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 psd@merseyside.police.uk

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.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Having my collar felt...

On Monday September 17th two officers from Merseyside Police's Football Intelligence Unit knocked at my door, they were sent there at the request of Everton Football Club, with an allegation that I was 'harassing' the Principal of the Everton Free School Adrian Packer.

A Recordable Verbal Warning was issued under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - 'It is Merseyside Police practi

ce to give you a recordable verbal warning in relation to this incident. You are being warned that this may be the first recorded event in a course of conduct of harassment, and you are strongly advised not to make any form of communication to the reporting person. If in the future you are investigated for a similar offence, you may well commit an offence against The Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Such an offence may leave you liable to arrest.'

This particular Act was passed to prosecute people who constantly intimidate or stalk victims.

I made one short visit to the Everton Free School to make an appointment to meet Adrian Packer on September 11th. For the record, I have met him once, in July, for about 10 seconds, I've written one letter to him and have never spoken to him on the phone or communicated with him in any other way.

This is clearly an attempt by Everton FC and the Free School to intimidate anyone who is opposed to their plans to implement the Conservative Party's agenda of undermining state education.

Please send protests to Ian Miller, Football Intelligence Officer, Floor 7, Merseyside Police, Canning Place, Liverpool L1 8JX and/or e-mail - football.intelligence.unit@merseyside.pnn.police.uk

Richard Knights

Evertonians Against Free Schools

Monday, 17 September 2012

Three pupils, one small office and two classrooms

Last summer we were promised that the Everton Free School would be a 'landmark school' for 'the most challenged and deserving young people in our City'. The school was meant to educate 120 pupils, two thirds of them aged under 16.

So what is the reality? The Everton Free School is on the third floor of the Liverpool Community College's Learning Exchange in Roscoe Street. The facilities? One small office and two bog-standard classrooms – that is the 'landmark' Everton Free School.

The Everton Free School are refusing to divulge any figures, But sources within Everton FC have informed us that only THREE children were enrolled at the start of the school year. This immediately raises questions about the long-term financial viability of the school. Also if you were aiming to educate 120 children why have one office and two classrooms? Is there any room for expansion in the Liverpool Community College?

The pupils from the Everton Free School don't appear to have any separate facilities for toilets or catering, let alone a playground or fields.

Pupils will spend some time at Finch Farm (the Everton Training Ground) and at Goodison Park, however, this will involve taking substantial travel time from out of the school day.

Salaries at the Everton Free School are considerably below those in state schools, Learning Mentor jobs were advertised 'from ₤12,000' and teachers' jobs did not mention special payments that are commonly granted in special schools or Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). This will inevitably mean a high staff turnover.

As for the Principal Adrian Packer, the school are still refusing to reveal his salary. A common feature of free schools are the six-figure salaries for headteachers and principals.

Free Schools are a discredited Tory initiative, already this term the 'One in a million' Free School, sponsored by Bradford City FC, hasn't even opened. How many children are enrolled in the Everton Free School? Is it financially viable?

Sadly whenever questions are raised we are accused of being 'aggressive' or 'intimidating'. If you refuse to answer questions and exclude people from visiting the Everton Free School it does raise the question what have you got to hide? Three pupils, one small office and two classrooms?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Article in 'When Skies Are Grey'

Everton running their own school? I'm thinking of something like 'Field of Dreams', the legends appearing out of the mist, kids playing with the stars, chasing that rainbow, sun-kissed fields, no stuffy classrooms or teachers that resemble Miss Trunchbull. A chance for the club to search for the next Wayne Rooney, an academy like Barcelona's.

Here comes the reality check. Free Schools are a Conservative initiative that will destroy state education. Free Schools don't have to pay national rates of pay, they don't even have to employ any qualified teachers, they undermine local democracy because they aren't accountable to locally elected councils but to Michael Gove the Conservative Education Minister, Free Schools can choose their own admissions policy. So there it is, Liverpool that hasn't returned a Conservative MP or city councillor since time immemorial has this policy foisted upon it.

Will the Everton Free School be some kind of sports college? Think again. Special schools and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) are for the most damaged, excluded and marginalised children, those who get expelled from mainstream schools or children who need to be protected in a secure environment. Some of them have suffered horrific abuse or violence, they can be extremely difficult to teach. Sadly the public sector has witnessed the following - failure to invest; inspection; declare the service as failing and then privatise it. So step forward one of Dave Cameron's chums, Old Etonian Charles Taylor – special schools and Pupil Referral Units are failing, let's bring in 'Alternative Provission', or, to give it its correct name, 'privatisation'.

Sadly that's where the initiative by Everton in the Community to establish a 'Free School' fits in. You might have expected some kind of media scrutiny of the bid. To date the only article carried by the Liverpool Echo was by their sports correspondent, Greg O'Keefe, entitled - 'Why protests seem too cruel for school'. If ever this was a case study of lazy journalism this was it, every word was inaccurate, that's including 'and' and 'the'. The article claimed that there was an 'extra pot of money' available, that 'local jobs would be created' and that the opponents of the Everton Free School were guilty of 'cynicism'. In fact Free Schools take pupils and money away from state schools and will in most cases lead to job losses and school closures.

The claim is that Free Schools are 'community driven'. As for the Everton Free School they were reliant not on the local community but the Manchester-based Place Group. This free-market organisation makes its money by advising scores of organisations how to undermine state education by establishing academies and Free Schools. The Project Director of the Everton Free School was the Place Group's Dominic Battiston, I did ask him who was on the board of the Place Group, only to be told that, 'This wasn't relevant...', next question, 'Which team do you support?', that wasn't relevant either. I was going to ask what he'd had for breakfast but quickly realised that the Humour By-Pass Operation had been successfully completed.

Everton Free School did organise two 'consultations' in June, you didn't attend? Well hardly anyone else did. I went to both events and held lengthy conversations with the organisers, strange to say on neither occasion did they make any notes, despite the fact they had to report back any concerns to the Department for Education. Once again I did encounter the wall of silence, the Principal of the Everton Free School, Adrian Packer, was only appointed on a full time basis in June, the school is due to open in September. 'What is Adrian's salary?' Couldn't tell me, 'It's personal'. This. Is. Taxpayers'. Money. Interestingly enough this has been a feature of academies and Free Schools massive salary hikes for Headteachers and Principals.

However, when it comes to the rest of the staff it appears that this generosity has ended. Everton Free School advertised, on the club's web site, for Learning Mentors 'from 12,000', Unison informed me that in Liverpool Community College, Learning Mentor salaries started at around 22,000. The jobs advertised opened for applicants on June 28th and closed on July 13th, most teachers have to give a term's notice, so that would rule out experienced teachers. The jobs didn't mention extra payments, which are common in special schools or PRUs. So will the Everton Free School attract the best staff? Not on the wages they are offering.

As for being a 'landmark' school, let's consider the proposed venue for the first year, on the top floor of the Roscoe Street Learning Exchange, part of Liverpool Community College. Unison and the lecturers' union UCU were not consulted. As for any green fields, you would need a pair of binoculars. Remember these are vulnerable children, the excluded, the hard to educate. Roscoe Street is an adult learning venue.

There is another Free School opening at the same time the Anfield-based 'Harmonize Academy', this is linked to the Pentecostalist 'Temple of Praise'. I went down to talk to them and met Pastor Michael Wilhelm, first question, 'Do you believe in creation?' 'God created man, we do not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution'. Well, that cleared that one up! The church is also affiliated to the Evangelical Alliance, in 2006 this organisation was asked for its views on gay-marriage, their theological spokesman replied that, 'This would be like a man marrying a horse'. The 'Liverpool Lighthouse' is run by the same people involved in the 'Temple of Praise', 'Harmonize Academy' and 'Love Joy Ministries', as a result of the death of a volunteer in 2010, they are currently facing charges of corporate manslaughter.

As for 'democracy' the Liverpool Echo has refused to print two letters I've written in reply to Greg O'Keefe, (they've also bounced me off the 'Everton Jury'), I did contact the Everton Fans' Forum, only to be told that they couldn't discuss it, I wrote to the Phil Neville who is the Professional Footballers' Association rep at the club and on their National Council – no reply. David Moyes? Again, no reply. The MPs and councillors? 'It's a Free School, there's nothing we can do'. I did get a letter from Robert Elstone, he had to reply under the terms of the Customer's Charter, he might have saved the ink and used two words, the second being 'off'. 'Confidential information that I do not believe you seriously expect me to divulge... the Club views our correspondence with you as closed.'

So there it is, Everton that has outsourced kit sales, hospitality, catering and ticketing seriously believes that they can run a school for vulnerable children. That's not to mention past history like Kirkby, the Park End Development or Finch Farm. Everton in the Community has done some fantastic work but with their involvement in the Everton Free School they will in marketing speak 'contaminate the brand'. And what happened to 'straining every nerve and muscle' to get more investment in the club, or new owners?

Privatisation isn't only affecting education, the NHS is being sold off to Virgin and Serco, or to the American companies that have wrecked health care over there, 40 million low paid workers with no health insurance. There was a report by the Children's Commissioner into abuse in children's homes, the problems highlighted included, poorly paid untrained staff without qualifications, profit placed before care. The owners? Three quarters of them are run by private equity companies.

Michael Gove's next project is schools run for profit. The Conservatives? Place Group? Everton are swimming with sharks. Rubbish wages and a building not fit for purpose? The club should hang its head in shame. The 'Everton' Free School? Not in our name.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Liverpool Echo and the right to reply

Article by Greg O'Keefe

The letter the Echo refused to publish

Sometimes you've got to rub your eyes, pinch yourself and wonder morosely at the lamentable standards of journalism. Greg O'Keefe's article in the Weekend Echo (Why protests seem just too cruel for school) on the Everton Free School was a prime example of cronyism, i.e. placing an article in a newspaper to curry favour with a powerful organisation.

Here's some questions that Greg O'Keefe might like to investigate-

1) Why is a football club trying to run a school and is Everton F.C. a good business model - Kirkby Stadium, Kit Bag, Finch Farm etc?

2) Who are the Place Group (the 'project directors' for the Free School) and why won't they reveal who is on the board?

3) Why is the Everton Free School refusing to state the salary of Principal Adrian Packer?

4) How can they appoint experienced staff? The school opens in September and staff have to give a term's notice.

5) What will be the staffing levels for the 120 children they propose to teach? How many will be qualified teachers? 'Free' Schools do not have to employ any qualified teachers.

6) Will the Everton Free School use the notoriously lax building regulations or the stricter and safer ones used by the Department for Education?

7) If the Everton Free School recruits 200 children in 3 years time how many jobs will be lost from Pupil Referral Units and special schools?

8) Exactly how many people attended the two 'consultation' events?

9) Why are Everton refusing to discuss the Free School at their own Fans' Forum?

10) Why are the Everton Free School refusing to send a spokesperson to our public meeting on July 17th?

Greg O'Keefe makes a rather sweeping and categorical statement, 'Cynicism at heart of objections to scheme', surely good journalists always attempt to canvass a wide range of opinion? Strange to say but Greg O'Keefe didn't even attempt to contact the organisation that is opposing the Everton Free School.

Richard Knights

Evertonians Against Free Schools

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Open Letter to Bill Kenwright

Dear Bill

The record of Everton in the Community is absolutely exemplary, fans are extremely proud of the outreach work with young people and in particular the campaigns to combat racism. However, all of this excellent work is at risk of being indelibly tarnished and compromised by Everton's sponsorship of a Free School.

Many fans have raised that basic question – what is a football club doing trying to run a school? In the club's original proposals published in November 2011 the last page carries a general statement by the Conservative Education Minister, Michael Gove, extolling the virtues of Free Schools. I am seriously concerned how the club has become involved with such a controversial policy that is attempting to undermine state education.

The Everton Free School Consultation document also refers to the recent Taylor Report on alternative provision for excluded and disadvantaged children. Again, another reading of this report is to bring private providers into education and undermine the pay and conditions of teachers and other staff.

It's claimed that the Everton Free School will 'not compete' with state education, I think this is a misleading claim. If the Everton Free School enrols excluded young people the Consultation Document claims that the 'indicative funding' could be from ₤11,000 to ₤13,000 per pupil, so with 200 pupils (the target in three year's time) that would be over ₤2 million taken from schools in the state system. Inevitably special schools and Pupil Referral Units will close as a result of the Everton Free School. The danger is that our education system will end up like America's, with different private companies and charities providing education, leaving an underfunded, broken public education system.

I am also extremely concerned about the actual proposals for the Everton Free School and its state of readiness. The recent public consultation is being carried out over two days in the Liverpool Community College Learning Exchange in the city centre. From talking to fans who attended, there hasn't been a great turnout. Why not have the consultation at Everton or call a meeting for fans where alternative points of view could be expressed?

The consultation document outlines how the Free School will work with the 'marginalised and excluded' and a date of September 2012 is given for the opening. Given that, why was a Principal only appointed on a full time basis from the beginning of June (six weeks before the end of the school term)? Apparently no other staff have been appointed up to date. When will other staff be appointed and as teachers have to give a term's notice to their previous employer, how does the Free School propose to recruit experienced teachers?

Another point of concern with Free Schools is the loss of democratic control and accountability. Who will be on the governing body of the Free School? Will fans, parents and staff be included? How will the local community be represented?

Please could someone explain why the Everton Free School has called in as 'project managers' the Place Group (based in Manchester) which is overseeing scores of applications for academies and free schools from all over the country. Is the Everton Free School really a community driven project or part of an ideological attempt to introduce the profit motive into education?

Also the Everton Free School does not have its own purpose built premises but will be using the Liverpool Community College Learning Exchange. Given that two thirds of the pupils in the Everton Free School will be under 16, what separate provision is there in the building for these children?

From the evidence it appears that the Everton Free School is a reckless gamble,untried and untested staff (not even appointed yet) working with the most vulnerable, the marginalised and excluded children who have failed to thrive in mainstream schools and in a building that is designed for adult education.

The Everton Free School has attracted support because of the club's name and history. It can work both ways, because if there are problems with the Free School this will forever tarnish Everton's reputation. There is still time for the club to withdraw from the Free School and concentrate on running a football team.

Yours sincerely

Richard Knights

Evertonians Against a Free School