Football fans have started a campaign to stop their club from opening a free school.
Followers of Everton FC are appealing to the board of directors to abandon plans to open a school which would cater for teenagers who are disillusioned with school and at risk of exclusion.
The go-ahead for the school, which is to be run by the Everton in the Community charity, was given by the Department for Education last year. It is the first free school to be run by a football club.
The school is scheduled to open this September and will enroll 120 students aged 14 to 19 from deprived backgrounds, offering GCSEs as well as vocational options such as BTECs. Eventually it is expected to have 200 students on roll.
Last week, as the Everton Free School Trust was carrying out a consultation exercise in Liverpool for the proposed school, opponents urged the club to give up its plans.
In an open letter to Bill Kenwright, the chairman of the board, Richard Knights, from the group Evertonians Against a Free School, claimed its new venture could leave the club’s reputation “indelibly tarnished and compromised” should it fail.
The letter claims the school, which will initially be based at Liverpool Community College Learning Exchange before moving to permanent premises, would take up to £2 million from maintained schools in Liverpool over the next three years in pupil-based funding, and could put at risk the city’s existing pupil referral units and special schools.
“The danger is that our education system will end up like America’s, with different private companies and charities providing education, leaving an underfunded, broken public education system,” the letter said.
It also called into question the school’s preparedness for opening in September and its use of the Manchester-based Place Group as project managers. Opponents claim its involvement in overseeing scores of applications for academies and free schools all over the country, suggested the project was an “ideological attempt to introduce the profit motive into education”.
The letter went on: “From the evidence it appears that the Everton Free School is a reckless gamble, untried and untested staff (not even appointed yet) working with the most vulnerable, the marginalised and excluded children who have failed to thrive in mainstream schools, and in a building that is designed for adult education.”
A statement from Everton said the school “would enhance and work with existing education providers in the city and will be open to young people who would benefit from a wider range of learning styles and approaches to prepare them for the world of work”.
Anyone wanting to take part in the consultation has until 5pm on Monday (July 2). For details, visit www.evertonfreeschool.com.