Help! In a dilemma about whether to accept place at Wwest London Free school Primary - new free school

(85 Posts)
Firstgold Sun 21-Apr-13 21:45:15

We're struggling to decide whether to take up a place offered at West London FS Primary for DS this September or whether to scrimp and save and just about afford private school.

Concerns are the obvious ones - brand new school (albeit with close links to the West London Free School secondary); unknown quantity in the young headmistress (who isn't meeting any parents until they accept the offer of a place); teaching staff still in the process of being recruited etc etc. We can't even visit the school as it currently houses the secondary and they don't want visitors; DS would be one of 60 reception children and his year group would always be the top of the school (no one to look up to etc as it is filling up year by year from reception each September).

So it would be a big leap of faith. But it could be brilliant and help us save for private secondary school which we'd ideally like to do.

If we go the private route and see how WLFSP works out, and apply for DD in a couple of years, suspect we wouldn't get a place due to sibling policy and probably ever decreasing catchment area...

mrsshackleton Thu 25-Apr-13 09:55:19

The head has held open days, the places have been allocated. I imagine she takes the view prospective parents have already seen the place. Not saying she's right, but there have been chances to visit the school. OP, I would send this thread to Toby Young and see what his response is.

Firstgold Thu 25-Apr-13 10:57:35

To my knowledge, there have been 2 open days held back in November...All v scripted. Things will have moved on immensely since then I imagine - they've recruited the 2 reception teachers etc.

We've had strong feelings about the schools we've visited - both private and state and so taking a view about a school that doesn't exist yet feels particularly scary, especially when you can't meet the head face to face.

Elibean Thu 25-Apr-13 11:33:31

I needed more than 'seeing the place' to select dd's primary. I needed to meet the Head, talk, ask questions, see kids interacting, talk to kids...I didn't get that at all the schools I looked at, but I chose one where I did!

christinarossetti Thu 25-Apr-13 13:04:12

Absolutely, firstgold, the November meetings would have been the 'action' version of the glossy brochure. It's how six months down the line, staff in place etc.

In fact, I withdraw my previous comment about the over-priced uniform and unnecessary pretentious language being my main objection to TY. My main objection is that he's a journalist, knows next to nothing about education and is being given £££££££millions for his own little middle class experiment.

CecilyP Thu 25-Apr-13 16:27:37

Just because the HT held open days in the autumn for prospective parents, does that really preclude her from holding another for parents who have actually been offered places? There must be a few others who didn't attend in the autumn, especially those who, like OP, had it as a reserve choice. Can she really be too busy if she is currently running a school with no children?

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 26-Apr-13 18:19:11

Hello. We've been contacted by the folks at West London Free School and they've asked us to post up this statement from the headteacher:

"I saw this thread and thought I'd try and answer a few of the questions parents and educators have raised about the West London Free School Primary. I'm the headmistress, Natalie de Silva.

"In order to reach as many prospective parents as possible in our community, we held two open evenings in November and scheduled two sessions on each evening, so as many parents as possible could attend. Our intention was that visitors could hear about the vision and proposed operation of the school from Toby Young and me, and then have a tour of the school.

"After each talk, a number of prospective parents stayed behind to ask further questions, which we did our best to answer. At the open evenings, we offered visitors a prospectus, which has information about our strategic and operational vision for the school, and this is also on our website.

"Several hundred prospective parents attended these sessions and we've had 396 applications for places at the school this year, making it the most over-subscribed primary in the borough. Due to the level of interest, we decided it would be impossible for me to meet every single prospective parent face-to-face ? and if I only met some it would be unfair on those I hadn?t met and could lead to accusations of covert selection. However, I have spent considerable time speaking to nearly every one of the parents we've made offers to on the telephone and answered hundreds of emails with queries specific to individual parents and their children.

"While I haven't been able to meet with the originator of this thread, I spent the best part of an hour with her on the phone, helping her weigh up the differences between a private and state education as best I could. This isn't typically something headteachers are expected to offer advice about.

"This June, I've arranged an induction day for our new intake of 60 pupils and parents, so they can get to know one another and meet the teachers. I will also be holding individual meetings with the 60 families who have decided to take up places with us. I have appointed some fantastic teachers and will make them known to parents when all safeguarding procedures have been completed - DBS checks and the like.

"At the West London Free School Primary, we are absolutely committed to protecting all our pupils. For those who are interested in our approach to pupils with disabilities, I would invite them to look at our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy.

"At the West London Free School Primary, we are offering a rich, knowledge-based curriculum, which we expect will encourage social cohesion rather than fragmentation.

"We spent a lot of time researching school uniform offers from a variety of different suppliers and comparing their prices with those charged by major retailers. We made it a priority to source a good quality uniform that will be smart and durable, and which is available at a fair price and offers good value for money. School uniforms have to take a great deal of wear and tear and we want to make sure that the uniform will look as smart at the end of the year as the beginning.

"We conducted a rigorous competitive tendering process, comparing service and value for money. The supplier we finally chose is the same as that of our secondary school, where, incidentally, 29% of the Year 7s are on free school meals. So we're not worried that the uniform - or our commitment to a knowledge-based curriculum - will put off families with low incomes.

"I hope this answers most of your questions and concerns."

FriskyBivalves Fri 26-Apr-13 18:26:25

Is it really possible that the reply from the head contains a terrible grammatical error in the first paragraph? "Try and explain...". From a head teacher of a new primary school. I'm not the grammar police, but come on.

FriskyBivalves Fri 26-Apr-13 18:27:43

Actually, she said, "try and answer" (can't copy and paste from phone) but it amounts to the same mistake.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 26-Apr-13 18:30:03

And you don't think, Ms da Silva, that thirty six quid just for two of the items which can only be bought from the uniform shop, and of which most children will probably need two anyway, might be a deterrent?

Also, why must girls wear skirts and dresses at your school? That's not the case anywhere else I've ever heard of.

Piffpaffpoff Fri 26-Apr-13 18:36:49

Frisky grin

Fulhamup Fri 26-Apr-13 18:43:35

Firstgold, do you know how lucky you are? I don't have a single offer for a primary place for my DS and I'm not alone in Hammersmith and Fulham. I was one of the 396 parents who applied to the WLFS Primary having been to the open day. Miss de Silva makes completely reasonable points and has the courage to go public unlike the rest of us who can hide behind anonymity.

And other thing, complaining about the cost of a decent uniform - seriously? Uniform is worn day after day after day.

lborolass Fri 26-Apr-13 18:53:39

I don't live in London and realise that the school allocation system might be different to my local one but I don't understand how the OP got into the school. They had nearly 400 applications and she didn't put it as first choice - how would that work? Don't they allocate to first choice children first?

If the uniform costs quoted here are correct I do think they are high - my childrens uniforms wore very well and lasted for more than one child and each item cost under £10.

infamouspoo Fri 26-Apr-13 19:11:58

Isnt Toby Young the idiot who called ramps for disabled children in schools 'ghastly political correctedness'. I'd avoid anything he was involved in like the plague.

mummytime Fri 26-Apr-13 19:15:13

Lborolass if you are in England then the same allocation system applies. Schools cannot discriminate by where on your appilication form you put a school, they draw up a list ranking all applicants by their selection criteria, then the top people who are not eligible for a place at any of the applicant's higher placed schools are offered a place.

The Uniform does sound over priced, and surely they must allow trousers for girls, if only with skirts as well? Or it would be discrimination on religious grounds. Admittedly my DCs infant school got around this by saying girls were allowed to wear the same trousers as boys.

yorkshirebound Sat 27-Apr-13 08:25:12

We got a place at west London free school but sadly are moving and won't be able to take it up. Hope that someone here on the wait list will get it!

muminlondon Sat 27-Apr-13 13:13:54

shock infamouspoo

I'd never heard that before. So I had to google it.

www.nosacredcows.co.uk/blog/2026/my_latest_spectator_column.html

'Inclusive. It’s one of those ghastly, politically correct words that have survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be “inclusive” these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.'

I am actually really shocked by that.

igves Sat 27-Apr-13 13:39:27

Hi OP

We have just accepted a place at the WLFSP for our child. I too am finding it hard to step into the unknown. Our other child is at an established local primary which we really like. We applied to WLFSP because we wanted to have the option of the WLFS secondary for our eldest and the sibling rule was very attractive.

My thoughts are that we will try the WLFSP and see how it goes. If we do not like it we will transfer to one of the other local primaries - mid year transfers tend to be easier than reception entry. For example at the primary school our other child is at there have been vacancies in Y1 and Y2. WLFSP will probably be great but its not like you are stuck there forever if it does not suit you.

I hope that is helpful. PM me if you want to speak further.

Also, to Iris who was asking about catchment distances this year, we are quite a distance away so I think it might be a larger catchment than 0.62 miles but I have not measured quite how far we are.

adeucalione Sat 27-Apr-13 13:40:04

He does attempt to explain it muminlondon :

Some people have misunderstood this paragraph. I'm using "inclusive" in the broad sense to mean a dumbed down, one-size-fits-all curriculum, rather than the narrow sense of providing equal access to mainstream education for people with disabilities. I've absolutely nothing against inclusion in that sense. Rather, what I'm against is the way in which opponents of education reform often invoke the low intelligence of some (non-SEN) children as a reason not to introduce more intellectual rigour into a national curriculum that's meant to be fully inclusive. That's the context in which I use the word "troglodyte". It's supposed to conjure up the fictional, cave-dwelling creatures from the movie One Million Years BC – someone whom it's plainly ridiculous to try and tailor the national curriculum for. It's not supposed to be a synonym for a child with SEN. Indeed, a moment's reflection should make this clear. After all, I'm trying to point up the absurdity of Harman's position and if I had intended "troglodyte" to mean "children with SEN" then Harman's position would seem sympathetic rather than absurd

muminlondon Sat 27-Apr-13 14:08:00

adeucalione

That's not context, that's post-publication self-justification because so many people were offended by his remarks. Not even a proper apology to those he offended directly. The original article is here:

www.spectator.co.uk/life/status-anxiety/123000/i-am-living-proof-that-two-tier-exams-work/

infamouspoo Sat 27-Apr-13 15:02:08

I guess the proof is in the pudding. Does the WLFS offer a full education for disabled children and full inclusion? I wouldnt want my kids at a school where this doesnt happen.

Elibean Sat 27-Apr-13 15:16:59

Neither would I. We chose a local primary for (amongst other things) wonderful inclusion, as opposed to a local indie for it's crappy attitude to any SEN.

Am curious to know what proof TY's pudding has, does anyone know?

muminlondon Sat 27-Apr-13 16:02:45

No results, no Ofsted yet. I read that it had 31% of children on FSM. That's apparently the Hammersmith and Fulham average - but would include faith schools such as the Oratory, Lady Margaret, Sacred Heart which take children from other boroughs (the nearest comprehensives are 70% FSM).

sanam2010 Mon 13-May-13 07:43:33

Firstgold, what did you decide?

ame297 Tue 14-May-13 01:55:34

We have also accepted a place for our son at the WLFSP and will be attending the meeting on Wednesday - so may get to meet some of you then!

We live 0.52 miles south, just off the Fulham Palace Road. Was anyone here offered a place on a second round offer? I am curious to know how many places were offered in the second round!

I too have concerns over it being a new school, however I am confident that it will succeed and I'm very much looking forward to getting involved.

BewitchedBefuzzledBewildered Tue 04-Mar-14 11:44:48

I thought I would reanimate this thread. How are people finding the WLFPS?

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