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New free school planned for Hammersmith

I am delighted to report that there are proposals for Toby Young's West London Free School to have its site in my ward, in Palingswick House.

It is a splendid building which is much better suited as a school rather than as office accommodation to voluntary organisation which is its use at present. Many of the groups do excellent work. For instance I was impressed  by a course the Afghan Council held Portcullis House last month teaching young Afghans about the workings of our Parliament - several of  them bravely plan to work in Afghanistan to use that knowledge to help develop their own Parliament. I am pictured helping the Afghan Ambassador hand out  their certificates.


However alternative office accommodation for these organisations would be more cost effective. Selling the building helps us reduce our debt mountain and thus our interest bill - that leaves us with more money for the voluntary sector than we could otherwise afford.

That is a point that The Guardian missed in their story this morning.

The Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh says:

“Having looked at the detailed consultation results and my officers’ assessments of the impact of the proposals, I am minded to support the sale of the site, subject to the discussion at Cabinet on
7 February.

“If we can do that and provide a home for a new school, offering new choices for local parents, I would be delighted. It is my view that local people would rather the site was returned to its former use as a school serving the local community than for residential development.”

One interesting political aspect is the line that the Labour Party take. The local Labour MP, Andrew Slaughter, is completely hostile. He says the proposal is "ideologically-driven nonsense." But the problem he faces is that by the time of the next election rather a lot of his constituents will probably be sending their children to this and other free schools - or looking forward to doing so. It is the opponents of the scheme who are "ideologically-driven" - the supporters want good schools to send their children to.

As with spending transparency, a credibility test for the Labour Party is to embrace free schools. Otherwise they will be shown to be opposed to greater parental choice and to have regressed as the Parliamentary wing of the National Union of Teachers.

Lord Adonis says, of free schools, in this week's Spectator:

"I support them. I have no problem with free schools at all. As you know I am a strong supporter of diversity in the state system and independently managed schools. Provided the schools are funded fairly and they don’t have unfair admissions practices, then I think having greater diversity of schools is a good thing."


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