Wendy Speck, Wandsworth’s Labour Group’s new speaker on education has criticised Tory Leader Ravi Govindia’s economically unrealistic plans for “five or six” new free schools in the borough. Cllr Speck, a former headteacher, said “The Tory Council has already voted to spend £13 million for one ‘Free’ school site. This is not good value for money, particularly at a time when many of our current schools desperately need repairs.”
In July 2010 the Conservative-led government scrapped Building Schools for the Future, a programme that would have invested £300m in Wandsworth to rebuild or refurbish every state secondary school in the borough. “At a time when we are being told that the council needs to cut £70m, Cllr Govindia is committing tens of millions of pounds we simply don’t have to create schools we don’t need. Every free school that opens will take funding and pupils away from existing schools.
“There are many very good schools in Wandsworth, including in the most deprived areas. Wandsworth is one of the three best performing Local Education Authorities in the country with a proven track record of turning round schools in trouble. We should celebrate this success. “School standards across Wandsworth have doubled over the past ten years – thanks to hard work from teachers and pupils, investment from the Labour government and dedicated support from the Local Education Authority.
“Cllr Govindia’s plan is political, not based on needs of our children. It won’t improve education and it will harm existing schools. We need policies based on fairness and compassion – this plan for encouraging ‘Free’ schools is based on neither.”