Free School Update
Many people who support N-Gage will know we have been working on application to open an Alternative Provision Free School in South Manchester. For the last ten years N-Gage has been delivering programs that help pupils at risk of exclusion re-engage with their education. With the free school policy we always felt we were ideally placed to open one, so we started the process. I was lucky enough to be offered a place on the New Schools Network development programme and that brought with it a wealth of support. They have an 80% success rate in helping people like N-Gage open schools. We had a series of meetings with schools and representatives from the council however, towards the end of these it became clear we didn’t have their support.
Another established provider from outside of the city is hoping to open in Manchester on the east of the city we think. We were unable to convince the powers that be to back our bid and buy places. Free schools without local authority support don’t really get off the ground and the local authority only has limited resources to support free schools. So, regrettably, at this time we cannot proceed with our application. As an organisation we all feel desperately sad that we won’t, at the moment, get the opportunity to help young people in our city, some of whom we work alongside in a variety of ways.
The considerable work we have done on the bid, which was nearly complete, will not be wasted and we will look at ways we can use it to either try again in the future or develop something different.
I would like to thank the many people in the free school movement who have offered time and expertise free of charge. Particularly the teams at Westside Academy in London, Fermain Academy in Macclesfield, and all those people who had agreed to be governors and trustees. I know what we have been working on would have worked but sometimes the underlying politics can play a part in who the local authority feel they can support. Regardless of policy or politics we firmly believe that education should always be about young people and helping them and we will continue to do that. With the push towards more Academy Trusts the spirit of free schools is becoming very monetised and business driven. I think people like myself, who were excluded and left school with no qualifications who go on to set up and run successful charities or succeed in business, are precisely the sorts of people the free school policy was intended to support and encourage. I know that having the opportunity to work with young people at crisis and share my experiences is incredibly powerful and can inspire people to change. I, alongside all the staff at N-Gage, will endeavour to develop and discover new ways of helping those young people in our community who are in need our support.
Thanks Christie and N-Gage Trustees