Thursday, 27 September 2012

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.

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