Been offered brand new free school or last choice

(338 Posts)
Lazymama2 Wed 16-Apr-14 16:35:03

We're not sure what to do as have been offered a place at a brand new school which is with walking distance but has not been 'fitted out' yet (buildings are there). There is very little concrete info on term dates, start and finish times, curriculum and obviously no past performance on which to base a decision. Also no older kids to look up to. Other school is our last choice and has improved from satisfactory to good. DH does not want Dd to go to this school and would prefer private. I, on the other hand, quite like idea of a brand new school.

Thoughts/ideas anyone?

PS please dont turn this into a debate of state vs. private as I believe every parent does what is best for thier child/family circumstances and im not for/against one or the other.

PythagorousPlannedIt Mon 02-Mar-15 12:41:40


It seems that at a recent public meeting in Islington about the plans to build housing on the southside of the Ashmount site the Council representative stressed that, because Islington does not get to build its council housing until AFTER the new building for Whitehall Park School is put up they are keen for this to go ahead as soon as possible. They then said that they understood from Whitehall Park School that the planning application for the new school was not going to be put in, now until June. And as its a major planning application it takes 12 weeks to go through all the hoops. So they wont get planning until September. Yet WPS are still saying that they expect to move into the new building in January 2016.

I know Fox you said they were going to use some really fast method to build it but is it really credible that they can demolish the current building and build a new one in four months, and when one of those months is December?

LocalMummyPerson Thu 19-Feb-15 09:38:18

Isn't the problem that it feels like there is a lack of info/openness from the school on basic questions? That's what I find worrying about it.

Foxmonaught Tue 17-Feb-15 12:53:44

Would @nlondondad like to maintain his claim that WPS is "a school which this year was a third empty"?

Certainly, having now looked at the figures, across a range of sources, this claim seems to be increasingly untenable, as there appear to be a general consensus, and wide recognition that the planned intake for the current 2014/15 academic year was, 56 places.

This figure of 56 has been given several times on this thread, both by parents with children at the school and even by nlondondad himself (on 21.04.14).
It was in the school's own literature and is the admissions figure given in articles about WPS in the local press.

There was no information relating to WPS in the 2013/14 Islington Primary School Admissions Brochure, which is the edition relevant to the current intake of pupils.
WPS is first mentioned in the most recent edition relevant only to the forthcoming future intake next September.

This 56 places figure is even used by the anti-WPS blogger that nlondondad has been minded to post several links to, here on this thread.

- So, if this figure of 56 places for this year is correct, and it does seem to be.

- And, if the Freedom of information request, submitted by the same anti-WPS blogger, tells us that the pupils on roll at the start of the year was 42.

- it is not really clear then how a claim such as, WPS being "a third empty", can stand.

But, for the purposes of clarity and balance it would be very useful to hear nlondondad's position.

Foxmonaught Tue 17-Feb-15 12:52:36


If your friends feel this way, it is quite obviously not the school for them. I must say, it certainly does bear little relation to our experience of visiting the school, where we found the staff we met, Laura, Harriet & Nicki, to be friendly, helpful and open. Accordingly (alongside other reasons), we chose to include WPS in our schools application. Presumably, your friends didn't.

But as your friends clearly feel so strongly about this, I think for all concerned, it might make for a more credible telling if they post their own thoughts and feelings themselves, because you posting their thoughts, and your retelling of their paraphrasing, of what an unidentified person (was it WPS staff? any names possibly?) said to them, makes this account all rather tenuous. On saying this however, I have absolutely no doubt that these friends of yours are people with some very real views of their own, and I would welcome their input into this discussion, should they wish to join in.

Likewise, you also raise much that we can discuss here, and I think we should try to address the issues you raise. But, at the risk of repeating myself, relevant & interesting as they are in themselves, they are still separate concerns from the issue at hand, and from the subject of my last post, this being nlondondad's claim about WPS being a "third empty"

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to me, as a parent choosing school places for this September, that the information we receive here, and on similar threads is accurate & where possible, fact rather than fiction.
Because of the serious implications of this "third empty" claim, combined with the fact its accuracy has been called into question, it is no small matter that we should attempt to determine its accuracy. I am certain your friends would feel exactly the same way.

Finally, I see no evidence of anybody accusing you of "causing distraction" so there is no need to feel any affront. Nor, I imagine, would anyone think you are "causing distraction", in the wake of your recent double posting filled with a variety of concerns, again, at the risk of repetition, I feel these concerns should be addressed in due course.

What was actually said though, was this:

"So, before we get too distracted, we should make efforts to verify whether this claim of being "a third empty" is correct, or not."

& on that point.

PythagorousPlannedIt Mon 16-Feb-15 17:12:41

About my friends.
They went to see WPS shortly before the deadline for application, they had the information in the Islington Admissions brochure.

They went together. They were impressed by and liked the teachers, but they were impressed by and liked teachers at other schools. They they asked about the building plans. Then it went pear shaped. My friends DP works in building. He basically asked di they really expect that the building would be ready in the autumn. They described the response as definite verging on frosty "of course it will be ready" Then the DP said but you havent applied for planning permission yet, Distinct frost and "thats only a technicality dont bother about that"

It left the DP actually rather angry. He felt prospective parents were being taken for fools. Then of course, after the closing date the "delay" is announced on the website. For what its worth he thinks that January 2016, the new date is hopelessly unrealistic.

I asked him to note down why, and I am using this note as I write:

"A major and contentious planning application as this is will take 12 weeks assuming it goes through first time, and often enough an application like this will not so further time. After the decision to grant planning permission is given there has to be a delay of essentially a month in case of a Judicial Review. Given that they now say the application cant go in until after May 7th then, depending when the planning committee meets, with one thing and another planning permission will not come through until September at the earliest. Given the further work needed to get a contractor and the delay before a contractor gets on site, I cant see work STARTING until January 2016.

He reckons that March 2017 is a more likely date, so thats at least three years of children in portocabins. He cannot believe that Bellevue do not know this.

PythagorousPlannedIt Mon 16-Feb-15 16:55:28

Actually , to be blunt Fox the reason why I was not so interested in whether Whitehall Park School had 42 rather than forty children at the start of the year, or indeed dont actually feel very excited by the discovery that although the published admission number is 60 this year, it was less last year, is that all this confusion about the numbers at WPS is entirely caused by the unwillingness of the Whitehall Park supporters to give accurate and timely information. You do not have this problem with Coleridge, or St Michaels, or Ashmount or...but I am sure you get my drift.

Friends of mine who are prospective parents are much more concerned that Whitehall Park School has, in their experience, not given them accurate information about the building program and how long it will be delayed.

They are also concerned that nlondondad's charge of deceptive behaviour on WPS's part go unanswered.

Given the tactics of WPS supporters on this thread, suggesting that I am causing "distraction" seems a bit rich.

Foxmonaught Thu 12-Feb-15 14:55:22


Uninterested as you may well be in the argument about the number of children at the "start of the year" this does seem to be the pertinent number in the argument above, resulting from @Nlondondad claiming WPS to be - "a school which this year was a third empty"

Anybody's individual interest here is independent of the fact that he has made a claim that is now being challenged as incorrect.

As a parent who has put down WPS on our schools application, it is important to know if the content of posts about the school are accurate.

So, before we get too distracted, we should make efforts to verify whether this claim of being "a third empty" is correct, or not.

Your being more interested in other matters, relevant as they no doubt are,
is a separate issue.

TheNewBrown Wed 11-Feb-15 16:59:33

Hi Pythagorous,

The PAN in 2015/16 is 60. The PAN for the first intake in 2014/15 was 56. The word from the playground is that currently there are only 3 places left. I was never any good at maths but I sure someone else can work out what percentage 53 out of 56 is?

Most of the new children seem to be ones that Islington couldn't find places for who were waiting for places to become available (islington admissions scandalously IMO neglected to mention WPS to these parents) then they found out there were places at WPS independently and were happy to have a school place for their children.

Some others are new to the area and a couple have moved from other schools because they preferred WPS.

PythagorousPlannedIt Wed 11-Feb-15 15:11:53


The figure given in the admissions brochure is 60. Which is the usual number for a two form entry school. Is this wrong?

Also, to be quite honest I am not really very interested in your argument with nlondondad as to whether at the START of the year there were forty children as he says, or forty two children as you say. Its much more interesting that you say there are a lot more children now.

As you are a parent you must know the correct number now, so why not tell us?

And please dont tell me to put in a "Freedom Of Information" request.

Eireannach Tue 10-Feb-15 08:43:12

I hold with my calculation of 75% full, as that is what 42 children out of a total of admission number 56 is. This admission number of 56 for the 2014/2015 intake has been in the public domain since the school was first proposed. The starting number of 42 is publicly available thanks to an FOI request. I can't verify your number of 40. It may indeed be in the public domain, but it's not available online, even using the broadest search terms.

nlondondad Mon 09-Feb-15 22:55:08

Odd then that Whitehall Park School made an official return of forty children to Islington Council -(which is publically available information, which is how I know) but as you have up to date information why not tell us what the correct number is?

I am intrigued to hear of all these extra children. Can you say where they have come from?

By the way, I think you are misunderstanding something about the role of the Planned Admission Number as, actually what you have written does not make sense. Some clarification needed.

I also note that your figure of 75 per cent full has now fallen to 70 per cent full. And I said 66 and two thirds percent full. Anyone like to propose a fourth figure just to add to the fun?

Eireannach Mon 09-Feb-15 19:48:57

It has always been stated as 56 for this reception year, as admissions were separate from the PAN system. There were 42, not 40, children at the start of the school year. Even using your PAN of 60, that is 70% full. Many more children have joined since the start of the year, so I won't be surprised if it's over 90% full by the end of the year. Not bad for a school that doesn't have any siblings to bolster the numbers.

nlondondad Mon 09-Feb-15 18:21:42

The published Planned Admission Number (PAN) for Whitehall Park School is 60.

Whitehall Park School (despite, I remind you, having described itself as "overwhelmed with applications" and "hugely oversubscribed") has forty children.

That is why I said it was a third empty.

Eireannach Mon 09-Feb-15 14:58:27

The arguments also contain misinformation. WPS started the year 75% full, as can be verified by a FOI request. I don't know how this got translated into "a third empty".

TheNewBrown Mon 09-Feb-15 13:58:20


Is it just me or as NLondonDad's attempts to scaremonger future parents away from Whitehall Park School get more desperate so his arguments (sorry, his opinion-stated-as-fact) get ever more tenuous?

nlondondad Fri 06-Feb-15 15:47:09

So there we are then, the future of Whitehall Park School is secure due to assurances we are told have been given to a parent by the Labour Party.

However it seems to me that JuniorJones and I share a common predicament. What reliance can we put on non binding remarks by politicians what ever interpretation we may put on them? So uncertainty there.

Also huge amounts of uncertainty about the effects of a general election. Uncertainty as to who the government will be, and actually what any particular government would do.

What IS now certain is that the decision whether to give Whitehall Park School, a school which this year was a third empty, a new building at a cost of many millions, will not now be made until the new government is formed. And also certain is that the new Government will be under great financial pressure, including in London from areas where there IS a shortage of school places...

(It may be no coincidence that a selling point used for WPS school last year by Bellevue that it was a school "free of control by socialist Islington" is not one now used by the Head of WPS whose language is rather more conciliatory...)

Juniorjones Wed 04-Feb-15 22:51:20

No probably not nlondondad but I did contact the Labour Party and that is what was put in writing to me. None of us know the outcome of the next election but given the doom mangers on this thread have been pretty inaccurate so far about the fate of Whitehall Park (notably the prediction that the school would fail to attract more than 9 children) I remain comfortably optimistic that the wonderful school my child attends will continue to thrive post May 8th.

nlondondad Wed 04-Feb-15 16:23:16

Clearly a reported communication between someone in the Labour Party and JuniorJones is more reliable as an indicator of Labour Party policy than a statement made by the shadow Secretary of State for Education, in Parliament, and recorded in Hansard.....

Juniorjones Wed 04-Feb-15 11:00:02

I asked the Labour Party to clarify and they said they would support 'existing schools and those in the pipeline'. Obviously it isn't impossible that we are wrong but Whitehall Park would seem to be covered by either of those scenarios.

nlondondad Tue 03-Feb-15 22:47:17

Pythag will no doubt make their own response but I took it that the point they were making was merely that if there is the political will then a Free School can be closed. I understand that you believe that the political will is not going to be there even if it is a Labour Secretary of State who has to agree to spending millions on a new building. But it rather hinges on what Tristram Hunt meant by an "existing school" when he made that speech in 2013. There certainly will not be an existing building. And his most recent announcement on Free Schools, which was made to parliament is this:-

"Labour is committed to ending the free schools programme and refocusing spending on areas where it is needed most."

3 Sep 2014 : Column 353

Foxmonaught Mon 02-Feb-15 12:19:04


I feel you may have misinterpreted the general tenet of my last post.
Please, allow me to clarify.

The schools you refer to, have exposed themselves to closure because they have evidently failed to meet the conditions of their funding agreement. The removal of funding was not arbitrary.

The "political will" certainly does exist to close any school that has decided to fly itself headlong into the side of a mountain - and this seems to be the course chosen by Grindon Hall Christian School. The irony here being, if you teach creationism, you are going to be subjected to a variant form of natural selection.

By contrast, WPS, seems to be performing as it should be, and therefor meeting the conditions of its funding agreement. In this instance, you may find that same "political will" to be substantially less evident.

As for who will form the next government, who knows? But my understanding is this -

The current government is committed to fulfilling their agreement to WPS, including the provision of a new school building. 
Labour, has also confirmed it will continue to support those schools, like WPS, that are already established.

So I do not readily recognise your supposition of uncertainty & vulnerability, when rather it looks like we are finally moving towards re-establishing some stable and permanent primary school provision for our children.

PythagorousPlannedIt Sun 01-Feb-15 22:35:29

Fox thanks for the detailed post about recent closures of Free Schools. So far as I am concerned this confirms my view that if the political will exists a Free School can be closed even with an Education Funding Agreement in place.

Much the same way that "Building Schools for the Future" was ended by Michael Gove as soon as he took office. In that case it was a Labour policy being reversed by a Conservative.

I think its only common sense to suppose that Whitehall Park School will be vulnerable if there is a change of Government, as it wont even have planning permission for its new building agreed by the election. Unless of course the new Government is a Conservative/UKIP coalition!

Also I see there is a thread about these closures, elsewhere on Mumsnet here:

LocalMummyperson Sat 31-Jan-15 11:49:10

Hi Junior, <waves> thanks. Yes I am particularly looking into WPS as it is our nearest. I will go to see it when we need to start putting names down. I am looking at other schools locally too. I know there is no school that is 100% perfect for any kid but having slowly worked through the websites of most of the ones near us, the policies on WPS really do stick out. If they do make provision for kids that is outside the limits of that policy, which would be right to do - why not say so in the policy?

The problem with feeling I can't get on board with their existing policies is that while individual teachers can have some limited powers to do things differently, these are the policies that the governors and the senior staff have signed off so they do represent the ethos of the school and are always what will be pointed to.

Juniorjones Fri 30-Jan-15 14:42:51

Ok, so you don't like the sound of the behaviour policy as it is worded on the website and that is fine. I don't know if you have visited the school but it seems that all your judgement about the school is being formed by how you are interpreting the website. Why not call or visit the school and see it in action, then at least you can make up your mind based upon what is actually happening rather than speculation about whether teachers can or can't adapt to the individual circumstances of the children they teach.
As your original posts were concerned that you may not be in the catchment for any schools other than whitehall park would it not perhaps be prudent for you to at least give the school a chance to address your concerns?

LocalMummyPerson Fri 30-Jan-15 07:28:59

NewBrown I have stated clearly (and quoted from the policy!) upthread as to why I don't think its reasonable to base a school's behaviour policy around the idea that all children can, do, or should exercise 'choice' in their behaviour.

This idea places an unfair burden on children in difficult circumstances. Not all of which circumstances will be evident to the class teacher for several reasons. Self-evidently all children don't get the same start in life. Schools need to be able to deal with that constructively.

The presumptions that Whitehall Park School's (essentially, political) philosophy appears to be based on, seems to my mind, to be either
-naive about kids' lives (or reflective of an intention to accept/retain only a very narrow intake of kids?), or
-irresponsible (because this outlook doesn't acknowledge that all kids have different capabilities/needs/difficulties or advantages)
-punitive (because while its obvious that some kids will behave in a way that reflects the problems they are facing- these kids will still be red carded anyway).


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