Concerns raised that education in Brent is being privatised
PUBLISHED: 16:00 07 March 2013
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Teaching unions have vowed to fight against olans for five privately-run schools in Wembley
Fears are growing that the borough’s education is heading towards privatisation after a flood of academy and free school applications for Wembley.
The government’s controversial academy status has already been applied to two schools, while applications have also been made to build two free schools.
If they are approved, Wembley would have five privately-run secondary schools just a stone’s throw from each other.
Brent Town Hall in Forty Lane has been sold and will be converted into an independent French school following the council’s move to the Brent Civic Centre later this year.
Hank Roberts, national president of the association of teachers and lecturers (ATL), told the Times it could result in “chaos” and said unions would be fighting “tooth and nail” against further plans.
He said: “The government is selling schools for profit and privatising our education, handing control to buccaneers.”
Free schools and academies, which are championed by education secretary Michael Gove, can be controversial because schools break away from local authority control.
Free schools can be set up by any group of individuals with their own admissions policy and curriculum, while schools which convert to academies are placed with sponsors and become directly funded by central government.
Last week the Times reported that a proposal had been made for a free school, the Gateway Academy, in Wembley Central, close to the High Road.
This follows an application from free school supporter Katharine Birbalsingh to bring her proposed Michaela Community School (MCS) to nearby Arena House, Wembley Park.
Ms Birbalsingh, who has unsuccessfully tried to set up the MCS in both Lambeth and Wandsworth, said she wanted to adopt a “private school ethos”.
Preston Manor All Through Foundation School and the Ark Academy are already academies, the former converting earlier this year despite staff opposition.
Mr Roberts, who teaches at Copland Community School in Cecil Avenue, which is still local authority controlled, added: “This could lead to a free-for-all where schools will crop up virtually next door to one another and have a potentially adverse effect on all our schools.”
A spokesman for Brent Council said it was too early to assess the impact of other schools in the borough. He added: “Applications to set up a free school go directly to the government.
“However, if they are approved, then we’ll work with any suitable partners in the interests of Brent’s school pupils and parents.”