Free school plans are 'partly a response to economic downturn' says governor (From The Northern Echo)
For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Free school plans 'partly response to economic downturn' says governor of Polam Hall, Darlington
A GOVERNOR at one of the oldest private schools in the North-East has acknowledged their plans to apply for free school status is partly a response to the sharp financial downturn in recent years.
Polam Hall School, an independent institution in Darlington since the 19th century, surprised many people yesterday when it announced it was hoping to join Education Secretary Michael Goves educational revolution.
If the application is accepted the 250 pupil school which charges from £2,200 to £4,070 per term would more than double in size and - crucially - no longer be dependent on fees.
The school said by applying for free school status it was "honouring the life-enhancing vision of education set up by our founders."
But Julian Wright, a governor at Polam Hall School, conceded that the difficult economic situation in the last seven years had played a part in their decision.
"There are considerably fewer parents who are able afford independent school fees since the financial crash, and many who can afford fees feel understandably wary about making long-term investments when the economic climate is still uncertain in the medium -term," the chairman said.
Asked whether he was now expecting an exodus of fee-paying parents from his school Mr Wright insisted that the demand for a school like Polam Hall "where there are strong values based on a real sense of community, on excellent behaviour and academic development, and a full holistic vision of education," is very high.
Responding to questions whether the ethos and nature of what has been, until now, an exclusive private school, will have to change once it becomes state-funded Mr Wright said Polam would "continue to offer that very distinctive mission and ethos. It is integral to what we believe in and to what we want to achieve in the future."
He said free school status would put it on a more stable financial basis and allow staff to plan ahead.
"The experience of schools such as Polam Hall that have converted to Free School status is that they are very oversubscribed."
Simon Kennedy, North-East organiser for the NASUWT teachers union, said Polam Halls plan to increase pupil numbers to 650 could destabilise other state schools at a time of falling pupil numbers.
He said state funds would be better spent on existing state schools and the model was becoming "a refuge" for struggling private schools.
Comments are closed on this article.