The impact assessment* for Turner Free School, Folkestone, is ‘seriously flawed’, writes Peter Read at Kent Independent Advice.
The assessment, drawn-up by the Department for Education in late 2017 but only released four days ago, says Turner Free School poses ‘minimal’ threat to Folkestone Academy, an all-through academy now run by the same trust which runs TFS, Turner Schools.
But the number of year 7 pupils entering Folkestone Academy has seriously declined since TFS opened in 2018.
All impact assessments for 2018 openers appeared on a spreadsheet for the first time. This has resulted in a degree of consistency as the same algorithm is being used to estimate whether nearby schools would be at high, moderate or minimal risk from the establishment of a new school. This was not true in the past when assessments, particularly the earlier ones, were more discursive.
But there’s one piece of information which does not appear in the spreadsheets: the need for places locally. The methodology* adopted for the impact assessments says ‘Forecasts for the local population of appropriately aged pupils’ are considered. But this essential data is omitted from the published assessments.
If it’s considered essential to include such information as the most-recent Ofsted rating (which can change), why not include an assessment of need? The latter is surely more relevant than the last available test scores.
This omission is demonstrated in the case of John Wallis CofE Academy, Kent. The all-through school was assessed as being at ‘high’ risk from Chilmington Green Primary School. But, as Peter points out in a comment beneath this thread, Chilmington Green is situated in ‘virtually a new town adjacent to Ashford’ which will eventually have ‘some 6,000 homes, a secondary school and four primary schools’. He says, ‘all the new Free Schools opened or planned in the next few years are to meet population expansions, especially in the big growth areas of Ashford and Ebbsfleet.’
Impact assessments for free schools need overhauling. They should make it clear whether the free school will meet a need for more school places in the region. They should also published when the school is being proposed not months after it's opened. If a new free school doesn't meet this need, taxpayers’ money should not be wasted.
UPDATE 17 February, 11.19: Headline has been changed to make it clear Paul Read is more than just a blogger which is how I described him.
*Impact assessments and methodology downloadable here