Tuesday 8 June 2010

Parent led schools

One of the Government's flagship policies is to let parents create thousands of “free schools” outside direct Local Authority control.

The Rainbow and TreeHouse schools in London, both set up by parents of autistic children, are thriving and a good example of parent schools established as charities. But both took many years to bring to fruition and required support from the Government loan scheme administered by The Social Investment Business.

The Rainbow School, in South London, began as the dream of four parents with 18 children and is set to take in around 60.

Headmistress, Karen Sorab, was told by education experts in 2000 that her daughter would never be able to communicate and she should forget about trying to teach her. She was determined not to accept this and so set up a school that is now a major success and takes kids across London.

More parents of children with autism set up the TreeHouse School in North London in 1997. It began in a rented room in a hospital. From there we ended up with a state- of-the-art centre which helps hundreds of youngsters every year.

The schools are now paid by Local Authorities for the children they teach, but were set up with loans. In the case of Rainbow, the SIB gave a grant of £230,000 and a loan of £2million, thus providing the working capital.

For TreeHouse, we gave the first £5million and then commercial funding kicked in.”

The Adventure Capital Fund, part of SIB, has also funded a parent led pre-school set up in Liverpool.

In the case of TreeHouse it took nearly 19 years from start to finish. And it required a Futurebuilders loan to make it happen. The lesson here is that parent or volunteer commitment is crucial but not sufficient; it also has to have the capital support that only the Government was able to provide. They were both "unbankable" projects.

And this should be a salutary lesson to Government who are saying they will remove the loan interest repayments due to Futurebuilders and put into a grant scheme, thus depriving The Social Investment Business of the opportunity to support further such parent schools.

1 comment:

Mike Chitty said...

PACES in Sheffield is another wonderful example of a parent led school http://www.paces-school.org.uk/