Any experience of private school turning to 'Free School'?

(58 Posts)
Killmenowpls Sun 08-Jan-12 21:23:29

The independent school my 2 dds attend has just written to us to say it is applying to become a 'Free School' funded by the Government in 2013. Has anyone had any experience of this?

I think at the moment I'm pleased, I never intended to send dds private, it was just the school we're in catchment for is really bad. So if it means it will stay a half decent school but now I won't have to pay fees, happy days! grin

Anybody got any experience of this at all? I'd never even heard of 'Free Schools' till yesterday!

Alexandrite Sun 03-Nov-13 15:05:03

That's appalling freeschool. Surely they won't have a leg to stand on as they purposely delayed telling you, but told PTA members first?

freeschoolescapee Wed 30-Oct-13 22:48:28

I have just moved my child from an independent school planning to convert to a free school. Does anyone have experience of dispute with school over lack of notice? School put back meeting to inform parents four times which meant less than a terms notice could be given for the start of the new academic year. Also PTA members knew about application before parents and moved their children to new schools with a full terms notice. Have just received threat of legal action to recover fees in lieu of a terms notice... any ideas?

NiceViper Sat 28-Jan-12 20:56:44

"I'm assuming our dd will get priority as she has a sibling at the school?"

I wouldn't count on this. Children admitted under a selective system do not confer priority to siblings (round here, anyway). You will need to keep an eye on exact proposals.

debs227 Sat 28-Jan-12 20:34:37

very interesting thread. Have they given you a date when the decision will be made on becoming a free school?? Are you happy with the education your child is receiving up to now? Do you have other options if the free school application isn't successful?

Dozer Sun 22-Jan-12 22:48:59

On costs of state school education vs private, DfE now publishes data on expenditure per pupil by individual school. Data for Primary here (south east) says around £3,750 per pupil per year.

Don't know what is / isn't covered, but big difference between £3.75k and £9k! And indeed school fees.

Rosebud05 Sun 22-Jan-12 21:54:52

Things move quickly in education, don't they?

Since this thread started, it's become explicit that founders' children will get priority places at WLFS and that for-profit companies are beginning to stake claims on the free school market.

strom Mon 16-Jan-12 11:41:02

Dozer - Independent Schools Council reported that it costs c£9k per pupil in state school. Adam Smith Institute say its cheaper in the private sector.

All accounts for charity orgs are available online. Its fair to say that the mainstream private sector is not very healthy or stable (FYI, 37% of private schools have changed ownership in the last 10 years).

This school is running at a deficit but it is secured short-term by reasonable assets (reserves and property, same as all 'businesses') - long term its not going to guaranteed of anything BUT, even if it was, arguably the Free School policy is still a good option for the school as capacity is taken up and finances ARE guaranteed - that MUSt be good ?

Worth remembering that Dept of Edu have had capital budget (for new schools etc) reduced by 60% so they HAVE to do something like this - i presume thats why the Opposition have been very quiet given that generally middle class parents will have fees paid.

Killmenowpls Sun 15-Jan-12 22:20:07

Sorry Dozer, I addressed my question to the wrong poster blush I meant Strom.

I too think its a precarious financial position if it doesnt get free school status...

Dozer Sun 15-Jan-12 21:35:25

I didn't say anything about knowing about the assets, just - to me, uninformed lay person!- the situation sounds fragile, if it isn't viable as a private school (loss-making, are the assets in cash or property?) and isn't selected as a free school. Think losses were mentioned upthread. if the accounts were available would be looking at them, eg for bank loans (that could be called in) trends etc.

Strom, is it really cheaper to educate in the private sector, per head?

Killmenowpls Sun 15-Jan-12 17:01:09

Dozer how do you know what assets the school has? confused

honisoit Sun 15-Jan-12 14:26:41

It's a sound policy, but I don't think it will pay off debts of any school. The school has to basically be viable now, and in the future.

strom Sun 15-Jan-12 13:39:56

Dozer - the school has net assets of c£1m. These is no suggestion it will close.

Govmnt Building For Schools programme still wont deliver enough school places . Estimates of child place requirements to grow 15% for 2014/15 intake.

Free Schools will basically "purchase" the 53,000 available places in the private sector - we will see much more of this. Its cheaper to educate in the private sector over state schools and results are (generally) much better. Its a sound policy.

Dozer Sun 15-Jan-12 10:10:20

Sounds like the school is desperately looking for a way to stay open. No guarantee that they will get approval from DfE.

Dozer Sun 15-Jan-12 10:08:53

Presumably if DfE refuses funding then the school would have to close sooner rather than later?

Is there actual evidence that DfE approached them, rather than the other way round? What are DfE's policies on selecting free schools? Can they confirm that they approached the school?

I would be looking for another school tbh, as it all sounds fragile.

honisoit Sat 14-Jan-12 17:49:34

I imagine that the average class size is much higher in over-subscribed schools, with typical class sizes in KS3 subjects and in core subjects in KS4 of 30 to a class. Options subjects may well have much smaller classes.

Loshad Sat 14-Jan-12 17:25:03

ah ok, can see if you include ks5 the average would dip massively. Still somewhat surprised at your KS3 and 4 figures.

prh47bridge Sat 14-Jan-12 15:31:27

I cannot give a definitive answer to that question but the way the data is collected suggests that the average is not driven down by pupils in learning support units as you suggest - teachers giving 1:1 support to pupils are specifically excluded from the census, for example. The information available suggests the figure is driven down by KS4 and KS5 class sizes. The KS3 figure is a little over 24, KS4 is around 20 and KS5 is around 12. Even taking the KS3 figure, this school's ambition of capping at 22 doesn't seem too far out of line.

The figure has been falling for the last 5 years at least, from 21.5 in 2006 and was actually 20.4 in 2011 - apologies for the typo in my previous post.

Loshad Sat 14-Jan-12 13:28:32

prh47bridge, how on earth does the census get that figure - is it by means of including the pupils who have 1:1 or 1:2 in learning support units within the school. I've worked in 4 secondary schools and none of them had normal class sizes around 20 for pre 16 education.
I currently teach 11 groups from y8-y13, the y13 groups are less than 20, all 3 are 12-15 pupils in number so if you add those in the averages go down, would do even more so for post 16 languages which do not seem to be very popular at all, but all my main school classes are much bigger. I have 2 classes of 31 out of my 7 main school classes, and in fact all our top sets throughout the 11-16 age range have 31 or 32 students in them.
Basically don't be fooled by the "average" class size fellow mumsnetters, most students in nearly all schools are in classes of 26-31 for nearly all subjects (DT/food tech tend to be exceptions).

prh47bridge Thu 12-Jan-12 23:14:04

Regarding catchment, if they plan to use a random lottery as their tie breaker it may well be true that children will be able to get in from a wide area.

LittenTree - Any school can cap class sizes at 22 if they want provided they can do so without running a deficit. According to the 2010 school census the average class size at secondary schools is 20.5. Only 6.5% of classes have more than 30 pupils.

Academies, free schools and voluntary aided schools (i.e. most faith schools) set their own admission number. The LA only sets the admission number for community schools and voluntary controlled schools. The school can appeal to the Schools Adjudicator if they object to the admission number set by the LA but the rules are such that the LA will normally win. All of this was exactly the same under the last government.

School funding is complex but in essence a free school will receive the same amount per pupil as other schools in the area plus some additional funding (LACSEG) to cover services which the LA provides to maintained schools but which free schools have to fund for themselves.

All secondary schools are free to select on aptitude for certain subjects provided no more than 10% of their pupils are selected in this way. A free school is subject to the same rules.

Killmenowpls Thu 12-Jan-12 20:27:39

They've said the teaching salaries will go up, not down and said they won't be using non qualified.

Litten - I totally agree that most of the children in the school after it turns to free school will have been privately educated/middle class and therefore the success of the school for at least the first say 5 years could be down to that rather than anything to do with the 'free school' status.

All very confusing. If the interest isnt there locally it won't go ahead anyway so will have to wait and see...

LittenTree Thu 12-Jan-12 20:01:27

Oh, I'm sure they can do that- what I'm asking is 'How can that be fair?'

MrsHoarder Thu 12-Jan-12 19:50:14

They can do the class sizes of 22 because they aren't bound by government contracts. That means that they can do some hours with people who aren't qualified teachers and don't have to agree to the national pay agreements.

Also because they can choose their own intake size and don't have the number of pupils the LEA chooses to give them to a much greater extent.

LittenTree Thu 12-Jan-12 19:12:18

And, I confess that, deep in my soul, it does annoy me that such schools can cap their intake at 22 per class. It has been shown that, with 'mixed intake', small class size is up there amongst the best indicators for 'success'. Now, whilst that is of course fantastic if your DC is in such a class, it's not so good for the DC in classes of 34 who 'compensate' for that generosity!

How can they be 'allowed' to 'get away with it'?

I actually know the reason: this government has to be able to demonstrate that its academy/free school scheme is wildly successful. The best way of doing this is to allow such school to 'tweak' things to increase their chance of success, be it via more funding, selection (except for academia, apparently!), safeguarding the existing student body (bet the Cons crow about the success of their scheme this coming summer if not next, overlooking that many DCs in these new 'free schools and academies who pass GCSEs this summer have been 'private', complete with selection and middle-classed-ness!- throughout their ed), and of course, 'allowing' small class sizes.

IndigoBell Thu 12-Jan-12 17:38:43

A state school is different to a private school, and if it becomes a free school the school will change.

If it's not used to admitting kids who are poor smile or have SN there are likely to be teething problems (at the very least for those kids).

Killmenowpls Thu 12-Jan-12 17:24:13

One thing that really pissed me off was someone saying (basically) "but poor children might be allowed in and poor parents don't care about their child's education" shock I paraphrase but you get the gist. Very insulting.

Then, and you wont believe this, some bloke stood up and basically said "What if lots of children with SN get in? We all know that SN is another way of saying naughty." ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH

Both of these were ignored/tutted at/glared at so thankfully the rest of the parents don't share these horrendous views angry

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