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Shadow education minister learns about Stroud free school row

By Stroud Life  |  Posted: February 27, 2014

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SHADOW education minister Tristram Hunt learned more about row raging over Stroud’s planned free Steiner school on a visit to the town.

Labour MP Mr Hunt, a teacher and lecturer himself, was at Archway Comprehensive yesterday (thur) afternoon where he said new schools should only be provided where they were needed.

“Our concern is that where you introduce extra free schools, where there isn't a need, then there is an over supply of places and you put in peril the great work which teachers are already doing,” Mr Hunt said.

“We need 250,000 new places but where there is that need,” said Mr Hunt.

In Stroud the simmering row has supporters of the planned new Steiner Academy Five Valleys saying they’d be offering the choice of a free Steiner education to families that wanted it for their children.

But the Labour Party in Stroud is hotly opposing the Steiner academy on the grounds it will waste education funding that could support existing schools, and could even dilute pupil numbers leading possibly to school closures.

Archway headteacher Colin Belford met privately with Mr Hunt and Stroud’s former Labour MP and current parliamentary candidate David Drew before the three took a tour of the school.

Mr Belford has already made clear his opposition to the free school and said: “All of our schools put creativity and child centered learning at the heart of education. I struggle to see the difference that the school will provide.”

Afterwards Tarra Gilder-Rai from the Steiner academy spokeswoman said their school would be “incredibly different”.

Two new primary schools were already mooted at Hunt’s Grove and Westington where new homes were proposed and Ms Gilder-Rai said: “With all the new housing that is going to be built ... they can’t accommodate them at the current schools.”

Historian Mr Hunt sat in on an Archway geography lesson, visited woodwork and other classes, and was introduced to politics student Joe Boniface, 17, from Stroud.

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, spoke too to a small group of 14 year olds he met by chance in a corridor and was impressed by their specific questions and knowledge of issues around examinations and assessments.

“I represent an urban constituency and spend far too much time in London and Westminster. It was good to come hear to a more rural area an hear, for example, their comments on the debate about the longer school day,” Mr Hunt said.

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