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Education Secretary Michael Gove has, once again, shown his democratic principles to be as flexible as his listening skills. The battle of Hove v Gove is over the use of school playing fields. The question Gove has been wrestling with is: should he allow four schools/colleges continued use of a shared playing field or should he let his mates in the Russell Education Trust concrete it over and build a religious school instead?

To the surprise of local residents, the four schools, Brighton & Hove Council and even the local Tory MP (none of whom had been consulted) Gove went with the God SquadBack in September 2012 Gove announced his support for a new free school in Hove. The King's Church of England School, set up by the Russell Education Trust (RET), is in agreement with Gove's educational "ideas" (i.e. a return to Tom Brown's schooldays) and has been given the green light to build on what is known as "Bhasvic field". The 15 acre playing field is shared by BHASVIC, Cardinal Newman School, Stanford Junior School and Stanford Infants School. It's also used as a general public amenity - by dog walkers and those fancying a five-a-aside kickabout.

Between the announcement being made and plans submitted to the DfE was a whole FIVE weeks! Little time to mount any serious opposition, you'd have thought? But local parents and residents have organised and the "Friends of the Field" is fighting the proposals.Two weeks ago the four schools issued a joint statement warning that the plan would leave them unable to deliver their sports curriculum and would "permanently remove a vital green space in the heart of a densely populated city". Cardinal Newman School's acting headteacher, Dr James Kilmartin: "We were shocked and outraged. There was no consultation. We use that field every day - for cricket, rounders, athletics, football." So much for the Olympic legacy then!


And how easy is it for the public to find out about the Russell Education Trust? Not very, according to Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham (someone else Gove has fallen out with). Well, what we do know about RET is that it may have charitable status, but its directors draw a salary, and that salary is dependent upon. the number of schools the Trust runs! For example, whilst the rest of the State education system faces swingeing cuts RET will receive an average of four per cent of Brentwood school Becket Keys' annual revenue over the first seven years of its operation. That religious free school will receive 2 million quid of taxpayers' money, possibly rising to 4.5 million by 2019. Nice work if you can get it, which directors Karen Lynch and David Lynch certainly can. RET is an off-shoot of Education London, a private education company offering services that include curriculum planning and management restructuring (i.e. redundancies). And the directors of Education London? Karen and David Lynch.

Why is taxpayers money being used to set up a school which states its admissions criteria as '50% Christian and 50% other faiths or non-faiths'? As only around 7% of the UK population are practicing Christians it looks like a lot of people will have to "find God" in order to gain admission. With its "distinctly Christian ethos" what will the school teach about creationism, homosexuality and same-sex relationships?

A new school is needed in the Hove area, but between the four schools there are over 4,000 students in a fairly small area. The proposed King's School, due to open at Portslade Sixth Form Centre in September 2013, relocating to Bhasvic field three years later, will offer education to 1,100 11 - 18 year olds. That'll be around 6,000 students in the same place. They'll be needing a lot of school buses.

But fear not. Surely Brighton & Hove Council can turn this down? Well, no. The council is against the plan, but it is the Department for Education that has the final say. The school land and playing fields are owned by the council, but the Education Act 2011 gives the Government the power to take control of public land allocated for educational use and transfer ownership to a trustee or governing body of an academy or free school, which is free from council control. If this were to happen to Bhasvic field the council will receive no money from the transfer. The King's School would still need council planning permission to build on the site but a refusal from the council would simply lead to an appeal to the Government. So that's in the bag then!


To find out more head to Friends of the Field


Field of Dreams?
There are 13 comments on this story...
Added By: Peter Freeman - 13th May 2013 @ 10:29 AM
The Russell Education Trust is not on the Charity Commission register, despite a claim to this effect on the King's School website.
Added By: Bee - 13th May 2013 @ 11:11 PM
RET isn't registered with the chairity commision because it is an Exempt Charity, just like every other Educational Trust. See this document for a full explanation of the status: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Charity_requirements_guidance/Specialist_guidance/Education/introduction_for_school_governors.aspx.

Also the 4% top-slice 'taken' from the school budgets by RET is a lot less than the 11% taken by the average Local Authority to provide the same services. Yes, the money is used to provide services, not pay salaries. RET's directors do not draw a salary from RET. You are correct that they are also directors of Education London, which is a profit-making company. However, RET is non profit-making.
Added By: Bee - 13th May 2013 @ 11:18 PM
Q: In a parallel universe, where Labour is in Government and there is no free school policy, where would Brighton and Hove Council build the new school places that they so desperately need? (http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000701/M00004298/$$Supp13410dDocPackPublic.pdf)

A: They would still have to build them on the playing field, but then the anger and negative publicity would be directed at Green Party councillors rather than Michael Gove.

The fact is that Kings School is happy to stay on its temporary site. The only reason the DfE are trying to secure a bigger site for it because the council need it to expand in the future to provide more places, and also to accommodate a 3-form primary school on the same site. See here: http://www.kingsschoolhove.org.uk/documents/KingsNewsletter_vol1.pdf.
Added By: Bee - 13th May 2013 @ 11:28 PM
You said "Education London, a private education company offering services that include curriculum planning and management restructuring (i.e. redundancies)."

They're a very well respected School Improvement consultancy, that made a name for themselves through their contribution to Labour's City Challenge programme (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-city-challenge-programme#downloadableparts).
Added By: Bee - 13th May 2013 @ 11:31 PM
You asked "what will the school teach about creationism, homosexuality and same-sex relationships?"

Actually, unlike most faith schools, they have pledged to follow the same RE curriculum as the local community schools: http://www.kingsschoolhove.org.uk/questions4.php
Added By: Anonymous - 14th May 2013 @ 5:37 PM
Just wondering... who do you work for Bee?
Added By: Bee - 14th May 2013 @ 5:42 PM
I'm not an RET employee. I'm defending them because I know and respect their work, and what you are saying about them is untrue. This article is spreading around the internet via twitter, so it needs to be factually correct. I've given you all the links you need to verify that what I'm saying.
Added By: Rutaceous - 15th May 2013 @ 10:34 PM
So... If they "pledged" that they'd follow the curriculum, what's stopping them from changing their mind later on and teaching kids that Jesus and his disciples rode T-Rexes into battle against Optimus Prime and the Teletubbies?
Added By: Bee - 15th May 2013 @ 11:26 PM
"what's stopping them ..."

Their funding agreement with the DfE would stop them doing that. See clause 26 of http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/doc/m/multi-use%20mat%20master%20funding%20agreement.doc.

Quote "the Company shall ensure that provision is made for religious education to be given to all pupils at the Academy in accordance with the tenets of the specified religion or religious denomination of the Academy".

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think your example is standard CofE teaching.

Most Voluntary Aided schools (the traditional type of faith school) follow an RE curriculum defined and inspected by their Diocese. Groups which campaign about faith schools, such as the BHA, call for all schools to follow an RE syllabus set out by the local SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for RE). Kings is pledging to do exactly that.
Added By: Bee - 15th May 2013 @ 11:32 PM
By the way, section 6.2 of the following document verifies that the trust directors cannot receive a salary: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/doc/m/annex%20a%20-%20mat%20model%20memorandum%20and%20articles.doc.
Added By: Jimbo Jetset - 20th May 2013 @ 10:50 PM
I think it is obvious that Bee is an apologist for RET. See his/her Wikipedia contributions - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/BeesWithNoKnees
Added By: Adrienne Deflores - 22nd May 2013 @ 3:13 PM
Bee - why do you tell lies? Why do you say "I'm not an RET employee."? What about all the brown-nosed things you have done to RET-related articles on Wikipedia?
Added By: Anonymous - 22nd May 2013 @ 6:06 PM
Oh dear, Bee seems to have disapeared. Over 500 edits to wikipedia in 2 months and all of them to articles on RET or RET schools, if you don't work for them you should get out more.
Comments are closed on this story...
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