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 -

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?