Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Chuckle Brothers?

In 2011 Michael Gove's attempt to privatise the education system by opening 'Free Schools' was running into the sand, sponsors were backing away, fearful of 'brand contamination'. In a bid to sprinkle some glamour and glitz, all clubs in the Premier League were invited to support a Free School, in the event, the only club that did was Everton.

At the same time the Government commissioned Charles Taylor (an Old Etonian chum of David Cameron's) to investigate Pupil Referral Units and to 'fix a broken system' that was in in need of an 'overhaul to improve standards'. The conclusion of the report was that outside providers should be invited in to compete for 'Alternative Provision' aimed at the most marginalised and excluded pupils.

The 2012 Prospectus for the Everton Free School's 'Alternative Provision' certainly was talking the talk, promising to 'deliver the highest quality alternative educational environment for vulnerable young people aged 14-19' and would be targeted at
'helping young people who have struggled with mainstream education and are at risk of exclusion'.  Everton's Chief Executive Robert Elstone was promising a school that would be a 'landmark'.

In September 2012 the Everton Free School was opened with a blaze of publicity, approving articles in the Liverpool Echo, critics dismissed for opposing 'new investment', Liverpool's Mayor Joe Anderson endorsed it, David Cameron was soon singing its praises,
"Schools like Everton Free School, for teenagers, some of whom were excluded from traditional forms of education, have been using the power of sport to teach responsibility and self-reliance.”

So two years on what has the school achieved that talked about 'our students, impacted upon by decades of deprivation and poverty within their community will enjoy inspirational and transformational learning opportunities to develop and thrive as successful citizens'?

Everton Free School promised to educate 200 pupils, it currently has 55 pupils in its 'Alternative Provision' 14-16 year old school and 65 pupils in an 'open' sixth form that seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with 'Alternative Provision'. In the school year that ended August 2014 the average spend per pupil was £35,000, that's SEVEN times more than a mainstream secondary school. Alternative Provision schools intake is heavily weighted towards students with special education needs (SEN) two-thirds of them are 'statemented' (something that only applies to 2% of all pupils). Yet in the Everton Free School a recent reply to a Freedom of Information request showed that just ONE pupil was SEN statemented, no Looked After Children in the school and only 4 students with English as an Additional Language.

As for the 65 students in the 'open' sixth form not one of the students is SEN either statemented or non-statemented, only 8% claim Free School Meals, only 4 students moved up to the sixth from the Everton Free School and all that is offered is GCSEs in Maths and English plus a BTec in Sport.

As for the staffing structure you might question why in a school with 120 pupils there are 7 managers (the Principal Adrian Packer only lasted one year), 13 teachers, only 5 support staff and 2 office staff. Also in a time of austerity when many primary schools are full to overflowing, with children educated in Portacabins, a Premiership football club gets £4.1 million to open a brand spanking new sports facility.

Evertonians have suffered for twenty seasons without a trophy, in that time we've had the attempt at moving the club out to Kirkby, changing the club crest (22,000 signed a protest petition within days), trying to sell the club to a fraudster based in a Salford bed-sit and finally building a new stadium on a treasured local park. You might have thought the Chuckle Brothers were running the club - they tried to open a Free School as well...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Inspector Brennan completely and utterly fails to investigate

Dear Mr. Knights,

Thank-you for your detailed response to my e-mail of the 5th October 2012
following my review of the complaint made by you about Constable Miller of
the Football intelligence Unit. As part of the review of the complaint I
examined the file that led to the issue of the Harassment Notice and as
previously stated in my earlier e-mail, I am satisfied that the actions of
Constable Miller were both lawful and proportionate in the circumstances.

The issue of the notice in no way prevents you from engaging in further
lawful and peaceful campaigning or protesting in relation to the Everton
Free School, a subject about which you are obviously passionate and should
not be construed as restricting your right to do so.

If I can be of any further assistance to you in this matter do not hesitate
to contact me.


Karl Brennan
Dear Inspector Brennan

I am shocked, appalled and alarmed at your reply to my appeal against the Recordable Verbal Warning. Not only is it apparent that you failed to undertake any kind of thorough or exhaustive examination of the evidence, you have also completely denied me any element of natural justice and you failed to consult me before introducing new 'evidence' and allegations. Your brief and cursory letter does not reply to any of the detailed points I raised. Therefore I really do have to question the professional standards of Merseyside Police's Professional Standards Department.

The central fact is that I have met the complainant Mr Packer for about ten seconds, please try and provide evidence of any other occasions where it is alleged that I have had meetings or contact with him.

The bias and prejudice that you display in your original letter is evident from the beginning. You mention my visit to the Everton Free School and claim that 'You confronted' Mr Packer's PA. Not, 'it is alleged that you confronted', but 'you confronted'. In fact the conversation was as follows-

Me: (Knocks on the door enters) My name is Richard Knights can I see Adrian Packer? I wondered if he'd received my letter?

PA: He's received your letter. Could we step into the foyer? (Step into foyer)

Me: Would it be possible to see Adrian?

PA: He's not in, I can get the Deputy Principal. (Goes back in the office)

I then talked in an amicable fashion with the Deputy Principal for about five minutes. If there is an alternative verbatim record of this conversation please could you supply details.

You mention my visit to Goodison Park as though this was some sinister event, as I have explained I went there to see Denise Barratt-Baxendale. The conversation was as follows-

Me: Could I see Denise Barratt-Baxendale?

Receptionist: She's not in.

Me: Is anyone else from Everton in the Community available?

Receptionist: No.

Me: I'll leave a note for her. (Writes note, exits)

If there is an alternative to this verbatim record please could you make me aware of it.

You mentioned in your letter about my use of social media. Is it now a crime to question someone in authority and ask for their salary details? If so every journalist in the country would receive a Recordable Verbal Warning. Please supply evidence of anything written by me on social media that could be classed as 'harassment'. If you are unable to substantiate this claim then kindly withdraw it.

In your letter you claim that my actions have caused 'the complainant and others to fear for their personal safety', please supply concrete evidence for this outrageous accusation. Also who are the other people, apart from Mr Packer? How, when and where did I give cause for them to feel that their personal safety was threatened? I was approached by someone who had been threatened by the English Defence League, vile postings on social media naming them, abusive phone calls, turning up outside their office and yet the police were unable to take any action, an interesting contrast?

Then there is the involvement of the Football Intelligence Unit, this is a highly specialist section of the police that attempts to counter football hooliganism and ticket touting. Would it be appropriate for the Matrix gun crime unit to enforce parking charges? In this case it is clear that the Football Intelligence Unit have not acted as impartial public servants but as a private security force under the direct control and influence of Everton Football Club.

In criminal law the standard for prosecution is 'beyond reasonable doubt' it is clear by your failure to produce any evidence, beyond conjecture and hearsay, that there is no case to answer. In fact you have acted as judge and jury and failed to evaluate or reply to any of the evidence I have presented. Harassment is defined as 'sustained and continuous' and recent case law has confirmed this. How is meeting someone for ten seconds defined as 'sustained and continuous'?

In view of your failure to conduct any meaningful examination of the evidence, the bias in your 'report' and the clear abrogation of natural justice, I am formally requesting that you pass the details of this case to a superior officer.

I am now beginning the process of taking civil action against Merseyside Police, undoubtedly this will make an interesting piece of case law when the complainant has met the accused for ten seconds.

Yours sincerely

Richard Knights

Friday, 5 October 2012

In reply to Inspector Brennan

Dear Inspector Brennan

I am seriously concerned at your failure to communicate with me before making the decision that the Recordable Verbal Warning issued under The Protection From Harassment Act 1997, following complaints from Everton Football Club, that I had 'harassed' the Principal of the Everton Free School Adrian Packer, should not be reviewed and withdrawn.

In your letter you present new allegations and evidence, some of which is completely factually incorrect. It seems that the Professional Standards Department of Merseyside Police exists in an 'Alice in Wonderland' environment – First the sentence, then the verdict and ignore any evidence from the accused.
  1. In your letter you quote Mr Packer alleging that there were 'a number of meetings'. The meetings you mention on June 16th and June 21st were the public consultations for the Everton Free School. You failed to state that in your letter. At the first event I met Mr Packer for ten seconds and shook his hand. During that time was he 'intimidated', did he feel that his 'personal safety' was threatened? I did not meet him on June 21st. At both events I spent some time talking with Denise Barratt-Baxendale the CEO of Everton in the Community. That is the only occasion I have met Mr Packer. Just to repeat I have met Mr Packer once for ten seconds. Please could you outline the time, date and place of the other meetings that Mr Packer alleges took place.
  1. You mention 'remarks and comments' about Mr Packer on social media, I presume that you are referring to 'Evertonians Against Free Schools'. I have asked on numerous occasions for Mr Packer to reveal his salary, this is after all taxpayers' money, a perfectly legitimate question. Please could you provide details of any comments made by me on social media that could any way be construed as a threat to Mr Packer's personal safety? Is is now illegal to use social media to question public officials?
  1. You make the allegation that I visited the Everton Football Club Shop. My last visit there was about ten years ago. Please could you inform me of the time and date of the alleged visit.
  1. It is true that I did visit the Goodison Park Stadium shortly after the June 21st consultation meeting, this was to see Denise Barratt-Baxendale to warn her that the Harmonize Academy, which she had mentioned as a good example of a proposed free school did in fact subscribe to creationist views and that an organisation allied to the free school was being charged with corporate manslaughter and therefore it would not be advisable for the club to be involved with them. I left a message asking her to contact me urgently. Is visiting a football club to leave a message for someone now classed as 'intimidation'? Please could you provide any records of this visit to Goodison.
  1. You make the allegation that I 'by-passed security' to visit the Everton Free School. As Mr Packer acknowledged in his letter it was a student open day so no security was in place.
  1. You make a completely unsupported allegation that I 'confronted' Mr Packer's PA. The purpose of my visit was to enquire when I would receive a reply to my letter which asked for details on a) the number of pupils in the Everton Free School b) details of Mr Packer's salary. My conduct was at all times courteous and polite.
  1. You allege that Mr Packer 'and others' are fearful of their personal safety. Who are the other people mentioned? Please give exact details how any of my actions listed above could make Mr Packer 'fear for his personal safety'? When, where and how have I caused him to feel this way? For the record, I have met Mr Packer once, for ten seconds.
  1. You mention that in conversation with Mr Miller I stated that I would visit the Everton Free School again. Please check with him, I gave a clear undertaking that I would not visit again, unless invited. Again, if you had taken the trouble to ask me this matter could have been cleared up before you made your ruling.
  1. Why were Everton Football Club involved in making the complaint? You provide no details as to why they were involved. The Everton Free School is an autonomous organisation.
  1. You state that make actions have gone beyond 'lawful and peaceful protest'. Please could you expand on that and provide details of which laws have been broken.
The allegations contained in your letter are a grave slur on my standing and character. This is clearly an attempt to criminalise protest using the flimsiest of pretexts. Where is there any semblance of fairness, balance, or the attempt to listen to my point of view, or to check facts in your letter?

I have made a formal complaint to the IPCC.

Yours sincerely

Richard Knights

First the sentence, then verdict and dispense with evidence from the accused

Dear Mr Knights,

Thank you for your letter dated 20th September 2012, addressed to Constable
Miller of the Football Intelligence Unit. As you are aware from the letter
sent to you on 27th September 2012, this matter has now been referred to me
to investigate the concerns you raised. I have examined the file submitted
by Constable Miller and carefully considered the matters raised by you and
the complainant Mr. Packer, the Principal of the Everton Free School.

I note the assertions you make in your letter of 20th September 2012,
especially your claims to have only made a short visit to the Everton Free
School on 11th September 2012 and having only written one letter to Mr.
Packer. However, I have to point out that these assertions are contradicted
by the complainant, who outlines a number of meetings with you, including
the 16th June 2012 and 21st June 2012 , he also indicates that you have
made several remarks and comments about him on social media sites, that you
have called at the Everton Football Club Shop and at Goodison Park Stadium
asking to see him and he also details the occasion when you by-passed
security at the Everton Free School, entered the his office and confronted
his P.A. in an attempt to see the complainant.  Your actions have caused
the complainant and others to fear for their personal safety and constitute
an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

The statement  of complaint from Mr. Packer is supported by members of
staff from the Everton Free School and Everton Football Club and to that
extent were verified by police officers prior to visiting you.  I am aware
that Constable Miller fully outlined and explained to you the allegations
of harassment during his visit to you at your home address before the
harassment notice was served upon you. I am also aware that during the
course of that meeting you stated to the officers that you were dismayed by
the police involvement but you did accept that you were passionate about
the issue of free schools and you accepted that you had attended the
meetings as outlined above and had communicated with the complainants by
way of letter and telephone, you also further accepted that you had visited
the school unannounced and stated that you would do so again.

Constable Miller explained to you at the time that police involvement in
this matter was not to stop lawful protest but to prevent the perceived
harassment from escalating.  Having reviewed the file I am satisfied that
the action taken by the police in this instance was lawful, proportionate
and in accordance with force policy.  I can assure you that Merseyside
Police do recognise the right of individuals to engage in lawful peaceful
protest and will facilitate such protest, however, when an individual's
actions go beyond lawful peaceful protest Merseyside Police will take
positive action.

Your concerns over Constable Miller being a member of the football
intelligence unit are noted, however, I must point out that he is first and
foremost a police officer who can be deployed on any duties. I have
reviewed his actions and note that he has assessed the matter on the facts
as presented to him and having thoroughly examined the details contained
within the file I can inform you that I wholly reject the suggestion that
Merseyside Police are seeking to deprive you of your democratic right to

I trust that I have fully addressed your concerns in this e-mail. If I can
be of any further assistance to you in relation to this matter do not
hesitate to contact me on the above e-mail address or telephone numbers


Karl Brennan
Inspector Force Operations

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

October 2nd Campaign Update

1. A pokey office and two classrooms - it's official!

Interesting article by Warwick Mansell in 'The Guardian', er, sorry to inform you Warwick, but I think that's the complementary season ticket gone...

'The Guardian' 2/10/12

Kick start?

It's the only "free school" so far to have been launched by a Premier League football club. But does Everton free school have another remarkable claim to fame: opening last month with only six pupils? This seems to be the case after the school in Liverpool was forced by the Unison union to respond to claims that it began life with as few as three students.

Everton free school focuses on alternative provision for 14- to 19-year-olds, taking on secondary pupils referred to it by other schools or the local authority.

In a letter to Jon Richards at Unison, the school's principal, Adrian Packer, said the figure of three children was inaccurate. He added that the school had a strict policy not to take on more than six pupil referrals in a week because of the complexity of the needs of the young people it educated, and that "this is our first week of offering alternative provision so our numbers (in this part of the school) reflect our policy". The numbers would double in the coming week, he said.

Packer also said claims that the school has only two classrooms are wrong. However, an email to local teacher and free school critic Richard Knights from the Department for Education (DfE) said: "The school has two dedicated classrooms and an office [although] the staff and students are free to use the communal areas." The email says: "Because of the restricted classroom space currently available, it is likely that the school will teach fewer students this year than it had originally planned." The school's roll would reach its capacity of 200 within three years, the email said. An Everton FC spokesman added: "Our free school operates under an agreed framework with the DfE, which permits the school to enrol up to six young people each week. That is precisely what we have done." Critics question whether public money is being used efficiently, although the school's budget has not been revealed.

2. First the sentence, then the verdict, finally the evidence...

The campaign to defend the Evertonians Against Free Schools One, er, that's me, continues, I've made an official complaint to Merseyside Police and to the Independent Police Complaint's Commission. It's being dealt with by an Inspector Brennan, please e-mail

It's alleged that I 'harassed and intimidated' Everton Free School Principal Adrian Packer, I've met him once, sent one letter. Er, don't know if Adrian has led a very sheltered life, but if he finds me intimidating... Still, a football club, the police, the judiciary, where could I go wrong?

3. Mr Packer's salary

Adrian has been rather coy about this, all will be revealed in the next few days (allegedly).

Richard Knights

Evertonians Against Free Schools

Thursday, 27 September 2012

From the Department for Education

Dear Mr Knights,
Thank you for your email of 17 September about Everton Free School.

This alternative provision (AP) school caters for students aged 14 – 19 and is temporarily located in the Liverpool Community College’s Learning Exchange Building.  Although, as you point out, the school only has two dedicated classrooms and an office, the staff and students are free to use the communal areas.  Because of the restricted classroom space currently available it is likely that the school will teach fewer students this year than it had originally planned.  However, the numbers will build over the next two or three years to reach its capacity of 200 once the school has moved to a permanent location.

Students in AP schools arrive via referrals from commissioners, such as other schools or the local authority, rather than the mainstream admissions process.  It is highly likely, therefore, that new AP schools will open with very few students with numbers building over time.  Everton Free School is no exception to this.

Applications to open a new Free School undergo a thorough financial assessment and the Department has no reason to believe that this school is not viable.

Yours sincerely, 

Mike Couzens

Free Schools Group

Letter to BBC North West News

Dear Mr Clarke

I am writing to you following a telephone conversation with Lindsey Prosser, the journalist responsible for the feature on the Everton Free School, that was carried by BBC North West News on Tuesday September 25th at approximately 6.45 pm.

This was almost a promotional video for the Everton Free School, I'm assuming that the football club contacted the BBC. It seems to me that there was no attempt to research the contentious issue of Free Schools, nor the particular details of the Everton Free School. The Hillsborough Independent Report highlighted the unhealthy relationship between Sheffield Wednesday and the local and national media. Your report was an example, possibly unintentionally of cronyism. Simple research on Google would have revealed the local opposition by fans and unions to the Everton Free School.

Free Schools are not accountable to anyone, not parents, not teachers, nor locally elected representatives. They are accountable only to themselves. They will lead to chaos in the admissions system, already some Free Schools are offering free uniforms as an enticement. The 'One in a Million' Free School, sponsored by Bradford City F.C. didn't even open leaving scores of pupils without a school.

The Everton Free School is part of the attempt to privatise special school provision as outlined in the Taylor Report. Free Schools don't have to comply with strict regulations that apply to state schools. The Everton Free School is meant to accommodate 120 pupils by the end of the year, all it has is one pokey office and two bog-standard classrooms, this is a school for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. Where is the playground? Where are the green fields? Why are they stuck in an adult learning facility?

Free Schools do not have to pay nationally agreed pay scales, the Everton Free School advertised for Learning Mentors from
₤12,000, that's ₤10,000 below the normal rate. Then there's the six-figure salaries that headteachers are paid. I've been asking Adrian Packer for three months, 'What is your salary?' He's refused to reply. This. Is. Taxpayer's. Money.

I helped establish 'Evertonians Against Free Schools', we have held a successful public meeting (to which Mr Packer was invited but declined to attend), letters in the Liverpool Echo (printed after a successful complaint to the PCC), an article in the Everton fanzine, a Facebook page and blog. A few 'malcontents'? So why after one short visit to the Everton Free School did officers from Merseyside Police's Football Intelligence Unit appear on my doorstep and issue me with a Recordable Verbal Warning under the Protection From Harassment Act 1997?

Another example of the chaos caused by Free Schools is Hawthorne Free School in Bootle (established after the closure of St George's and St Wilfred's) where scores of staff have been left without a job and without any redundancy pay. The Hawthorne Free School are also refusing to honour previous pay scales under TUPE regulations.

I hope you will consider carrying a piece about opposition to Free Schools. Failing that I would like to make a complaint, it's probably a complete waste of time but I just thought the BBC had higher journalistic standards than the tabloids.