Since Gemstones attended a Free School proposers interview at the Department for Education on 17th August, I have focused on trying to obtain the sufficiently detailed Local Authority Statement that seemed to be a particular sticking point at interview. As a result I have been on a mission trying to gain political support for our proposal. We have contacted local council politicians such as conservative Leader Mark Bee, Protfolio Holder for Children and Young People, Graham Newman and have also written to local MPs Ben Gummer and Therese Coffey. I am hopeful that we will obtain this important piece of the jigsaw in time to make a difference to the decision making for the next stage.
An article in the Times Educational Supplement (TES http://goo.gl/gjqtu) last week made me feel that we can really congratulate ourselves in getting through to this round, especially without a sufficiently detailed and clear written endorsement from the LA. The school in the article has the support of the Local Authority, it is an existing school with apparently a good track record with OfSTED and has received accolades from a number of high profile politicians from the previous and current governments and it did not get through on this occasion. The Free School process for Special Schools contains additional demands that do not apply to mainstream proposals and in addition, as a spokesperson for the Department said in the TES article: " This is a competitive process and we set out clear criteria which applicants have to address within the set deadlines.” Hence the reason we spent huge amounts of time scrupulously matching our proposal so closely to the 117 page handbook of guidance in what seemed to be the impossibly short time-scale.
Next week(Monday 5th September) we have been invited to a small focus group of 6 other Special and Alternative Provider proposers being organised by the New Schools Network. The invitation says: “We would like to know what services or help you think you will require from us in pre-opening stage, should your application be taken forward by the DfE. We would really appreciate your feedback on what we are currently planning to do, and how this could be improved……..This will enable us to tailor our services so that we can be of most use to you.”