Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

He Refereed Row over Free School. Now He's Its Principal: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

He Refereed Row over Free School. Now He's Its Principal: News

Article excerpt

But DfE insists interview process was 'fair and thorough'.

A very public row over a proposed free school in Suffolk intensified last week after it was announced that the independent expert who led part of a statutory consultation into the viability of the school has been hired by the group trying to set it up.

At the beginning of this year, Rob Cawley acted as the adjudicator of a disagreement between the group behind Beccles Free School and parts of the local community opposed to it. The resulting consultation document was handed to the Department for Education in January and will only be made public after schools minister Lord Hill decides whether the school can go ahead.

Since then, however, Mr Cawley has been appointed executive principal designate for Beccles Free School and the nearby Saxmundham Free School. Mr Cawley was hired by the Seckford Foundation, a 400-year-old education charity that supports a number of free schools, as well as the Pounds 24,000-a- year independent Woodbridge School, also in Suffolk.

The decision to hire Mr Cawley after he acted as chair on the statutory consultation has been heavily criticised by opponents of Beccles Free School, who have claimed that it compromises his independence.

Jeremy Rowe, headteacher of Sir John Leman High, which will be directly affected by the creation of a new secondary in the town, described the appointment of Mr Cawley as "astonishing".

"Mr Cawley was involved as chair of the free-school consultation. Therefore, I and many other people were astonished when he was announced as the new executive principal of the free school," Mr Rowe said. "The fact that Mr Cawley feels he can support the values of free schools is his business, but we believe that every child should be given equal opportunities and that for many of our pupils a broad curriculum is their best chance of making their way in the world successfully. …

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