to inclusive practice and fair access to the school for all pupils as governed by the Admission Code of Practice and the Authority’s Fair Access Protocols
To my mind this looks even more sensible than it did in 2012, yet it is not clear to me that Brent Council are still adhering to these principles. Certainly, they don't appear in any of the debates we have seen about forced academisation.