The debate over Wye Free School seems to be hotting up.

The school was given the go-ahead in the summer by the Department of Education (DFE) but, as we have detailed in a previous post, the precise location of the school has not yet been decided.

wyecollege 042The original preferred option (as defined by United Learning who are to run the school) was to use the historic, listed Wye College buildings.

This is the option which secured the support of the local MP, the borough councillor, the parish council, as well as (and I’m guessing here because no poll has yet taken place) the majority of villagers and parents who are to send their children to the school.

kempe centre 003The alternative is to focus the school on the Kempe Centre – a modern library building further away from the village centre – and to build new classroom blocks on brownfield land alongside it.

This is the option favoured by the Education Funding Agency which has the final say when it comes to deciding on the school’s location and which negotiates with the landowner (Imperial College) on the free school’s behalf.

Last night representatives of the Wye Free School Committee (and Martin Baker from United Learning) attended the parish council meeting to be quizzed by councillors (not quite Leveson but nearly?)

From the discussion it appeared that United Learning had no idea why the EFA had chosen the modern buildings rather than the historic.

This seems extraordinary – in an era of supposedly open government. Does United Learning not care that their preferred option has been overlooked? Why is it pressing ahead anyway with their public consultation? How indeed can people respond to that public consultation properly when they aren’t being told the full facts in the first place?

And, while we’re on the subject of the consultation (running from January 7 to February 18), why does the official consultation make little mention about the choice of site? Why aren’t respondents asked if they want a free school in the first place?

I am actually fully prepared to accept the EFA’s decision that the modern buildings would make a better school – but I cannot do so without understanding how this decision was made.

At the moment I feel that there is nothing free about this school. In fact, I feel like I’m being wedged into a corner by people who haven’t even bothered to visit the community where they are to build the school.

The parish council are distributing their own questionnaire asking villagers if they want the school and which of the two sites they would favour.

Meanwhile I feel overwhelmed by a desire to find out more – to which there is only one remedy: FOI.

About jasperbouverie

I am Jasper Bouverie. I have two blogs: jasperbouverie.com which is about promoting sustainability in the village of Wye in Kent (and beyond); and FunderFilms.com which I will fill with short films dedicated to promoting social and environmental awareness and change. Find me on Twitter: funderfilms and finelinej
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