A leaflet distributed around Telegraph Hill today confirms the news, as reported in this blog as news broke on Friday, that Haberdashers' Aske's is planning to open a new two-form entry primary Free School in September 2013.
The Federation is clearly pursuing its motto of 'serve and obey' to follow Government policy in favour of using privatised unaccountable Free Schools as a weapon to divide and dismantle Local Authority education. (See http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/2011/09/free-schools-freedom-to-privatise.html for an explanation of what Free Schools really mean.)
Disgracefully, the leaflet claims that the plans have "the support of the Lewisham Local Authority". Is this true? Local councillors (update: but see comment from Paul Bell below), Mayor Bullock and Joan Ruddock MP have some urgent explaining to do - surely they aren't happy to see local education privatised?
Yes, there is a real shortage of primary places - unions have been warning councillors of that for years (but they still decided to close Lewisham Bridge School of course ...) - but turning to Free Schools as an answer is a dangerous acceptance of privatisation - and a slap in the face to staff and governors working so hard at other local schools.
What will this mean in reality? Aske's will get what they've always wanted - a primary school with a catchment area taking in the leafiest parts of Telegraph Hill. The sibling-preferential admissions will help ensure that they can keep their skewed intake at both primary and secondary-ages. But other local primary schools will suffer as a scramble for places and a widening divide emerges in local education. Education as a whole and, in particular, working-class families and students, will be the losers.
Lewisham NUT has consistently warned that allowing Haberdasher's Aske's to expand its Academy empire could undermine local comprehensive education. But now it is taking the next step of setting up Free Schools as well. If this plan succeeds, it could open the door to even more.
Lewisham NUT calls on everyone who wants to defend education and equalities in the borough to get in touch so we can work together to oppose this dangerous proposal.