About 40 people attended an open public meeting at St. Luke’s Church Hall last Wednesday to find out more about a new Free School which has been proposed by Yorkshire Nationwide Schools (YNS). The meeting, which lasted almost 90 minutes, took the form of a question and answer session with the chief executive of YNS, John Morahan. I wasn’t taking detailed notes but here are a few points I picked up.
A leaflet distributed by YNS a week before the meeting, claimed that the school would be called East Sussex Independent Grammar School. It was taken by many that the location of the school would be in Brighton, as this is what appears on the website of NICHE, an associate company to YNS.
However, it emerged during the meeting that YNS are finding it difficult to find suitable premises for a school site in the city. Consequently, YNS are looking at alternative locations, one being Littlehampton! For this reason, said John Morahan, the school will actually be known as Sussex Independent Grammar School.
YNS has applied to open a Free School for 1380 pupils. The school would be for ages 4-18 and would open in September 2012, with the intake for secondary school starting at Year 7. The teachers and management would all be from ‘local’ people.
I think it’s fair to say that most people at the meeting were unconvinced by some of the claims made by John Morahan especially as there was often little detail given to back them up. E.g. It was claimed that 100% of pupils would gain at least 5 (A* to C) grade GCSEs in a Free School but how this would be achieved was unclear as the school would be non- selective. Emotions started to run high when a slide showing the pass rates for Brighton schools was swiftly followed by those for Hurstpierpoint College and St Paul’s Catholic College – hardly fair comparisons.
A good proportion of the meeting was spent, not discussing the proposed school but questioning the credibility of John Morahan and the YNS company. What experience did they have of running schools and how could they be confident that the schools would deliver the claims made? In answer to many of these questions, we got the reply “Please email me and I’ll get back to you”. Well if anyone has emailed John Morahan and got a reply, I’ll add them to this post.
Not everyone at the meeting was completely against the idea of a Free School and one person from Kemptown said she welcomed the opportunity for an alternative school in her area of Brighton.
[Note: at the time of writing, the website for YNS is not working!]