Free Schools – My visit to The Hawthorne’s in Bootle

by Cllr. Tony Robertson on November 12, 2013

I have posted before about why Liberals are in favour of Free Schools and as we have one (a high school) on our doorstep in Bootle which was established not so long ago I thought it was time to find out more about it.

An e-mail to the School and the visit was fixed up for yesterday. This was what I found and my views on the School.

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Firstly the School was very clean and tidy, both outside and in. The welcome was very friendly and the soothing classical music played in the reception area was a delight.

I was introduced to head Teacher Lynne Wise and we had a detailed chat about how the School came to be set up and the challenges of that process.

The formation of this Free School came after Sefton Council had announced that it was closing two High Schools in Bootle. In effect parents decided to make a stand to try to help bring high quality education to a community with significant deprivation issues.

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No one should underestimate the determination of the parents and the personal risks they ran in trying to set up this School and let’s face it they did it in the face of at best disinterest from Bootle Labour and at worst downright opposition.

But the aim of the project is very simple – quality education. You can’t fault that aim no matter where you stand on the political spectrum in my view. We all want the best education for our children and the parents who set up The Hawthorne’s certainly went the extra mile to try to deliver it.

However, the struggle is far from over as the School needs to attract more young people to it as the education destination of choice. And this will not be an easy task as for many years now a fair chunk of Bootle parents have been sending their youngsters to high schools in Maghull and Crosby as they have sought a choice in education that they have felt has not been available to them in Bootle.

I must admit that having visited the School, spoken to its Head Teacher and walked around the classes listening to the lessons I am impressed with what the School is trying to do. Of course, OFSTED are the ones who need to be impressed and they are very hard to please indeed these days. Witness St Andrews C of E Primary in Maghull as a recent example of how tough OFSTED inspections are these days. Fortunately, St. Andrews came out stronger, but it was tough.

So a tough fight is still there for The Hawthorne’s but it would be nice if the Bootle councillors could get behind the School to make sure it is a success. They may well think that all education should be provided by the state (the School is state funded, I might add) and that the local authority should control every aspect of it on behalf of Government but the world is changing in case they have not noticed. Why even their own Labour Party says it is in favour of Free Schools now.

If schools like this can’t thrive it will be setting back educational choice and attainment in a deprived community and that’s hardly going to give Bootle youngsters a better start in life.

www.thehawthornesfreeschool.co.uk/

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