What do you think of the plan for a new free School in Islington?

(96 Posts)
nlondondad Sun 30-Jun-13 22:26:53

This January an Islington Community School, Ashmount, vacated its old building and site near Hornsey lane, London N19 and moved to a magnificent new building on a lovely site in Crouch Hill Park N8 a short distance done the road in January of this year. The future of the school has been secured.

Islington expected to raise at least some of the cost of the new building for Ashmount by selling the old site, at a discounted price to a housing association. They thought they would get about 3 million, but if sold on the open market, the site large, and in between Highgate and Crouch End would have raised ten million. The Council were in effect making a political decision to sacrifice money for social housing. Housing which they had promised to build in their election manifesto on which they had successfully defeated the outgoing Liberal democrat administration.

Last week it was learnt that the Education Funding Agency has chosen to requisition the old Ashmount Site from Islington Council, which they have the power to do, without paying any compensation to the Council.

The site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership; the site will be given to Bellevue Education Limited for a Free School. Bellevue Education Ltd is a commercial (for profit) company, which runs a chain of nine for profit fee paying schools here, and in Switzerland. Bellevue made profits last year of £1.5m on a turnover of £3.7m, so it’s what I believe one would call “a nice little business”. Although if you want to rush out and buy some shares you cannot at the moment as they are not publically listed. Instead the investors are venture capitalists based in Switzerland using Russian money. Perhaps there will be a flotation at some point in the future. I am sure we will be all poised to add a bit of diversity to our share portfolios.

muminlondon Mon 01-Jul-13 01:09:23

I'm against for-profit providers having control over state-funded schools because I don't trust their motives. I don't mind their services being used to improve LA-accountable schools.

If there was consultation about what the council was going to do with the land, it should be respected. I do not understand how land can be transferred without compensation from the council to an academy trust on a 125-year lease when - apparently - it should be possible to sack a school provider/sponsor after 7 years. Unless it's 100% certain that an extra school is needed and the trust was clearly independent of the sponsor/provider. Anyway, if the council disagrees the DfE should publish the business case and any impact assessment. Like they had to do here but before the school signs a funding agreement not two years later.

RussiansOnTheSpree Mon 01-Jul-13 10:12:56

Having read up a bit more about this, it seems utterly outrageous. Basically, it's theft. sad

nlondondad Mon 01-Jul-13 19:03:49

re your comment regarding "theft"

The capital account for Islington schools is now short by 3 million pounds. This was the, rather conservative figure, that Islington had assumed would be available from selling the site, at a special low price, to a housing association. It might well have been more. Consequently all Islington schools will experience a further cut in capital allocations. This is, in accounting terms, a straightforward transfer of capital resources from all the community schools in Islington to Bellevue Education Ltd.

scaevola Mon 01-Jul-13 19:21:19

There is a school place shortage in certain age groups in London - mainly in primary, and going to be hitting secondary soon. Keeping a school as a school sounds like common sense.

Ownership of land won't be handed over no-strings:there are checks and balances in the underpinning agreements, which mean that if the site ceases to be used for a maintained school, it must be handed back. There is no way the educational chain can sell it off. Nor are they (currently) permitted to make a profit from running a maintained school (and abuses by third party providers have come to light a heck of a lot quicker than Council fraud). Though it's a good thing they are profitable elsewhere, isn't it? Under the current model for new schools, surely the best option is for an experienced and successful provider.

scaevola Mon 01-Jul-13 19:37:49

And it was imprudent to set a deficit budget based on proceeds from this site, as there was no certainty it would be available for sale (owing to the purported architectural significance of the building, and the possibility (known since at least 2009) that demolition might not be permitted).

RussiansOnTheSpree Mon 01-Jul-13 19:49:16

nlondon Exactly. It might be legal but its not ethical.

nlondondad Mon 01-Jul-13 22:33:51


you wrote:

"Ownership of land won't be handed over no-strings:there are checks and balances in the underpinning agreements, which mean that if the site ceases to be used for a maintained school, it must be handed back. "

The position, as of now, is that if the site ceases to be used for a Free School it is handed back but not to the council but to the secretary of state, who could then choose to give himself permission to sell it off. Does not feel like a complete safeguard to me, and the loss to the council tax payers of Islington, would remain, although seisure by the Government is probably on balance, to be preferred to transfer to private hands.

Now look at this story in the independent


You will note in particular the para

"In a further radical measure aimed at boosting the economic attraction of academies, the Education Secretary is also examining proposals for academy schools who control large sites to be able to sell off or sub-let former council-owned land"

Controlling a large site is exactly the position Bellevue Ltd will be in.

scaevola Mon 01-Jul-13 23:02:14

Until (unless) that comes in, they can't do it.

But with the shortfall on London school places etinated to reach 90,000 and the expense of land in London, what are the chances of a school site being granted change of use? A Council can easily stymie a potential sale by pointing out that change of use won't be granted as school places are needed.

Though I note Islington speaks with forked tongue about this - as their education chief can both state that Islington has enough places (when talking about this school) and that there's an impending London-wide crisis (when interviewed by the Guardian).

muminlondon Mon 01-Jul-13 23:49:05

That Independent article is really worrying. But I'm curious about the reference to for-profit company GEMS being attracted to the market - and whether that would be desirable.

GEMS was recently announced as Wokingham Council's choice of provider for a new primary academy although little info was given on how that decision was made. But the Secretary of State has instead decided that a trust formed by a successful converter academy should run the school.

GEMS had also put forward proposals for free school primaries in London and secondaries in Reading and Marylebone but all proposals were rejected. Parents commented that the Reading bid seemed rushed.

The company had begun talks back in 2005 to be an academy sponsor but pulled out after bad publicity over its management of one of its UK fee-paying schools.

The Independent quotes 'the chief executive of a leading academies trust'. Lord Nash and Theodore Agnew are respectively minister and non-executive board member who themselves are trustees of academy chains. I'm not suggesting either of them gave the quotes. However, it highlights a conflict of interest if profit-making were allowed by those running the DfE and who might also stand to gain.

nlondondad Tue 02-Jul-13 00:20:13


Islington's case is that although there is a shortage of places in London overall, a city with a population of 8 million, there is no shortage of places in Islington, with as I write still a surplus of places at reception, that is more reception places than applicants through out the Borough.

In the case of the area around the old Ashmount site everyone this year has had the choice of (been in the catchment for) at least two schools...

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 07:35:22

Then why does Islington's education chief give such interviews about his worries about shortfall?

And why are there reception children still without a place (remember London applications don't fall tidily within boroughs - Islington schools are full, and children living less than one mile from them don't have places, but must be OK for Islingtonites as they're in Hackney) And this site is very close to the Hackney border.

But at least if Islington has no shortfall, they will not be bidding for the Govt new money for more places. oh - hang on a moment....

See many threads on MN about "why didn't councils foresee the shortfall and do something about it?". Taking a school building out of school use is the height of insanity at present.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Tue 02-Jul-13 13:17:41

Islington schools aren't full at reception. There are still places on the west side of the Borough, near to Camden.

I am always really wary about children being without places at reception. I know a few people saying this and it is only true for them as they have turned down places at non desirable schools.

I am confused, I wouldn't call Ashmount close to the Hackeny border. Haringay and Camden, but not Hackney.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 13:48:21

Maybe I got my boroughs in a twist.

But if Islington is sure that it has enough school places, and is doing enough as a good partner in the London-wide effort to tackle the huge projected shortfall (I take it that you don't class the DfE figures, those of NAO (higher) or those of the boroughs themselves as parental anecdote), then I hope it drops bids for funding for new places and removes its education chief from the pan-London campaign to provide those thousands of places.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Tue 02-Jul-13 14:56:23

Does anyone have links to somewhere I can see the shortfall per borough? Is it on the D of E ( can neber remember if its d of E or D for E)

Camden's website is very difficult to negotiate and is rarely updated.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 15:27:19

Not by borough, but as borough boundaries aren't relevant under the Admissions Code it's a bit questionable to be rigid/insular about it (though it seems from posts above that Islington wants to be).

This NAO report makes sobering reading. The number of new places needed for 14/15 is 260,000 for primary and 64,000 for secondary, a third of which will be needed in London. And of course the already rising demand for secondary will continue to rise to match the numbers in the current primary bulge over future years.

Farewelltoarms Tue 02-Jul-13 15:56:29

Hello Scarevola just to clarify an earlier point you made about 'taking a school building out of school use is the height of insanity at present'. That's not strictly true, Ashmount school has moved, lock stock and barrel, to a purpose built building. Therefore if the old site becomes a school, there's a net gain of one school building.

nlondondad Tue 02-Jul-13 16:29:07

And indeed, Farewelltoarms the distance between the two sites is only ten minutes walk. This means that if the new Free School is set up it will ADD an additional 60 places at reception to the area. As things stand there are no "blackholes". Everyone this year living in the old admission radius of the school as it was last year, calculated from the old site, had a choice of at least two schools. To the east of the site, Ashmount and Coleridge, to the North, Highgate Primary, to the West, Hargrave Park, to the south Duncombe...

So had the school been opening this year there would have been 60 surplus places, but how distributed who can say.

nlondondad Tue 02-Jul-13 16:36:08


I would be interested to read the Guardian interview with the "education Chief" at Islington as no amount of googling by me can find it. Could you have got your boroughs confused? Do you mean a political "chief" or an officer?

But in any case there would be no contradiction between saying that there is a shortage of places, in London, overall, but no shortage in this particular bit of Islington. Its not just having the places, its having them in the RIGHT place that matters. So having a surplus in North Islington would not help people, in say, Lewisham.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 16:41:38

I know. Ashmount has moved. There is a spare building. London is facing a school place shortage. Which will be cheaper/easier - use/renovate an existing site, or buy/build new? Or do nothing?

If Islington knows that it already has sufficient school places to meet the rise in demand, both for its own residents and as part of the London plan generally, then of course doing nothing is a valid option. But in that case, it needs to make sure it is taking nothing from the pot of new money for new school places. And stops being the public face of the campaign for new money for that because posters here are saying Islington is not part of the London crisis.

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 02-Jul-13 17:23:20

We already know that renovating the Ashmount building was impractical and a bad use of money. There is, as nlondon says, no benefit whatsoever to parents in eg Croydon from having an oversupply of schools in Islington.

TheNewBrown Tue 02-Jul-13 23:03:48


I am not sure where your information comes from concerning "black holes". I live near the old Ashmount site and using last year's shortest distances I would not have been offered a place at any of the other schools you mention. Now Ashmount has moved and its shortest distance has reduced drastically it is unlikely I would be offered a place there either. I don't understand what "choice of 2 schools" this would give me if my child was starting school this year rather than next.

nlondondad Tue 02-Jul-13 23:35:32


Ideally I need more information as to where you are. However if you were to the East of the new site this year you would have had either Coleridge or Ashmount. To the West of the old site you would have had Hargrave Park. You would also, a reminder of how things do vary from year to year, have had Rokesly School in Crouch End. That used to be a school some people went to from the area, but has not been available for some years, but this year it was.

Thats why I said a choice of two schools.

However do I take it your child is starting next year?

Perhaps I should say that I live only a hundred meters or so away from the old Ashmount site, hence the local knowledge.

You may find this other thread worth reading through


and as you are local the Whitehall Park residents association has a web site worth looking at.


scaevola Wed 03-Jul-13 06:53:05

The renovation of the school site is possible - the proposed new free school intends to use it.

You are not mentioning either the conservationists or the residents campaign against change of use.

It was folly to set a deficit budget - the uncertainly of future use of the site has been going on since at least 2009 and it has never been clear it could be sold, or if so when.

Where in earth do you get the idea that the school place shortage would be in south London only?

nlondondad Wed 03-Jul-13 10:37:34

@scaevola you raise a number of issues which I will deal with one by one, subject to interruption.

You write:

"The renovation of the school site is possible"

Yes indeed it is possible, any renovation is possible if you write a big enough cheque.

(Do you ever watch "Grand Designs" on channel four? People have restored ruinous castles before now.)

nlondondad Wed 03-Jul-13 22:02:22

But further to the renovation question I would point out what the independent planning Inspector said about the Council's view about renovation

"it is clear that refurbishment of the school buildings has been thoroughly investigated and has led to the conclusion that they cannot be easily adapted to meet modern educational standards."

Note "cannot be easily adapted" of course she accepted it COULD be done, but would it be a sensible use of public money? There is also the point that at some stage renovation, or refurbishment shades over into rebuilding....

For example as it is four stories with no lift, and there is no way of installing a lift internally the building cannot "easily" be made wheelchair accessible. The new building at Crouch Hill is fully accessible to the highest Disability Discrimination Act standards.

nlondondad Wed 03-Jul-13 22:21:26


You wrote:

"You are not mentioning either the conservationists or the residents campaign against change of use."

Yes there are conservationists, and in particular the 20th Century Society who campaign for the building to be preserved. They regard it as an important example of modernism.

You can see their views here, complete with photo of building.


There are also some residents who share this view, it seems. What they have in common is no experience of what it is like to use the building.

It is a box made out of steel frames and single glazed glass, so where other buildings have walls this building has glass. Dirty glass - no provision was made for it to be got at, to be cleaned. It is hugely hot in summer, and in winter it is the most expensive school to heat, for its size, in London. The glass panels are all working loose from the steel, so the building draughty also, and an expensive maintenance program, involving scaffolding, needed to keep the building safe (stopping the panels from dropping out -glass panels falling four stories to a children's playground, or into Hornsey Lane, not a risk one can take). Despite there being four stories no lift, or place to install one, so no disabled access. And equipment has to be hauled up all those stairs. The staircases are too narrow. Classrooms have to be accessed through other classrooms causing disturbance. The toilets are in the wrong place and on the ground floor only. The electrics and plumbing, both of which are wearing out, were embedded in concrete. The place has loads of asbestos, safe if not disturbed, but clearly a hazard during a refurb. When it rains, leaks. When it rains, the phones stop working. .

The view from the top floor is rather good, though.

TheNewBrown Wed 03-Jul-13 22:33:22


Taking the shortest distance criteria from that other thread you mention I would not have got into Ashmount or Coleridge this year and using the Hargrave park and Rokesly figures from last year (the only figures I have) I would not have got in there either. But my situation is what it is and I am only really mentioning it here as being representative of a wider problem.

There must be lots of people across London like me who have the illusion of choice in schools, and diligently look round schools, and choose their 6 schools in preference order on their application form but the reality is they will then be crossing their fingers and desperately hoping that they get even one of those 6 allocated to them.

I am no particular fan of free schools or Michael Gove but surely the opening of any new school in Islington (free or not) can only have a positive effect. Having a slight surplus of school places is much more desirable than having just the right amount of places because the surplus will create real choice for parents. It would also create competition for pupils between schools which would probably force schools to raise their standards rather than being guaranteed being oversubscribed on the basis of geography.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 03-Jul-13 22:48:27

I do not see how taking money away from the other schools in Islington, to give as a capital contribution to a private company, can have a positive effect on anyone other than the employees and shareholders of the private company.

nlondondad Wed 03-Jul-13 23:48:36


On admissions black holes let me reassure you regarding this year. If you are to the west of the Ashmount and Coleridge first round of offers radius this year, then you, on this years figures are within range of Rokesly and Hargrave Park, you would not have been last year, true, but this year you are. So you had a choice of two schools.

Coleridge had an exceptionally large number of siblings this year, (as did Yerbury as it happens), so the radius of both those schools will likely be larger next year. Coleridge has enveloped the whole of Whitehall Park in the recent past. As Islington as planning to add another 15 to Hargrave Park next year, you can expect that radius to at least hold. So I would predict a choice of two schools again next year.

Of course if the Free School does open that will create a "whitehole" instead, but that would still only give you one extra school choice, assuming of course the Free School did not under enroll, and have its opening aborted a few weeks before the start of Autumn term 2014, as has been known to happen when a Free School fails to recruit. (For example a Free Secondary School in Bradford, "The One in a Million Free School lost funding after it failed to attract enough pupils. Government cash for the institution was withdrawn a week before the doors were due to open on 3 September 2012" source BBC website. It seems the school will open this autumn instead, but a bit hard on those pupils from last year.)

As a parent I would also be concerned that my child was going to be educated in a building vacated as not fit for the purpose by Islington. And it would be the building that would cause enrollment problems.

nlondondad Thu 04-Jul-13 00:01:59


Yes it is the money really, well put. There is the transfer to the private company of 3 million form all the other Islington community schools as you point out. But more subtly every child taken by the new school, who would have been in an Islington community school represents a further transfer as money follows pupils. Then there is the cost of refurbishing the building. This does not come out of Islington, but out of Mr Gove's funds, but as these are limited it means that children short of a school elsewhere where there IS a shortage of places loose out.

muminlondon Thu 04-Jul-13 00:25:42

Asbestos and phones that don't work when it rains. No disabled access. A school indeed fit for the twentieth century society.

nlondondad Thu 04-Jul-13 10:18:35


You wrote:

"It was folly to set a deficit budget - the uncertainly of future use of the site has been going on since at least 2009 and it has never been clear it could be sold, or if so when."

No "deficit budget" was ever set.

You are obviously referring to the practical implications for Islington of the transfer of 3 Million pounds worth of assets from public ownership, by Islington, to private ownership by the shareholders of Bellevue Ltd.

An asset they had an entirely reasonable expectation that they could turn into cash, at some point, which they could then use to improve Islington Schools.

Preliminary discussions regarding the Ashmount move began at least nine years ago. An initial, in house feasability study reported eight years ago. It was around that time that a very conservative value was put on the site as part of a scenario, where it was sold on the open market for housing. The officers who did the valuation said it had to be very conservative as there was no way of knowing, in 2005 what the state of the market would be when the project was complete.

The council is required by law to value its assets, and get best value for them. So had the council decided, for example to use the site as a public park, then the council would have had to "buy" it from itself.

The 3 million figure was arrived at by prudent officers, which is why actually I think it is rather higher, a point of which no doubt Bellevue Ltd who have lobbied hard for this PARTICULAR site are well aware.

It is as if you owned a house, and decided to move out of it, and bought a new one, without having sold the first one. And you arranged all your finance on that basis, that you had not sold the first house, nor, due to market uncertainty did you know when, or if, it would sell.

By not assuming any money from the possible sale of your first property you would be being very prudent in the way you conducted your affairs.

Then the council step in, seize your first house, and hand it to a private landlord to rent out for their benefit. YOU have not actually LOST any money have you? So what would you have to complain of?

meditrina Thu 04-Jul-13 10:27:58

Oh! I must have completely misunderstood the point about the £3m shortfall then, if they didn't set a deficit budget. For committing spending against a gain you have not accrued and cannot be sure if/when you will ever accrue is setting a deficit budget.

But it is good news that they have no shortfall as you assert there is no deficit.

scaevola Thu 04-Jul-13 10:37:50

I would consider this, and your house-sellers example, to be deficit budgets.

If you commit to spend money you haven't got yet, you run a risk of huge additional expense (whether bridging loan, or having to cut back in other areas to rebalance your budget). This is what has happened here, and they need to plug the hole in their finances that is left by the unrealised prediction. After all, the future of this site has been under debate for years. To put something of such uncertain timing and outcome into a definite commitment to spend in one particular FY budget is risky. If the budget planners were unaware of the risk, they were incompetent. Or perhaps just reckless?

RussiansOnTheSpree Thu 04-Jul-13 11:12:14

nlondon Did the council include the (obviously unrealised) projected gain from the potential future sale of the land in setting their budgets? Or was the land merely - correctly, in accordance with accepted principles - in the accounts at valuation? I suspect the latter.

I also suspect that some people don't realise this is not America.

It seems to me that nobody is whining because they had mentally already spent the money. They are unhappy because their (prudently valued) assets have been misappropriated.

nlondondad Thu 04-Jul-13 16:05:06


Your post, directly above this one of mine is exactly right. The land was merely in the accounts at valuation. And at a very prudent valuation. The officers erred on the side of caution as the only way of finally checking the valuation was to actually offer the site for sale. However as it is a low, historic valuation, it is reasonable to say that the assets being seized are worth at least 3 million probably more.

nlondondad Thu 04-Jul-13 16:35:56


you wrote: "I would consider this, and your house-sellers example, to be deficit budgets"

Well @Russians has explained that how it was not a deficit budget on the part of the Council. regarding the "house sellers' example, being not a very original person I used an example that had actually happened to me. I obviously did not explain it clear enough.

Once upon a time, I owned a flat, a very small flat, bought some time ago, which now had the mortgage paid off. Over the time in which the mortgage diminished, the number of incomes in the household had increased from one to two, and the incomes themselves had gone up a bit. However the size of the household then increased and the growing toddler needed more room. However the time we wanted to move was in the big housing trough of the 1990's, so the bad news was that we could not sell the flat, despite lowering the price, we had no offers at all, so really we had no idea what it was "worth". The good news was that the house we wanted to buy in the Whitehall Park Area was lower in price than it might have been, tho' if we had been able to sell the flat we would have had a bigger budget, it was a bit of a financial squeeze.

So, using some savings for the deposit, we bought the house we live in, a stones throw from the old Ashmount site, with a mortgage that we could afford the payments on, at the same time continuing to pay the small mortgage out of income, that we had on the old flat. As I said before.


(Which is the same position the council took over the value of the Ashmount site, you dont know how much you will get until you get it, and you do not, as you are prudent, spend any money on expectation.)

Now if Tower Hamlets Council, which is where the flat was, had come along and seized our flat, without compensation and handed it to a private landlord to rent out for their benefit, would you still argue that the loss of this asset was not really a loss? And that it was Ok for the flat I paid for now to be someone else's property, free?

nlondondad Fri 05-Jul-13 18:27:24
nlondondad Sun 07-Jul-13 21:29:44

So far a gap in my information as been what is happening in Haringey.

This matters, because Borough Boundaries have no effect on whether people are offered places or not, so any shortage of places there could overspill. Also the old ashmount site is ten metres from the boundary with Haringey, so half the catchment would, as a matter of geometry, be in Haringey. Anyway this is the latest from Haringey Admissions, as of this week.

1. In the area of Highgate, Crouch End, Hornsey, Stroud Green (served by these schools Campsbourne Infants, Coleridge Primary, Highgate Primary, Rokesly Infants, St Aidan's, St Mary's CE Primary, St Michael’s CE Primary N6, St Peter in Chains RC Infants, Stroud Green,Weston Park.) All applicants now have a place and there are three reception places unfilled. So no shortage of places this year, now confirmed.

2. The number of applicants, in each year showed a clear trend of increasing each year from 625 (in 2007) to a peak of 700 in (2011) and has now fallen in two successive years to this years total of 629.

3. During this time the supply of places increased by 90, which is why although there was a place shortage in 2007 on 625 applicants, there is none this year on 629.

nlondondad Mon 08-Jul-13 08:57:21

There was brief coverage of this on the BBC London News last night; di anyone else see it? It mentioned a statement from the DFE in which they said that they were talking to the council, which they are (according to council officers in conversation with me, the problem is the DFE are talking, not listening...) but it also said they were consulting with the local community. Does anyone know about this? Has anyone living in the general area, and reading this, been consulted? Can you tell us about it, if you have?

sammisatt Mon 08-Jul-13 16:28:30

I caught the last bit of the coverage but it sounded like nothing was set in stone yet. Is that right?

nlondondad Mon 08-Jul-13 17:05:17

here is the link for iPlayer; the program ran for an hour, the Free School" item is about 40 minutes in.


nlondondad Mon 08-Jul-13 17:06:28

here is the link for iPlayer; the program ran for an hour, the Free School" item is about 40 minutes in.


GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Mon 08-Jul-13 20:49:05

No consultation this far south, although I suppose we don't count as local being at the top of Camden. I was in Archway library this afternoon and didn't notice any posters or flyers

nlondondad Mon 08-Jul-13 22:38:43

The council are not aware of any consultation either, I have emailed the MP for Islington North, to see if he will ask the DFE to say who is being, or has been consulted.

nlondondad Mon 08-Jul-13 22:50:55

The relevant statement from the DFE, repeated at then end of the discussion on the "Sunday Politics " programme is

"We have identified the former site of Ashmount Primary as a possible site for an approved free school and we are in contact with Islington Council about its use. However, no decisions have been taken and discussions with the proposers, council and local community are still in the very early stages."

Well one must presume there are discussions with the proposers, and there are discussions with the council, but where are the discussions with the "local community"

nlondondad Tue 09-Jul-13 16:12:05


Difficult to say really.

You see the setting up of a Free School is a long process with a number of subsidiary decision points. Any good civil servant will keep the Minister' s options open as long as possible, lest a change of course be needed, but which can then be argued not to be the dreaded "U turn" in fact there was a case of a Free School that did not recruit and so its opening was stopped at 3 weeks notice (it eventually opened a year later)

But bear in mind that senior officers at Islington are having meetings with the DFE about it, the Islington Lead member for education is giving public statements about it, and there has been at least one meeting involving members of the labour group where the news of the Government's prospective move did not go down well. Further Islington Schools Forum, the statutory body concerned with financing schools in Islington has been warned of the need to take account of a prospective financial loss.

However I think it may mean that it is really worth agitating about, as the decision may yet be reversed, in which case it will be claimed it had never been made anyway...

AuntieStella Wed 10-Jul-13 00:18:30

The reason there are 'excess" places is because bulge classes were created in some school (including in neighbouring boroughs). There were children with no places until those classes came on stream. Can those bulge classes be provided every year? Especially as there is new housing already underway?

Interesting document giving stats, based on FOI requests and published information from boroughs

LondonSwede Wed 10-Jul-13 14:12:51

I have not read the whole thread but I find it silly to just look at a single borough when determining the need for schools as (school) places are allocated based on distance and do not take into account what borough the pupil lives in.

So in the case of Islington, there might be an over supply of reception places. But Haringey, neighbouring Islington, struggles to satisfy the needs for reception places.

Coleridge's reception intake in 2012 had 30% living in Islington as an example (and yes, I asked for the data)!

So whilst Islington might be under subscribed, the particular area where Ashmount (new and old) and Coleridge are situated, is not.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Wed 10-Jul-13 15:15:56

If few free schools get up and running do you think a labour government may change the laws, so "state" schools may be built again?

nlondondad Wed 10-Jul-13 18:26:29


I agree that as the place we are talking about is right slap on the border between two boroughs it would be silly just to talk about one borough... which is errrr... why I dont do that.

In the area we are talking about there is a lot of border crossing by parents, in both directions, so it is sensible to look at the school place position taking into account both boroughs.

The up to date admissions position is that for the area in the borough of Haringey containing Highgate, Crouch End, Hornsey, Stroud Green all applicants now have a place, with a total of three reception places unfilled. So no shortage of places this year. In the relevant part of Islington all places are filled with five places vacant.

So no shortage this year.

nlondondad Wed 10-Jul-13 18:32:47

Or to put it another way the "the particular area where Ashmount (new and old) and Coleridge are situated", is not oversubscribed this year as it has a surplus of seven places.

daytoday Wed 10-Jul-13 19:30:53

But there have been two bulge years at weston park school n8 - which means 60 kids. This will cause massive problems over the next few years when it contracts back to one form entry - as the siblings number will be up.

So if you take into account the bulge year there is actually a deficit of 23 for this year.

nlondondad Wed 10-Jul-13 19:44:25

daytoday, if you do not mind me saying so, what an odd message.

Are you saying that the places at Weston Park this year are not "real" places? Either children have a place in a school or they have not, and this year, all children in the area have a place AND there are seven places over..

You might have had a point about NEXT year except Haringey say the extra provision will continue...

nlondondad Fri 12-Jul-13 17:21:49
nlondondad Thu 18-Jul-13 17:41:01

The Islington Schools' Forum met last week and considered school place planning for next year.

The number of applicants for Islington Primary Schools, which rose last year, will rise again next year. In order to accommodate these extra numbers Islington plan to re expand schools which contracted during the past period of falling rolls. Over the next few months all schools will be re surveyed to check how many children, under strict government rules which aim to guarantee enough space per child, each school could in fact accommodate, and how much it would cost to re instate the space. ( in most cases basically new fittings)

They will be looking at a combination of factors; the particular areas where demand will rise, mainly to the south of the Borough, choosing popular schools to expand, and value for money.

All children will have places in schools that meet the government standards for local authority schools and do this at low cost.

Oddly, although Islington are required by law to adhere to certain minimum standards for school accommodation, Free Schools are not. Should the Free School open on the old Ashmount Site, albeit in a building abandoned by Islington as not fit for purpose for use by a Islington Primary School, there will be a surplus of places in that area of about 20 per cent.

Without the proposed Free School, there would be no shortage, especially as applications in Crouch End, in Haringey, just across the border, now seem to be on a downward trend for the third year running. Also in Crouch End this year there was no shortage of places.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Thu 18-Jul-13 21:25:45

Thanks for the info nlondondad. Do you think Tufnell Park and Hargrave will expand again next year?

nlondondad Sat 20-Jul-13 17:03:43

green: Short answer is YES.

I think they will. Will add longer answer, later.

nlondondad Sun 21-Jul-13 23:58:11

Now here is the longer answer. For years there were falling school rolls in Islington, which meant that more and more Islington Schools had surplus places. Islington were under a legal duty to reduce surplus school places. (The alternative option, to reduce class sizes was never available, neither Labour nor Conservative Governments would fund it). They did this by reducing the Planned Admission Numbers of Schools, so Hargrave Park, for example went from a PAN of 60 or two form entry to a Pan of 30 but the school buildings are still there.

Now numbers are going up again, so Islington are going to do a survey of all schools to find out exactly what their real capacity would be, and how much money would have to be spent to bring the disused accomodation back in to use.

Once they have that information, they can then look at demand, and expand those schools up again which are popular -people want to go to them - and in the right place.

Hargrave Park very much want to go back up to two Form entry as it happens, and I think the request would be likely to be granted UNLESS the Free School IS confirmed for the Old Ashmount Site, AND there is parental demand for it. Free Schools are uncharted territory and no one really knows how to deal with extra places being created outside the planning system. Stritly given the Governments official view that Parental choice, increase of, is what it is about then Islington would certainly be justified in expanding Hargrave.

rabbitstew Mon 22-Jul-13 11:33:13

What an impressively ugly building - I can't believe anyone would resist pulling it down and starting again.

nlondondad Mon 22-Jul-13 15:44:22

Well rabbitstew I completely agree: Although the building is less ugly from the inside, as you cant see it so clearly. But this lot dont agree with us:


Ss I write, the building 3 minutes from my desk shimmers in the sun. (As it is basically a big greenhouse the "solar gain" tremendous.)

frogs Mon 22-Jul-13 22:21:07

I secretly rather like the old Ashmount building. But then I like the Acland Burghley buildings as well, and the national theatre. Clearly I am a brutalist at heart.

nlondondad Tue 23-Jul-13 10:36:21

@frogs I do not disagree that its an interesting building; not least because the school opened in 1957, and so was probably designed by Cadbury Brown before 1955. When you realise that you can see, that at the time it was avant garde, being up to 20 years before its time in architectural terms.

Indeed part of its interest should be in "lessons learned." It seems that Cadbury Brown worked to a rather specific brief from the London County Council (yes, the school is THAT old) which was for two separate schools sharing a site. Infants and Juniors. And further to that it embodied a number of ideas of the time, just post war, as to what was needed for education. It was also built in the era where not only was energy cheap, there were expectations that it would get much cheaper through the development of Nuclear Power. (In fact it did get cheaper for a generation due to cheap oil)

Moreover two critical features that Cadbury Brown had in his original design did not survive to the build.

The glass cladding was supposed to have been double glazed which would have made a big difference to the heating bill in Winter. What it would have done about the solar gain problem in Summer on the other hand difficult to tell.

There were supposed to be toilets on every floor, whereas in the final build, in the Juniors they were on the ground floor accessible only from the playground.

We learnt two lessons from this which were used when building the new school at Crouch Hill........ which I will post about later if there seems to be a demand....

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Thu 25-Jul-13 17:59:51

Holds hands with Frogs. I rather like the old Ashmount building.

I LOVE Acland Burghley, I drool when I go past. My DD hasn't even started school yet, so it's a long time before I am going to see inside.

Balfron Tower, mmmm

As you were

Farewelltoarms Thu 25-Jul-13 18:22:19

Some porn for the ladies, control yourselves.

Am feeling sweaty just thinking about the old Ashmount and what it would be like during this heatwave.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 26-Jul-13 10:19:52

nice Farewell, thank you.

frogs Fri 26-Jul-13 12:28:28

It would be wrong to choose your child's secondary school purely because you like the architecture of the building, wouldn't it? blush

nlondondad Fri 26-Jul-13 16:12:58

Well we certainly had parents put off Ashmount by the building, despite being a "good" so far as Osted was concenred and all that, until the school move to a new building was confirmed the school was seriously undersubscribed. Once it had been confirmed we were moving we immediately became oversubscribed, and this for autumn 2013 having actually moved into the new building the admission radius halved! The quality of the school unchanged, the staff the same,...

nlondondad Fri 26-Jul-13 16:14:41

but my typing in the last post terrible.

(Goes in search of beer)

frogs Fri 26-Jul-13 22:19:28

Nlondondad, I think some schools get a reputation as being desirable and others as not desirable which I think has very little to do with the actual quality of the teaching and learning in the school, and everything to do with people's perceptions of the type of parents that send their children there. And if a school makes a quantum leap into a shiny new building and location, that will have a knock-on effect on the lemmings the school's perceived desirability, again without changing anything material about the quality of education.

I am somewhat weary about this, having dc in another local school that is fantastic with top-quality ofsted but nonetheless not perceived as 'sought-after' by local m/c parents. But tbh I think not attracting the lemmings aspirational parents who want a school to be full of people like themselves is a bonus for those of us who chose the school for the qualities that actually matter to us.

nlondondad Mon 29-Jul-13 19:33:27

@frogs I agree with you about this. In fact I feel rather curmudgeonly about the way, once the new building was confirmed as definitely being on its way - contracts signed, then builders on the site -, we had the "quantum leap' in applications.

Before then, we were undersubscribed with places being taken by parents who saw past the awful building to the really good, highly motivated staff - Teachers AND TA's. Parents who not only got the good school but also, due to the undersubscription small class sizes as well...

I suppose there may have been an element of good morale in adversity as well as we have a really active PTA. The new parents have a legacy to live up to. (In short I think in terms not of whether the school is worthy of them, but whether they are worthy of the school!)

But my heart still leaps when I see the building the children now get, with its spaces, vistas, and surrounded by trees.

But it still raises the question: if the Free School are really going to use the old building who will send their children there?

nlondondad Mon 29-Jul-13 22:32:04

On 25 July at about half five in the evening I received a phone call from a pleasant man who told me he was carrying out a telephone opinion poll on local political issues. He said he was working for a company called "UK Ground Comms" A google search shows that a company of that name exists, but it does not seem to have a web site. I suppose a bit of effort at Companies House might throw up some more information.He said he wanted to ask me four questions. I got him to repeat them, and wrote them down immediately after the call.

1. Did I know about the controversy regarding the Old Ashmount Site? - in order to find out more I said "no'

He then read me a set script thus:

"Local residents have successfully campaigned to obtain government money to put a new primary school on the old Ashmount School Site. Islington Council do not want this, but want to build 140 homes on the site instead."

Following this he asked

2.. Do you support having a new primary school on the site/

3. Which political party will you be voting for at the next local election?

4. if a particular party were to say it supported the putting of a new school on the site would you change your vote?

When I asked he said he could not disclose who the client was.

Interesting bit of research dont you think?

There are a lot of well informed Islington parents here. So I'd like to take a different tack on the question and ask about secondary schools.

Looking at the DoE website there are 16 secondaries in Islington of which only 4 are co-ed and non-denominational, i.e. actually comprehensive.

One of those is Highbury Grove which has seen a remarkable turnaround in the last few years and is now hugely oversubscribed. It's catchment area is heading towards below 1,000m. This leaves huge holes in the "comprehensive" education available in the borough. Especially for boys as many girls go to a larger supply of girls schools. Highbury Grove has only 27% girls on the roll.

Add into this the number of parents shipping kids out of the borough to nearby boroughs, grammar schools and fee paying schools - kids that could/should be educated in borough?

1) Do we need more comprehensive secondary schools in Islington?
2) Should we have at least one grammar school in Islington?

Farewelltoarms Wed 31-Jul-13 19:41:33

Gosh is it only 4 co-ed, non-denom schools? Though to be fair, Mary Mags is v. denom-lite given that the majority of places go on distance.

Re. your questions.
1) I don't know, I presume that the council would argue that they are enough places. Certainly I do wonder what happened around Liverpool Rd area before Mary Mags.
2) Well that's not going to happen (nor should it imo). Though part of Highbury Grove's success is due to how the head marketed a sort of 'grammar stream' by promising pretty rigorous streaming which appealed to wavering parents.

Re. those educating their children in fee-paying schools, I don't think there's any state school that would persuade some of the more wealthy Islington residents. My neighbours didn't even look at our local school because they said that would be pointless as it's an 'inner-city state school' and opted for a pretty ropy private without a playground merely because you had to pay for it. Another perfectly reasonable-seeming woman told me that although the Gower wasn't a great school it at least 'doesn't have any pupils from council estates'. Another lives 200 yards away from the enormous Victorian redbrick could-only-be-a-school and when I said where my kids go, she asked 'oh where's that then?'

These people will never go state unless there was some seriously dodgy selection going on.


I think you're right about diehard fee payers. Although I think there must be some correlation between wealth, education and peer group that bears scrutiny even for the most average of private schools. I guess it's simple "insurance" for those that can afford it.

However, doesn't that also argue for a decent grammar school open to all able students?

On the other hand, I doubt there are enough "bright" kids in the borough to bother.


nlondondad Thu 01-Aug-13 19:32:33

Muswellhilldad exactly what is your point?

I started this thread to discuss an issue that matters to all the children of Islington. You would seem from your name, not to be an Islington resident. You now seem to want to witter on about secondary schools in Islington, not the topic of this thread, and when you did not seem to be getting very far with that, you respond to Farewelltoarms thoughtful post, not with an argument but a coarse jibe.

Where do you think you are? Twitter?

Farewelltoarms Thu 01-Aug-13 20:45:36

I don't think there's any problem with talking about secondaries because maybe there is an argument for an additional school and that's part of your original question nlondondad.
But the issue with Islington schools is their terrible economic and social fragmentation so a grammar school is only going to increase the (misplaced) perception that the existing comprehensives are secondary moderns for those who fail to get music place at camden, get into Dame Alice, go private etc.
Apart from the fact that it's not legally possible to found a grammar school anywhere (least of all Islington).
And there's the additional problem Muswellhilldad hits on that all the children in the borough are a bit thick...
Apart from my kids obv who like all those on mn were free reading in the womb.

Sorry if I went a bit off topic. hmm

FadedSapphire Fri 02-Aug-13 12:51:02

I don't know the borough being discussed BUT- all children in the borough a bit thick- Really?!
Are we entering a 'Realm of stupidity' or is it just snobbery in thin disguise....

Farewelltoarms Fri 02-Aug-13 14:47:05

I was being ironic in response to Muswellhilldad's post, FadedSapphire.

I've no idea what he meant about there not being enough 'bright' children, but I certainly wasn't suggesting that the whole borough's kids were thick. But clearly I should have emoticonned the statement as a signifier....

FadedSapphire Fri 02-Aug-13 15:39:04

Probably me being a bit slow Farewelltoarms... apologies...

My bad. Sarcasm doesn't work well on the Internet. I thought the smiley face would have made it clear I didn't actually mean that. However, as more than one has interpreted it that way, I should clarify that I didn't mean that at all. I was actually implying the opposite, that there should be enough bright kids in Islington to have a full cohort of "high attainers" leaving primary and joining secondary to make a peer group at all the secondaries in the borough. The problem is that they mostly seem to leave the borough (Camden, grammars and indies) and this unbalances the comps.

For the record, despite the name, I live in Islington with kids at state primary and have seen many of the Islington secondaries.

I'll shut up now.

FadedSapphire Fri 02-Aug-13 16:09:37

My brain fogged up in the heat...
Thanks all for clarifying smile.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 02-Aug-13 17:59:22

nlondondad do you know of anyone else who received the "research" phone call?

farewell, or anyone else for that matter, what do you think 'at least it doesn't have any pupils from council estates..'means when the people that say it, say it? Is it that children that live in council houses are stupid, or those that live on estates are rough, or rough and stupid? If a child lived on the estate, but in a private home do you think that would be okay? Is a child living in a council street property fine? I think about this lots (too much !) and I never know what to say to people when they say similar to me...

Farewelltoarms Fri 02-Aug-13 18:54:01

I've absolutely no idea, GreenEggs! I was totally flummoxed and muttered something about how that would be a shame as they were all the cleverest kids at our school. When obviously I've no idea if this is true and also is just as bad a generalisation but I really loathe this idea that somehow every middle-class child is bound to be far more academic. It might not be all the cleverest kids, but I've seen plenty of whip-smart kids whose parents qualify for free school meals.

The odd thing is that the woman who said this always seemed so nice and who I'm sure thinks of herself as liberal and tolerant.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 02-Aug-13 21:04:15

Of course you don't know, how would you? It's just I've heard it said soooo many times since I moved around this way, but never really before. That could simply be because I moved here when I had children. Anyhow, as you were.

frogs Fri 02-Aug-13 23:02:04

FWIW I think the problem is not so much those parents going private, nor the absence of a grammar school as the lack of a school that is perceived to be an acceptable and desirable alternative to shipping your dc out of the borough to selective schools (yes, Emily Thornberry MP, I'm looking at you).

I also don't think the problem is religious schools (SMM is very faith-lite, St Aloysius is notionally over-subscribed, but not what most people would consider a desirable school, Mount Carmel is not over-subscribed) nor single-sex schools - HFS, CFS and EGA are all true comprehensives albeit single-sex, not particularly over-subscribed).

None of these schools has managed to do what Fortismere and Camden Girls' have done, which is to become a realistic alternative to private school for parents who would like to not pay fees but won't entrust their offspring to a 'bog-standard' school. Highbury Grove is having a good crack at that niche, but is realistically a looong way off achieving it. None of them has even come close to what even eg. Acland Burghley in Camden or Mossbourne in Hackney have managed, ie. becoming an acceptable alternative to private for confident parents of reasonably bright children who are not ridiculously precious about their dc mixing with kids from council estates.

Fuck knows what the answer is. Removing the Latymer and DAO opt-out clauses for Islington parents would be a start, but can't see any chance of that happening.

Farewelltoarms Sat 03-Aug-13 10:00:50

As ever Frogs you speak so much sense. Islington schools have such a hangover from the olden days that people like Boris Johnson can blithely say 'oh well my children were at Islington schools so I had to extricate them' when in fact they're way better than average. Tony Blair did the borough such a disservice.

I know people who don't look at Islington primaries and yet move up to say, Crouch End, and immediately put their children into Coleridge. I'm sure it's a great school, but it kind of makes a mockery of all their 'I'd love to send my child to a state school but they're so bright/sensitive that they need small classes'. You realise how much is, as you say, the perception of the sort of people who send their children to various schools.

However, I do think things are improving. I would argue that Highbury Grove and SMM are at least as desirable as Acland Burghley (which has just as much 'fear' expressed towards it, partly because of the disproportionate numbers of boys) and both of which are attracting wavering parents. Still a long way to go until they are like Fortismere/Camden Girls, but they do offer a state option that isn't perceived as being as scary as somewhere like Holloway Boys or the old Islington Green.

frogs Sat 03-Aug-13 20:45:43

I think also lots of people just don't even go and look, so don't really give schools a chance. Which is a shame.

Acland Burghley has scary teenagers hanging around the tube station junction, but the school itself doesn't feel scary at all, it feels funky and urban. And the kids seem to be happy and having fun, which is more than can be said for some highly sought-after schools that had better remain nameless.

SMM had the advantage of perceived exclusivity in being a church school and an academy, but I'm not sure they've sustained that as well as they need to. But given the lack of alternatives they will probably manage ok. SMM 6th form a bit wobbly though, no? Not that I know anything about it, not being that side of the borough.

Highbury Grove made a concerted and very deliberate effort a few years ago to pull in m/c parents as a cohort. I can't remember the details, but it was barely short of saying, "Look, we really need m/c families to support us, if you send your kids here we will support them and do well by them." And they seem to be making good on that, I'd have no issue sending dc there if I lived that side of Islington.

But the thing that constantly frustrates me, both on here and in RL, is that people look at the headline % of pupils getting 5 A*-C, which is the most widely-available measure, and mistakenly translate as the probability of their child getting 5 A*-C. And of course the maths of that is completely wrong - the headline figure only really tells you about the intake. What matters is the achievements of the cohort of kids that your child would fall into - so if you think your child is a high achiever, you need to look at how many kids are getting a full house of As and A*s at GCSE. If there are a reasonable number of kids getting seriously impressive grades, then there's no reason to assume your child will not be among them, even if there's a relatively large number of low achievers in the school. I'd be far more worried about a school with a higher headline 5 A*-C rate that had very few kids getting top grades than I would about a school with a lower headline rate and a decent cohort of high-fliers. I know someone who sent their child to Highbury Grove back in the bad old days when it was not any kind of desirable, c. 2005. This child got 11 As and A*s, as did a fair-sized group of his peers, and he's now at a RG university.

People need to have more faith in their dc, I think.


You are right about the efforts HIghbury Grove has gone too to attract local parents that would usually send there kids further afield.

Having said that, when I asked the new head last year, she took my name and said they would be in touch. I'll ask this year why they weren't in touch.

nlondondad Sun 13-Oct-13 22:53:02

Public Meeting.

Support Our Local Schools

Should a free school open in Hornsey Lane?

Chair: Jeremy Corbyn MP
Speakers: Pana McGee, Headteacher,
Ashmount School; Councillor Joe Caluori,
Executive Member for Children and Families
at LB Islington; David Barry, outgoing chair
of Governors, Ashmount School and local
resident; Barrie O’Shea, Headteacher,
Duncombe School and Julie Davies,
Secretary, Haringey NUT

7pm Thursday 24th October
Church Hall, Christ Church, Crouch End Hill, N8

Support Our Local Schools represents local parents, teachers and
governors, c/o supportourlocalschools@outlook.com

nlondondad Fri 18-Oct-13 20:38:13
Farewelltoarms Fri 18-Oct-13 20:59:07

Hello nlondon, I took great pleasure in filling out that form thing on the site linked to from Local Schools Network.

nlondondad Thu 24-Oct-13 17:10:15

the meeting, info three posts down, is tonight.

nlondondad Mon 28-Oct-13 23:00:54

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