I’ve set up this blog because I think it’s vital to be clear about what is (and is not) happening to the English education system; and that we can only move forward and improve things if we really understand what the situation is right now.
Anyone wanting to know about the kinds of organizations which run, or plan to run, free and academy schools in England should read the ATL union’s report here.
In this blog I’m planning to collect and make public any information that I find in relation to ownership and leasing of land used for English state schools. This mostly relates to academies and free schools. I shall update this ‘About’ section whenever I manage to understand a bit more about the overall situation.
Eventually I’m hoping to have enough information to make some lovely pie charts. In the mean time, though, I hope it’s useful to make the details available in this form.
I’m contacting academy chains and asking them how many schools they lease and how many they own. I thought it was important to do this, because the comment which Michael Rosen copied to his blog here claims that Michael Gove has ‘handed’ schools over to academy chains, and further, that the DfE does not know what has happened to the freeholds for these schools. This article is circulating via Twitter and has started to be regarded as ‘fact’, when it is not. NB Michael Rosen is very clear that he does not know either way about whether the claims are true; he clearly posted it to start a debate, so here I am….
The part of the Education Act which discusses land is in Schedule 14, here. Many thanks to Sam Freedman for helping me understand this bit. The Secretary of State can order the transfer of land (via transfer of the freehold) which has been used as a school in the past 8 years, but which is no longer so used ‘or the Secretary of State thinks it is about to be no longer so used.’ So as SF has explained it, ‘this is for schools about to close’.
So far I have not come across any freeholds being transferred, unless the previous school was a not a maintained school. I have one possible case where a freehold transferred from one trust to another (new, academy) trust; but I have yet to confirm details.
NB Although it seems usual for academies to lease the land they are using for their schools, it is possible that they could also hold the freehold, since presumably it’s possible for a specific academy to lease from its chain; in future requests I shall include this as a possibility for them to confirm. NB In the Freedom of Information request upon which the article linked above is based, the DfE makes it clear that in most cases the schools are leased from the relevant Local Authority, except in cases where the school was previously a Foundation Trust. The DfE should not have the freehold in either of these situations.
I’m not clear about the apparent discrepancy between the DfE’s confidence that schools will be leased from LAs/previous trusts, and the example mentioned above in which, apparently, the freehold transferred from the old to the new trust…
A chance conversation on Twitter with Jonathan Simons of Policy Exchange has just (April 2014) got me thinking that another kind of useful Edu Factoid might be funding of think tanks’ educational activities. So I’m going to collect whatever information I can in relation to that, too. It will probably be scrappy, but I hope it’s helpful!