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Free schools are an achievement this government should be proud of

Feb 24, 2014

So says Toby Young, controversial broadcaster, associate editor of the Spectator magazine, blogger for the Telegraph and co-founder of the first free school in England to sign a funding agreement with Michael Gove.

Toby was speaking at the 4th anniversary celebrations of Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services, a specialist school procurement company located at Basepoint Enterprise Centre in Basingstoke.  Guests gathered last Thursday in the beautiful Prideaux Centre at successful local independent school Lord Wandsworth College.

After an introduction from LWC headmaster Fergus Livingstone, Minerva director Lorraine Ashover took the opportunity to thank those present for their help and support over the past 12 months.  Lorraine said: “Everyone here has contributed in some way to the success of Minerva and, in turn, to the prosperity of schools across the UK.  With your support Minerva clients are enjoying ongoing annual savings of more than £350,000 and growing.  These savings allow schools to spend more money on their pupils and improve their educational outcomes as a result.  It’s something we should all be proud of.”

Toby then took to the lectern and engaged the audience with the story of how he helped set up the West London Free School.  Toby and his wife were unhappy with the local provision in the area for their 4 children.  Having considered moving and re-mortgaging to pay for private education, Toby felt that as a UK taxpayer he was entitled to send his children to a good state school.  So began the long journey to set up The West London Free School.  “I was extremely taken aback by the vituperate personal attacks from a number of individuals and groups, not all of them the usual suspects,” he said.  “The head of a local independent school even claimed that opening a free school in the area would endanger the lives of pupils at his own school.”

Of particular interest to the bursar’s and School Business Manager’s in the audience was Toby’s experience of trying to keep abreast of procurement guidelines in his capacity as a governor of the school.  “We’ve had to re-run a procurement exercise more than once,” he said.  Lorraine concurred. “It’s a real issue in schools,” she said. “Heads are there to manage staff and work on academic aspects.  They shouldn’t have to spend their time wading through all this red tape.  That’s where Minerva comes in.  We do the hard work so those in the school don’t have to, including the school’s over-worked administrative staff.”

The evening was successfully rounded off with an opportunity for all present to network with one another over wine and canapés.

For more pictures of the evening, view our montage here: Minerva's 4th Birthday Celebrations



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