catswhiskersThere is a lively debate on Wyeweb about the rights and wrongs of the Free School situation – and in particular about whether the village has been effectively consulted.

This is in advance of an announcement on the Free School that is expected this Wednesday 20th March.

My view, stated previously, is that the process has certainly been flawed. In particular:

  • I feel that from the start, the village gained the impression that the Free School was a project solely for the listed college buildings. This was why the village became supportive –because it was ‘a solution to the empty college problem’ rather than ‘a solution to the secondary schools problem in the wider area’. (The building was actually bigger than the school and this was something that United Learning and the EFA struggled initially to comprehend.)
  • There were public meetings on the subject but the matter was not debated in a ‘shall we do it/ shall we not’ fashion. The wording of the Council’s letter of support 130217FreeSchoolSupporting letters shows that we did expect a debate in the parish council to happen – but the Free School approval process moved forward much faster than we anticipated. (Or certainly faster than I had anticipated.)
  • More recently I was disappointed not to see a yes-no question in the village’s free school questionnaire – having taken part in an informal meeting of the council where we had agreed that there should indeed be such a question.

So there are things that I could get upset about (and, in the case of point 2 above, things that I possibly could have done to improve the situation).

But that does not mean to say that we have ended up in a bad place.

  •  a secondary school represents a good option for the use of the Edwardian College buildings – especially as there don’t appear to be many alternatives.
  • There is no correlation, ventured on Wyeweb, between the existence of the Free School and the construction of 300 houses.
  • Village residents have had plenty of opportunity to make their views known – if not explicitly in a yes-no way. And I feel that the village questionnaire did reveal that the majority of the village are supportive of a Free School in the Edwardian college buildings.

This last statement is clearly the most contentious. The failure to ask the simple question means that the door is ajar to those who say that, as a community, we should go over things again.

You may be able to hear me sigh.

I do have misgivings. I’m not sure about the Free School policy nationally and don’t like the consultation process. I’m concerned about traffic, the eventual size of the school, and the cost of taking on Grade 1 buildings for community use (should this occur).

But do I want to go over it all again? To be honest, I’d rather not.

And, having reviewed the comments written on the questionnaires carefully compiled by Councillor Mansfield (thanks John), I also think it unnecessary: 130316finalGeneralcommentanalysis 130316FinalsetofcommentsonFreeSchool

So I’m warming towards the Free School. Let’s try to move forward with enthusiasm and look on it as an opportunity rather than as something that nobody wants.

I simply don’t think that is true.

Besides, any opposition now would seem to be pointless.

At a village meeting yesterday (about 40 people were officially thanked for distributing the questionnaire), it was announced that there would be an announcement on the Free School this Wednesday – budget day.

There are strong indications, given at the meeting, that the school will indeed be located in the Edwardian buildings and nobody seemed particularly upset about that. Quite the contrary in fact.

About jasperbouverie

I am Jasper Bouverie. I have two blogs: which is about promoting sustainability in the village of Wye in Kent (and beyond); and 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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