The opening of our free school, Michaela Community School, has been postponed to 2013. I suspect we won't be the only ones this year. While 79 free schools were approved to open in September 2012, I predict that not more than 30 or 40 will actually do so.
Buildings are what free schools need first of all. So after our early setbacks in Lambeth and Wandsworth we are now scouring inner London for a site big enough to accommodate a secondary school, in a borough that will accept the idea of a free school, in an area that has a deprived intake. The search is challenging and it is far from certain that we will open in 2013.
Yet there is a silver lining to the disappointment. When the Guardian published the news that we were postponing, the rejoicing that I expected was muffled. As one left-winger put it on Twitter: "All it means is that a good school isn't going to open." I was also impressed by those who simply stayed silent, suggesting that they too could see that the failure of our school to open was not cause for jubilation.
Another article in the Guardian, by Peter Wilby, even managed to recognise the sense in our knowledge curriculum. My modest insistence that inner-city children should read at least one Shakespeare play (from beginning to end) during secondary school — at private school, pupils read one a year — was not mocked or derided. Wilby understood what I have been saying for so long: inner-city children can achieve and learn as much as any child at private school. While their backgrounds may present challenges, this doesn't mean that we should abandon all hope of introducing them to worlds they never knew existed, and instead spend six weeks of English lessons studying The Simpsons because it is judged to be "engaging" for them.