Choice can certainly be a good thing but sometimes practical things stop people making choices. Like not having enough money or not being able to get somewhere.
Such is the case with school transport. The importance of this to schools in rural areas is something the tube-dwelling Londoners at the DfE and the elite Woodbridge based Seckford Foundation appear to completely and utterly fail to comprehend.
For those of us living in rural Suffolk it is like these people live in a different world to us.
And neither have bothered to try and understand our world by for example spending time here and speaking to those of us that live here.
As a consequence the policies have begun to fall apart due to boring details like transport. As well as larger concerns such as curriculum. Again the Metropolitan elite in London and Woodbridge might mock subjects such as Horticulture but up here in North Suffolk many of us make our living doing just that. Many parents want their children to study such things as it could well be a way to get a job and support their families. Hardly an unreasonable aspiration.
Given the lack of choice most of our schools in Suffolk have offered a broad curriculum - including the ones that do best academically. So Hartismere in Eye does well in the GCSE league tables but offers a full range of subjects. It is a local school for local children.
So the Seckford Foundation appear caught on the hop with the transport issue. Failing to spot that there were effectively assuming that the rest of the County would be paying to provide a choice in the areas of their free schools that they do not get for their own children.
Indeed we now know from the consultation meetings that Seckford found out about the transport plans before local schools such as Sir John Leman in Beccles. The fact they said nothing about it until it became a big issue speaks volumes. In fact all they have said in public is in a leaked email to their supporters:
Suffolk County Council’s recently published plans for school bus provision in our area have raised concerns across the school community. Our worries are that the plans may limit the choice of school for local families, whether attending Free Schools or other maintained schools. We are in the process of preparing a formal response to the proposals. We highly recommend that you take a few moments to have your say.Reading this you would think it had nothing to do with Seckford and that the “nasty” County Council were to blame. Regular readers of this Blog will know that I am more than happy to blame Suffolk County Council for things they are responsible for. However they are not responsible for this mess. They are having to pick the pieces up of a situation created by Seckford and the DfE.
So if Seckford are so keen on choice why don’t they pay for it? I reported not long ago that they recently increased the salary of their highest paid employee to nearly £210,000 a year. They also recently appointed a Principal for the Free Schools on around £90,000 a year. This person is to run four schools.
So why don’t Seckford halve their highest paid employee’s salary? Just over 100K should be enough to get someone to run a single school the size of Woodbridge.
The Seckford “charity” could then put this 100K towards funding school transport and paying for parental choice. It could pay for all parents - hundreds of them - in Saxmundham and Lesiton to get to choose which school they think meets their children’s needs.
I have written to Seckford’s Director Graham Watson with this idea and am awaiting his response.