Figures released to EastLondonLines today show that Hackney’s first free school is likely to be located in an area of the borough that already has the highest number of existing school places.
The steering committee of the Hackney New School has announced the name of their chosen head teacher, Lesley Falconer. They have yet to confirm a location but they have reported that they are looking at two buildings near London Fields in Dalston, near where the school’s founder, Andreas Weseman, lives.
According to figures supplied by the Hackney Learning Trust, south Hackney and the border with the City is the area of Hackney with the lowest number of children failing to get into a chosen school last year. Whereas in the north and west of the borough far more children were turned away from their chosen schools.
Handy for Shoreditch, Dalston and Hoxton the ‘E8’ district had 8 parents living there last year who did not get their secondary school children into any of the schools on their preference list. This is compared to 35 who missed out in the Springfield park area and 29 in the Victoria Park area, suggesting that these areas are the most pressured for school places.
When asked if she thought the new free school was being put in the right area, Katie Hanson a councillor for the Victoria ward said: “Well no, that’s what parents are telling me. The feeling is that it won’t be in a place where schools are actually really needed. Free schools are outside local authority control, if they were being looked at by the LEA we could plan the provision, we would look borough-wide.”
She added: “Parents are also worried that the process of getting students in to the school will be selective.”
The school will be run by a steering committee including a former investment banker, a professional musician and a management consultant. The school will specialise in music, and 10 per cent of intake will be based on pupil’s musical ability. Classes will be no bigger than 25 but Latin and Greek, which were to be offered, seem to have been dropped from the curriculum.
The school’s committee and aims are reflective of a demographic change and a new education focus in the south Hackney area.
Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch has asked the department of Education about the school’s budget: ‘’I am concerned about the cost of the school, and we need to know because it is being paid for by tax payers.”
Last year Mark Lushington, from the National Union of Teachers told local blog loving Dalston: “It is a free school for the Hackney middle class. It’s Hogwarts by any other means, a Michael Gove wet dream.”
Andreas Weseman, said, in an interview with EastLondonLines last year: “We want to create an outstanding school in a deprived area.”
The Hackney New School is one of three free schools that have been given the green light by the department of education this year. A STEM academy is to be developed in the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ area of Shoreditch (also in the south of the borough), and the third to open in 2013 will be The Olive, which will be a Muslim Faith school.
The STEM school will focus on technical education and will rival the University Technical College, a 14-19 university pathway school that opened its doors this September and is located close by on the border of Hackney and the City.
By Helen Lock