Newsbite #12: Meetings

3 May 2019

Thank you to all who attended the public meeting we held last Friday evening.

It’s fair to say there is a tremendous amount of support from people of all ages in St Ives and the surrounding villages – this was not just witnessed by the applause from those in attendance at the end, but by a flurry of emails we have received since, asking us to keep pushing. Thank you for this motivation – we believe enough in this project to keep trying and the support from each of you is hugely appreciated.

Public Meeting Review

The meeting began by thanking you – the community of St Ives and surrounding villages – for the wholehearted and widespread support received for our application.

We explained that we are trying to create something really different. A Secondary school with a community feel, an inspirational curriculum and a Christian ethos at the core. We want a school that is modelled on the Independent sector, believing we live in an area where families are socially mobile and seeking to improve their children’s opportunities in life, but without the financial capacity to afford the type of public education that Kimbolton or Kings in Ely would require. We want this application to truly embody the free school principle of creating bridges between the very poorest and the very wealthiest in society – making an outstanding education open to all, no matter what their background, social status, ethnicity or faith.

Sadly, we had to report that so far, the DfE have remained completely silent on our application. We have decided that we must take this as meaning we will not receive an interview in Wave 13, and therefore had to tell the meeting that it is with deep regret that we acknowledge that this school will not now be open for any interested families with children in Year 5. This is very hard for us, because we have got to know many of you, as passionate as we are about this school proposal and who would have moved mountains with us to make this a reality for your children. We were able to report to the DfE that we had signatures from 126 families who had children in Year 5. With a proposed opening cohort of 120, it seems disheartening that we had potentially already filled the school for September 2020, without a comprehensive marketing programme, open days or media coverage. We are truly sorry to each of these families, and hope you’ll still be able to support us in pushing for this school to happen.

Alun Ebenezer then gave a short presentation on how day-to-day life works at Fulham Boys School, and why the three pillars that our school will be built on – “The Christian Faith”, “Enterprise” and “Boys and Girls are different” – work in reality. Similar to his presentation in October, remind yourself of this here

Alex Wade (Chairman of Governors at Fulham Boys School and CEO of the Charles Spurgeon Schools Trust) then talked about how he came to make the application for Fulham Boys School, and why he believes we should continue to work together in Cambridgeshire, and how this can become a reality. Alex’s speech was extremely rousing and gave a call to action to all those who want to see Cornerstone Free School open. You can view the video here, but unfortunately it does cut out just as he was about to explain how you as supporters can make all the difference to this application succeeding or failing. This included:

•             Each supporter taking it upon themselves to direct at least 4-5 other people to our website to sign up and support us. Please also contact us at
admin@cornerstonefreeschool.org.uk if you are able to help deliver flyers or spend half an hour discussing this proposal in the town centre of St Ives, and gathering signatures. Whilst sometimes daunting, we can report that we have had tremendous support from the people of St Ives whenever we have gone out – with some of our committee collecting around 80 signatures of support in a matter of hours.

•             Each supporter writing to their local county councillor and affirming their support, their desire to see our school open and their reasons why.

•             Write to your MP, and ask them to continue to take a keen interest in the Cornerstone Free School proposal, including to liaise with fellow MPs in Westminster.

The above actions are PARAMOUNT to the success of our school proposal, as we begin to think about re-applying to the DfE through Wave 14, which has now opened, and candidates have been invited to make new applications.

Councillor Meeting Review

We also had a meeting on Friday with some of our county and district councillors from St Ives and the villages.

This meeting took the same format as the public meeting, with an overview of the plans given by our committee, Alun Ebenezer and Alex Wade. Following this, we had a long discussion, with many questions and concerns shared with us from the Councillors.

It is important to assert that councillors do not oppose our plans, but do have reservations – which we understand – in order to protect St Ivo School from any negative repercussions of a new Secondary School opening; protect the roads around St Ives from further traffic congestion in the rush hours and to protect the current pupil place planning policies that are in place at county level to ensure that there are no schools with lots of empty spaces (causing funding and personnel cuts).

We, however, believe that it is important to continue to engage with and listen to our locally elected representatives and act on their feedback so that our school is fairly representative.

As Alex Wade mentioned at the public meeting, now is the time to ensure that you are heard.

ACTION! Please Contact Your Local Elected Representatives

We have prepared an email template, that you can use as a starting point to write to your local county councillor :
https://cornerstonefreeschool.org.uk/supporter-email-template/.

Please do write to your representative (it could just be in the format of a short email – it doesn’t have to be a formal letter). Most of our councillors are Conservative, and the Conservative party policy is to support the Free School movement – where appropriate. They also need to hear from constituents themselves as to what the issues are. All councillors are contactable via email, and their contact information can be found here: https://cambridgeshire.cmis.uk.com/ccc_live/Councillors.aspx

Similarly, please do write to your MP. There is a template here.

Our local MPs Jonathan Djanogly, Shailesh Vara and Lucy Fraser are Conservative, and aware of our plans. Mr Vara and Ms Fraser have not yet agreed to meet us, as the current proposed school site falls out of their constituencies, but Jonathan Djanogly has met us twice. Fulham Boys School already has a team of extremely supportive MPs – some are patrons of their school, some are parents to their pupils. Some were responsible for ensuring they opened – in the case of one high profile MP, under personal guarantee. These MPs want to see Fulham Boys School open a school in other areas of the country, so it is important to get our local MPs to discuss these plans with them down in Westminster, and to work together to apply pressure to the Department of Education to listen to us, give us feedback on why our application through Wave 13 may have been unsuccessful, and what they want to see in a strong application for Wave 14.

We hope to send another Newsbite out within the next two weeks to update our supporters on how they can get involved in our committee. Some of you asked at the public meeting what you can do to ensure this opportunity becomes a reality for your children. We require additional support on our committee which we will inform you of shortly. In the meantime, please do take the time to write to your councillor and to your MP, and encourage a few other friends to register their interest with us. We cannot stress enough, how big an impact these actions, by you, could make to our campaign. 

Finally, thank you once more for your continued financial support, which has been overwhelming.