Last week, the Governors and Headmistress of Cobham Free School (“CFS”) announced that they had finally obtained a site in Cobham for a permanent home for their secondary department. They – or rather the Education Funding Agency – have entered into an agreement to purchase Munro House on Portsmouth Road, next to the Rugby Club. This is an office complex which will now be converted for academic use.
I am absolutely delighted by this, which is the best news for Cobham in years. Finally, secondary education in the town will be a reality for local parents who cannot afford private school fees. There will also be a genuine choice for parents, rather than the current school places lottery which sees Cobham children parcelled out to schools in Esher, Walton and Leatherhead, often against their families’ wishes.
As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my main reason for getting involved in politics was to try to reverse the decline in the quality of state education in this country. Prior to the comprehensive schools experiment, social mobility was guaranteed by the grammar school system. Of course it was not perfect – not every child was able to shine at age 11, and more should have been done to pick up bright children who simply failed to perform at the 11 plus. The comprehensive system did nothing to improve social mobility – in fact it set it in reverse, with more and more privately educated children obtaining the best university places and with them, access to the best jobs.
Michaela Khatib, Howard Morris and the EFA team have worked tirelessly and over many years to secure a suitable site for the secondary department. Green belt options have had to be considered because nothing else was available. This inevitably led to some friction with local heritage and countryside groups. Finally, a result has been achieved which does not involve any use of Green Belt land. My congratulations to them all.