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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bristol Free School - from aspiration to actuality!

Today, the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, came to visit one of the country's very first Free Schools - in Bristol. Here we are, with new head , Richard Clutterbuck and one of the parents behind it all - Blair King.

It was a very odd ( in a good way) feeling. Back in Summer 2009, when a group of distraught parents ambushed me while I was having a quiet pint in my local, to demand "What I was going to do about getting a local secondary school for this area", the idea of actually achieving that school was just a dream.

Nevertheless, we formed the group 'Parents Voice' and started the campaign - with some people saying it would "never work", "shouldn't get involved", it was all a hopeless cause etc etc etc.

I tried to get the most intuitive site in the city - the struggling St. Ursula's school - saved as a state all-through school to accommodate our much needed secondary state school provision. That ignited a saga worthy of , ( I wouldn't say East Riding) but Eastenders, maybe! -and alas, despite all our efforts, we were thwarted in the end. ( More of that later.)

But as it was becoming more and more likely that the Conservatives' 'Free School' legislation was to become not just a policy aspiration, but actual policy, the now independent Parents Voice group were really able to get going on a superbly professional mission to create the school parents have long been calling for.

And now here it is: In bricks and mortar - Bristol's Free School. True, it is not on the original site, the St. Ursula's site, we all intended it to be on, and many of us fought so hard for it to be on - the Council bought that site and put a Primary Academy on it; but the school is enormously impressive where it is; the pupils and staff are tangibly proud of their school and determined to make it an excellent school - and as a plaque commemorating the Minister's visit was unveiled, it was testament to the fact that Parent-power, and the voice of the people can be heard, and that against all the odds, and after over 15 years of campaigning, a school can be founded.

Enormous congratulations to everyone involved. Politics is about making aspirations become reality, and in the space of just two years, we did just that. And in the coming years, I have no doubt at all that the school will grow to be a beacon of success for the city.


Rog said...

Shouldn't that be "Today, the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, came to visit one of the country's very first Free Schools" But what do I know, I only went to a comprehensive school!

Charlotte Leslie said...

Oh crikey, Rog, over-rushed blog! plural vs. apostrophe crime...thanks for pointing that out. Amended as necessary and given self 100 lines...