New Free Schools will offer more than just classroom places for Bromley
PUBLISHED: 13:48 03 June 2013 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 June 2013
School places in London are at a premium – with the shortfall expected to reach around 118,000 by 2016 – according to London Councils.
The Department of Education recognised this problem and recently approved 102 new free schools to open across the capital, including three in Bromley providing around 170 reception places.
The borough currently has 74 infant, junior and combined primary schools, but one of the three new free schools plans to offer something a little different.
Bromley Bilingual Primary School will offer youngsters the chance to learn in both English and French from an early age, and aims to open to in September 2014.
Offering an initial 50 reception places, with hopes for additional Year 1 and 2 classes, the school will not only combat the shortage of school places – but also give more parental choice, says project head Nathan Hardman.
“There’s a real gap in terms of language learning in primary schools, it generally doesn’t start until Year 2 and then it’s only half an hour with their normal teacher,” said Nathan.
“London is a world city and we are giving people the choice to learn languages and become fluent at primary age.”
Free schools were introduced by education secretary Michael Gove in 2010 as part of the Academies Act, and are designed to make it easier for parents, teachers and charities to set-up their own schools.
The Harris Federation, which has academies in Bromley and Beckenham, will run the other two free schools to be introduced in Bromley.
A not-for-profit charity, the organisation also works closely with Royston Primary School, in Penge, and will have its eye on five Bromley schools come September next year.
But Alasdair Smith, national secretary of the Anti-Academies Alliance, is unsure of the benefits of free schools and is particularly worried by Harris Federation’s heavy involvement in Bromley.
He said: “My concern is finding school places for children that need them, and schools are often being run by a single chain that have no manner of democracy.
“If you don’t like your local council you can replace them, but you can’t replace Harris if they do a bad job.
“Free schools were introduced in Sweden which has recently had rioting due to social segregation, which has come in part from the introduction of the schools. My fear for Bromley is it becomes a victim of political policy not educational policy.”
However, Sir Robin Bosher, pictured left, of The Harris Federation, believes the new free schools will meet the need of the Bromley community where classrooms are “vastly oversubscribed”.
The former Bromley headteacher said: “There’s a real need for school places, particularly in the areas of Shortlands and Beckenham where we are targeting.
“Parents are very worried about finding a school for their children to go to, and schools in Bromley have had to add ‘bulge classes’.
“We brought together a focus group of parents who really were fundamental to the bid that was submitted.”
All three schools are yet to confirm their location, though it’s thought two will placed close to Bromley South and Shortlands, with the third in the Beckenham area.
For more information visit sites.google.com/site/bromleybilingualschool, and harrisfederation.org.uk
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