Plan for ‘free’ school in Redbridge splits town hall parties

HUNDREDS of Redbridge schoolchildren will be “badly disadvantaged” if plans for a free school in the borough are given the go ahead, it has been claimed.

The community run school will open its doors in or near Newbury Park in September if it is given the thumbs up by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

But Cllr Elaine Norman, education spokesman for the Labour group, fears the proposed new primary will create a two-tier system.

Her claims have been rubbished by supporters of the free school model, which was formed by the coalition government to give groups, including teachers and parents, the chance to run their own school free of local authority control.

Cllr Norman said: “I think the local education authority has the good of all Redbridge children in mind.

“I wouldn’t want to see a two-tier system where children who go to a local education authority school are badly disadvantaged.”

As reported in last week’s Recorder, academy sponsor E-Act has put together plans to open a reception and year one class next year for 120 pupils in the borough, growing to 420 pupils by 2016.

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It says it wants to hear from parents to find out if they want a free school, before deciding whether to make a formal submission to Mr Gove at the end of the month.

Leader of the council and Conservative group leader Cllr Keith Prince said high demand for school places and a lack of money for new schools from the government meant the proposed free school was welcome.

Adding the argument of a two-tier system was an “old chestnut”, he said: “We’re quite used in Redbridge to having different types of delivery for education, so if we add another one to the mix, so be it.”

Deputy council leader and Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Ian Bond said: “Schools should run themselves free from government with the freedom to make their own decisions.

“The local education authority will continue to manage the strategy for education across the board.”