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...

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