Been offered brand new free school or last choice(284 Posts)
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.
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.
Hmm... It's a hard one. I personally in those circumstance (and if I could afford it) would go private.
But it's your choice, can you not appeal? Or home ed x
The whole thing about "Free Schools" is that, although state supported they can have their own curriculum, and are, for example free to employ unqualified teachers.
I would strongly recommend that you check out the Free School very carefully; who is promoting it, will they employ only qualified teachers (if you think that matters) what curriculum are they going to use? What is the timescale for the "fitting out"? These are all questions they ought to be able to answer.
A brand new school can be great. Ours was new 7 years ago and when the first starters left for secondary it was seriously emotional. But depends on what type of free school it is though I guess, some seem rather odd.
Where is the free school as we are in a similar situation? However we have only been offered a brand new free school opening this September I.e. None of our six through our local council. This is despite living just over 400m from our nearest two community schools who have a combined intake of 180 places. (And having put up with a horribly divisive local campaign with the council claiming that there is no shortage of school places in our local area).
Nlondon dad is right you should look into the free school and check all the relevant details and whether teachers will be qualified etc. But if they are any good they will bend over backwards to give you that information and having done that ourselves we are happy to accept a place even if it is a bit of a step into the unknown. However just FYI nlondon dad has pretty much led a mumsnet crusade against our local free school in Islington (Whitehall Park School) so be aware that he is not commenting as an uninterested bystander but someone who has been vociferous on the subject.
Same happened to us, with I suspect the same school. Got none of our choices and given the free school. I think it's outrageous that local government can consider their obligation to provide a place as discharged, by offering something which is not currently a school. Ok maybe it's an option for some adventurous types, and hopefully once it's open it will be a school but right now it isn't. You cannot visit. It has one head teacher and some strange corporate administrative function, no classrooms, no information about curriculum or staffing, and no guarantees about any of that for September. It is a complete shambles. There is clearly a shortage of places so those arguing there is not are proved wrong. There can be no sustainable, credible argument for failing to offer a decent school actually on existence in an allegedly sophisticated country! The fact is that there are insufficient places (or very poor admin which leads to an improper allocation of places) for the number of children in some areas and it makes you pretty sick when you spend your days as a taxpayer busting your gut to contribute to the education budget.
Did you apply to Hargrave Park School as one of your six preferences?
Thanks for all replies so far. Id rather not say which school but Totalshambles probably is the same school. I think its a consortium setting up the school and theyve already set up one and plans in pipeline for more. It seems like a standard state school, not a faith school or set up by parents, teachers have teaching quals, i made sure to ask this question at one of the meetings.
Im unnerved by the fact that its all promises and what if people decide not to accept their places, will this make the school unviable? What will happen then?
Totalshambles totally agree with you espec on last point!
Junior not same school as you as our council have been very supportive of new school.
@totalshambles what Juniorjones is talking about is an area in North London, close to Hornsey lane which is the boundary between Islington and Haringey is that your area?
(By the way I did oppose the Whitehall Park school for a number of reasons that seemed to me good, but that is a dead issue now as Mr Gove has signed a funding agreement with it, so it will go ahead providing it gets enough children. However I regard opposing ALL Free Schools as being unsound in the same way that supporting ALL Free Schools is. Each has to be taken on its merits. So the advice I would give anyone considering a place at a Free School is to investigate the particualr case.
For th record I am still unconvinced as to the merits of the Whitehall Park School project, characterised as it has been by much spin. I note they have just had to withdraw some of their claims following an intervention by the ASA.....
For that reason I am really concerned if there are people for which that school is the only option, and actually really surprised. Totalshambles if you are in the same area did you apply to Hargrave Park School?
A simple apology would suffice
@nlondon dad would you like me to forward you my email from Islington council and see how surprised you are then? For the record we live to the east of Ashmount road so by your helpful postings on the subject over many months we should have a choice of Ashmount or Coleridge. We have neither. Funnily enough we weren't surprised because Islington council, whilst officially being against Whitehall Park pretty much told us during the application process that we should apply there as it may be our only offer.
Oh and as it was you who complained to the ASA about them it is hardly a case that you 'note they had to withdraw some of their claims' you initiated it.
@The new brown
I have nothing to apologise for.
@nlondondad whilst it may be beyond you to apologise, doesn't the fact that you have been surprised by people not getting an offer mean you could at least acknowledge that some of your many postings on the subject have been mid-leading?
We have a free school opening in 2015 and I suspect it will be very popular as it is being set up by a very credible set up. I have no vested interest in the school but supported its bid even though my kids won't go there as we are in a place of dire shortages. I would think positively and get really involved in shaping a new school. If you are still unhappy by KS2 then move .
@nlondondad just saw your earlier post. Yes we applied to Hargrave park. It was third after Ashmount and Coleridge.
Do forward the email to me: I would be really interested to see it. And yes, I am surprised because what you are reporting as having happened is against the trend. I am puzzled and would like to investigate further.
On the ASA thing:
My evidence that there was a complaint, is based on the announcement of it made, quite properly, on the Whitehall Park School Website.
Who made the complaint is irrelevant, what matters is that it was upheld by the Advertising Standards Agency.
I probably would have complained about the inaccurate advertising, if I had thought of it.
It really concerns me that you appear to be being put in the position of only having the Free School, dodgy advertising and all to go to. If that is the case you have a legitimate grievance with Islington Council and one option you would have is to contact Greg Foxsmith about it, who is an outgoing independent Councillor with good knowledge of this area.
if you like I can PM his email to you.
I was always very careful in what I wrote to ensure that all my statements were evidenced, and where they were forecasts to point that out. I dont agree that I was misleading.
Nor I should probably point out is it by any means certain you will remain without an offer, a significant number of offers are made later in the process, but without more information I cannot estimate how likely that will be for you.
Don't know about the team behind "your" free school but ours was a patch of wasteland in late July/first week in August, and was a fully functioning school (albeit in portacabins) by the first week of September. Obviously it depends on the team getting its shit together fast after getting the DofE approval.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
the problem is that the minister is yet to decide on the allocation of the site for the new school; the promoters of Whitehall Park School want to use an abandoned school site to be requisitioned (without compensation) from Islington Council, which if that happened without qualification would hit the finances (capital budget) of every community school in Islington.
But its a large site, larger than the rules require it to be for a two form entry school and the minister is proposing to split it in two, with half being used for the Free School and the other half for another project.
Islington Council have responded to this by saying that if the minister gives back half the site to them, so they can build council housing on it, they will withdraw their opposition to the Free School. (Half a loaf...I suppose)
And there it rests.
Its a mess.
I would just say that I want a good school for every child, and on the evidence I have the particular free School proposal we are talking about does not advance this. Anyway you can accuse me of anything you like, but really it does not help anyone who is reading this thread because they want assistance, or even just to find out what is going on.
This is "not about me"
Nlondondad and JuniorJones, we are talking about the same school and I am in the exact same situation as JuniorJones except perhaps for our order of choices and our as the crow flies locations...
We were offered no existing schools.
I have no intention of sending my son to this school. He is not a guinea pig, I will not expose him to life on a building site, with teachers who have not yet been recruited, to a curriculum which may or may not be sensible, into a daily routine that I have no details about, I just won't do that. Because of what has happened to us, I am obviously convinced that there is a need for more school places (otherwise I would have been offered a place at an existing, decent school). I wish the free school well but it is not an option for me at this time. Perhaps five years down the road if it had proven itself to be working well I might have considered it but there is not the luxury of that time and I will not gamble with my child's education. And I am absolutely incensed that in a first world country, which purportedly prides itself on its education system, parents should be put in this situation.
It sounds like I am in a similar, albeit slightly more desirable, situation than you and JuniorJones. I was offered a place at Whitehall Park school and (like the OP) my 6th choice school by Islington.
Where I think I differ from you is that through talking to the people setting up the free school, meeting the headteacher and visiting the school the same group set up last year in Balham I have confidence that they are going to set up an excellent school and am excited by the prospect of my children going there.
As such, I anticipate turning down the offer of my 6th place 'Islington' school and accepting my offer at the Free School. I imagine there are a number of people in the area who will make a similar choice which will free up some places at Hargrave Park, Duncombe, Ashmount (although realistically not Coleridge) so that people in your situation without a place currently will probably be allocated a place at one of those schools after the deadline for accepting offers has passed in a couple of weeks.
It may not be a 'choice' in any meaningful sense of the word but it demonstrates that the local residents who had the foresight to campaign for getting a new school built in the 'black hole' created by Ashmount moving to Crouch Hill benefits everyone locally (whether they want to go to the new school or whether they prefer to go to one of the existing schools).
I agree that there is a black hole and I support a community initiative to fill it but I have a major problem with the fact that there was a need to try and plug a gap independently. There could have been a solution involving bulge classes within existing schools - or through making a policy decision not to move the ashmount catchment when the school moved.
I'm sure you are right that duncombe and hargrave park will end up with some spaces for those on the waiting - in my opinion those are also way off the mark and I can see how parents desperate for the least worst option would choose the free school over them. It's insane that in a civilised society parents should be faced with having to pick the least worst option for their children (or remortgage to pay for private education!).
I looked round both Duncombe and Hargrave Park and thought both were quite good. Also they both easily outperform Ashmount in the latest Primary School league tables I could find, so I wouldn't write them off.
When I spoke to them both the Duncombe and Hargrave Park headteachers were very anti-bulge classes although the Hargrave Park headteacher said they were probably going to have another half bulge class this year (I don't know if they have allocated 30 or 45 places at this stage?)
A comment from Islington admissions this morning:
"we know that there will be significant churn over the coming months. The number of parents without an offer of one of their preferences is similar to last year on offer day. The council will have a clearer picture when it receives confirmation from parents that they are either accepting or declining the offer made. By the end of last year’s process, only 5 parents across the borough were not offered one of their original preferences (none in the N19 area) out of over 2000 applications.
(The five remaining parents were allocated to schools not on their original preference list)"
I hope this is helpful.
Other than that:
I am in agreement with Totalshambles views: Islington is having to work with one arm behind its back, as its not allowed to set up any new schools itself, and the whole thing so polarised and political that its stopping sensible thinking and planning from taking place. (There is an argument for a properly planned and integrated mixed use of the old Ashmount site, but no space for this argument to take place in, as the only people who could deliver on this - and be pressured to do so through the democratic process -are the council)
But they do need to improve comms with parents
As we don't have the luxury of choice we will also be taking up the place at Whitehall Park and I'm really happy to do so. Like @newbrown I have been impressed with the people I've spoken to there including the head mistress and think there is an exciting opportunity to shape a new school in our local community. Also the fact that they successfully run other schools is reassuring - it isn't a random collection of people with no experience in education.
The politics of whether it should have been set up by the council or a private company is now a little irrelevant to parents faced with no other school place and a council who refuse to acknowledge that moving Ashmount would create a problem in the area surrounding the old ashmount site.
I really think you need to investigate Bellevue Ltd a bit more thoroughly; but then its your children you intend to entrust to their care; also if you read my last post with the comment from Islington admissions you will see that assuming that you will not have a choice to make, is hopefully rather premature.
Obviously you will make the choice you believe best.
I am not sure how irrelevant the politics is. Its the politics that are delaying the Minister's announcement about the site. Until we know more about that we still do not know where the children will be taught in the first year. (That is, if the site divided as the Minister seems to propose, AND the school building is to be demolished where do the portocabins go?)
But as time passes there will be more information, I suppose.....
You say "Islington is having to work with one arm behind its back, as its not allowed to set up any new schools itself, and the whole thing so polarised and political that its stopping sensible thinking and planning from taking place"
As far as I recall both yourself (in your capacity as a governor of a 'competing' local school) and Islington have vociferously maintained for the last couple of years that there would be no shortage of places in this area and no additional schools were needed. So if the planning had been left to the council, rather than the much needed additional school places the local community has fought tooth and nail to get, we would have lots of additional housing with nowhere for the children living in that housing to go to school.
In relation fo going with the free school, feeling happy with the information available and the personnel is such a personal thing. I remember at one of their meetings, the head being asked by someone why they should choose to send their child to that school. Her answer was to acknowledge that it 'was a leap of faith' and 'involved placing your trust in her(sic)'. And that is true. There is little more than that when it comes to a school that doesn't exist, whose staff you can't meet, which as yet has no curriculum, whose facilities you can't see etc etc. For some of those parents (JuniorJones and newbrown included I guess) they will have felt that yes, they could take that leap and place that trust. It just comes down to a personal vibe I suppose. It wasn't working for me and I can't take that leap or place the trust. It's tough when pretty much the only thing you have to go on is the word of someone you don't know. It will work for some and not others. For me it didn't and I can say with absolute certainty I will not be sending my child there. But I do not mean in any way to criticise the decisions of others who are on board with it. As I have said, I wish it will. And also it is a decision which comes down to little more than whether you click with/get a good vibe from/however you want to phrase it the people running the show. If yes great, if no, it's not so great!
Ive been reading all comments with interest. It turns out im not in the same area as you, im in maidenhead but its still Bellevue setting up the school. I just feel ive been told lots of things but little of substance, the funding agreement by DfE hasnt been signed yet. Dont know about sports, after school clubs. Im told there will be a canteen. Also only 22 of 28 places have been allocated. And we can still opt for our back up choice. What is the majority of parents do this and theres only a few kids in the class? Will the school still be viable? If not am i left with my 6th choice at which people recoil in horror or nothing at all? Very confused.
You sum up my feelings about Bellevue, lots of promises, but really weak on the detail of how these promises are to be fulfilled. In Islington their front man is a guy called Tom Legge, a very skilful performer but his back ground is in PR not education at all...
They quote their experience of running school already but its of running selective fee paying schools, mostly in Switzerland and I am not sure how transferable their experience is. Apart from anything else I find their claim to provide in their Free Schools "private education without the price tag" in financial terms alone too good to be true. The private primary they run has fees of 14, 000 a year which suggests a funding rate of about two and a half times per pupil compared to a state school, or what they will get from the DfE per pupil in a Free School.
The one Free School they have opened, in Balham, although it opened lasy autumn still has building works going on, -its a building conversion - and had no kitchen (so no school meals) until last February. My feeling was that they were distinctly over optimistic as to building timescales in that case.
There is a relevant article about the Whitehall Park School in the standard - cant seem to cut and paste the link so just google "evening standard Whitehall Park" and you should see it.
here is the link to the evening standard article.
Have you got on to waiting lists for other local schools? I am assuming you other option at the moment is S L but have you put yourself on the waiting list at other rbwm schools? There is usually some movement when places are declined.
It might be worth considering Holyport. From the website it appears they allocated 60 places including 1 divert which suggests everyone who wanted a place got one. So if you were added to the waiting list you might have a good chance.
They have since had RI from OFSTED so some parents might turn the place down but actually the Holyport OFSTED reads well in that they have suffered from a high turnover in head teachers for a few years but now have a very strong head in place and results are on the up.
Sunshiny I have been waiting for the letter from RBWM and it still hasnt arrived to be put on the waiting lists!!! I will be calling them first thing on Tuesday. Unfortunately it looks like most schools are oversubscribed but still intend going on waiting lists of other 4 schools.
Other school is actually Larchfield and its now a good school but the majority of people still give me funny looks when I mention it. Ive had the comment that they'd rather remorgage and send private than send there! and these kinds of attitudes are putting me off. Dont know if you know different?
X3512 I hadnt even considered Holyport to be honest as its in the wrong direction. I will have to drop both kids off at school/nursery and then head up to the M40 so really want to avoid travelling all around Maidenhead in the mornings.
Nlondondad - I had come across the article before and had previously only skim read it but now read it properly and also the comment at the bottom which answers my comment about viability.
I dont think Ive coe across Tom Legge but have met Steve Wade the UK Schools Director and he came across as very credible. What was not so credible was the so called 'Project Manager' who was fresh out of university and didnt have a clue (when asked about facilities etc for the new school) and had to keep on referring back to Steve.
Im desperatley wating for the Ofsted inspection on Rutherford House as I think this will help us make a decsion as it seems like Braywick will replicate everything that has been done there.
I don't know about the school organisation of the schools in question. We are in a Harris Academy area. Essentially free schools and academies are the same thing (except potentially their history). The Harris consortium worries me. In my area there is a Harris free school that is opening this year, and we another one we are thinking of sending our daughter to. There was also a new school opened in this area about 7 years ago. That was in the dim and distant past when the LA opened new primary schools. However, it is an excellent school. I know that the parents who went when it started are really happy with it. I think that a new school is a risk. But any new school also has the potential to be an excellent school. We are near a solid 'good' school, but this has less potential to be excellent in my view. However it has less chance of being satisfactory too.
That said, I am looking into the people who are running the school. I do want to know how effective and reliable they might be.
The point of all that was I wouldn't (and am not) automatically discounting the free school. Like any academy/free school, they need investigation and consideration.
I contacted Tom Legge of Bellevue based upon some of the negative comments about the organisation made on this thread by @nlondondad and he is happy to have anyone that has been offered a place at either of their free schools contact him directly to discuss concerns. If you want his address just PM me. Alternatively you can contact the head of Whitehall Park directly if you have been offered a place (her contact details are on the offer letter).
@nlondondad, In terms of your helpful suggestion that we should investigate Bellevue further before 'entrusting them with my child's education', do you really think we would be considering a place at this school if we hadn't already done that? Yes of course any new school is a risk but as allyfe said it could also be excellent and as you have fanatically objected to this free school from the very beginning (way before Bellevue were involved) you can hardly be thought of as unbiased in your assessment of the education that will be offered there.
Sorry, I mentioned Holyport because it is in the same area as the free school.
larchfield -I wouldn't be worried at all! It is a very good school. check out their data dashboard
Ok I know this is quite a crude measure but it does give an indication hove how good it is. They have a great head and good OFSTEd report from 2012. Many mumsnetters would be thrilled with such a school!
People in the area are snobby about it because it used to have quite a poor reputation and the catchment area is a council estate. That would not put me off.
People in the area used to say similar things about Lowbrook and look how well that school is doing!
Lazymama - just a quick point on viability. Check with Bellevue but at one of the opening evenings for prospective parents for Whitehall Park school they were able to be quite specific about the number of children they would need to take up places and remain viable, so hopefully they would be able to give you further detail on this.
Good advice. As a matter of interest how many did they say for Whitehall Park?
(note by the way that Braywick is a one form entry - 28 child intake school whereas Whitehall Park is 56, so one would need to compare like with like as Braywick only needs half the number of children therefore.)
You have your opinion, clearly, as have I, but unlike you I do not feel the need to call someone a "fanatic" because they disagree with me.
But anyway the advice to check out any Free School's proposer surely remains valid - and anyway it is what the OP
A quote springs to mind:
"A zealot can't change his mind. A fanatic can't change his mind and won't change the subject." —Winston Churchill
Having recently been to the latest meeting at whitehallpark school we met the excellent head teacher and 2 newly appointed deputy head teachers. The were excellent both in credentials and enthusiasm. We also met the board of community governors, a barrister, banker, entrepreneur and from the medical profession. Very impressive both in their statements and reasons for joining the school/ visions for the school.
Yes it looks like the school will only be on half the Ashmount site as proposed by Islington. But there will also most likely be a new building of up to 4 floors which will only occupy a small footprint leaving ample recreation space,it was revealed. Not like the old spread out existing build.
The set up is akin to a private school. (The same trust runs Norfolk House Primary in Muswell Hill), we were assured the new school would aim to match those private school standards as well as the best from the public sector.
Given the level of enthusiasm, the teaching qualifications on show and the established schools the trust already run, we gained confidence in this new venture. We were promised 'outstanding' levels from the outset.
With our child being offered the best of public and private education for
free, we are finding it hard not to accept and we are in a position of be already offered our 2nd choice school from Islington council.
It is definitely not a sixth choice school. My impression is that it will be vastly oversubscribed once established and news gets out.
Not all free schools are the same as is the case with private and public sector schools.
Interestingly well briefed response from someone, who has never been on mumsnet, or posted on mumsnet, before now..... So a first posting, in fact.
Yet, still a parent who has been offered a place at Whitehallpark and before making a final decision, have been looking around to see what other parents views are before making up my mind. Well briefed because I asked questions - its important that I make the right decision for my child.
Now I have 2 posts.
well congratulations on your second post! But for someone who has joined mumsnet with an inquiring mind, you seem to have been able to reach a final decision with dispatch. The trouble is, you seem to be well briefed, by your own account, by Bellevue Ltd who as part of " introducing the values of the private sector" appear to have brought in "let the buyer beware" These are the people, after all, who have just been censured for false advertising by the Advertising Standards Agency......
And you have been mislead.
To take a couple of clear points:-
1.The proposal to split the site in two is not Islington's but the Ministers. That matters because Bellevue Ltd are seeking to make a party political issue out of it by blaming "Labour Islington" for an idea (the split) put forward by a Conservative Minister. But of course the Minister has yet to make a final decision on the site, which might explain why Bellevue Ltd are trying to make a party political issue out of the decision to split.
2. you write
"there will most likely be a new building of up to 4 floors which will only occupy a small footprint leaving ample recreation space, it was revealed. Not like the old spread out existing build."
But the existing build IS four stories high. As anyone can see by walking along Hornsey Lane. I find it strange, as you are local, that you do not know this.
Perhaps you may consider reading peoples posts properly before you let your enthusiasm to denigrate this school take over. I never said that the existing building was not 4 storey. The current proposal will have a more compact layout. It was 'the most likely outcome' I was told at the meeting, there will still be enough recreational space.
The minimum site 50% will be 4000m2 the building footprint will be around 800m2. That was one of the options. The temporary accommodation will be placed on the part of the site allocated for housing whilst the new school is constructed.
Most of the information was received from the new head teacher with a proven track record in different school environments, not Belvue ltd. She stated that the minimum proposed school would be larger than some schools in Islington and larger than her current school. It's only a 2 form entry school and does not need to be huge. Some grammar school buildings are dumps, the building itself is not my most important criteria.
The most important credentials for me were the quality of the teaching staff and I was impressed. The curriculum and teaching methods discussed, were also very favorable, very thoroughly thought out.
I have visited Norfolk house primary school its a great school, I cant afford it. I know the Montessori House Nursery school in Muswell Hill is excellent. Other parents I met have visited Rutherford House school, the other free school run by the trust and commented very favorably, that shows there is a proven track record.
No I have not made up my mind yet, I was interested in other parents views, but your points are totally irrelevant to me as a parent.
Well according to this recent article in the Islington Gazette, Cllr Joe Calouri, Islington’s member for education, said: “We’re opposed to the idea of a school at the site as we don’t need the places, but given that, we have still come up with what we think is a reasonable compromise.
“We suggest that half the site is used for the free school and the other half used for approximately 50 units of affordable housing.”
Somebody seems to be distorting the truth.
The Minister decided to split the site, and informed Islington that he was "minded to do so". He proposed half the site go to Bellevue Ltd and the other half be used for another Free School" being set up for children with really severe special educational needs (ie not suitable for mainstream schooling) Islington responded by offering a different site for the special school and saying they wanted the half for housing, on a "half the loaf better than none" principle. But anyway you appear to be satisfied with only half the site for the new school - I would be interested in your views on the ASAG opinion on this.
It's not ideal, it will limit the scope for any future expansion for the school.
I think the site would be better served as educational/ community use.
I'm not sure of the exact type of housing proposed but I think mixed developments of private/ part rent/ and fair rent would be better for integration.
I'm disappointed with the amount of hostility against the school and also the actions of both Islington council and DFE for not resolving this issue at a much earlier stage, the delay and uncertainty has put a lot of people off including me.
On space part of the issue is that the rules about how much space a school has to have, which applied to the old Ashmount site and were also strictly observed for the new premises for Ashmount school at Crouch Hill Park, do not apply to Free Schools, it turns out - relevant thread on Mumsnet, in the same topic as this one
"schools with no playgrounds or outdoor soace"
NOW, got cut and paste to work!
I have a question having read this thread.
If I understand correctly free schools are business funded and not government funded? But they don't charge for entry?
They also don't have to follow the NC? Are they OfSTEd inspected?
Because if the answer to all those questions was 'no' then I don't see how you can be forced to accept that school for your child's education? Surely the state should be providing enough state school places?
Sorry to barge in and sorry of I've totally misunderstood the situation. I'd like more information if I may?
@youarewinning. Free schools are state funded but the money goes straight from central government to the school not via the local council.
In terms of OFSTED free schools are inspected just like other state schools and all have a pre opening inspection report to ensure they are ready to open and are inspected again before the end of the first academic year.
To answer your other questions Free Schools as part of being "Free":
1. Do not have to follow the national curriculum
2.Do not have to follow minimum space standards for playgrounds etc
3. Do not have to employ qualified teachers (or follow any kind of national pay scales)
4. Do not have to follow national nutritional guidelines on school meals
In contrast Local Authority schools are required to do all these things.
This is why, if you are considering a Free School for your child you need to investigate carefully the PARTICULAR school, as Free Schools vary so much. Which of course is part of the idea of them.
However they are (still) subject to OfSted inspection. There was a move to exempt them from OfSted inspections after an alarmingly high proportion of Free Schools failed their inspections, but the head of OfSted let it be known that he was furious at the suggestion, and Mr Gove then confirmed that he retained full confidence in OfSted and there were no plans to stop OfSted inspecting them.
I think the main objective of the free school was to address the gap in achievement between public sector and independent schools.
Whether that succeeds remains to be seen, but I think the competition alone will push up standards in general. (Yes there are also great public schools.)
A free school is run by the trustees including parents who will have a say on the budget and employment. It becomes part of the local community.
It's budget is not set by the local authority or subject to that bureaucracy (and guidelines as noted above). Hence they can vary individually which can be a good thing in terms of choice.
In the case of Whitehall park school it has attracted some very good teachers which we understand will be scrutinized by the trustees and parents on an ongoing process.
We have been told that they will be following the national curriculum, with an emphasis on academic excellence. Children will be treated as individuals who will be nurtured to achieve the best of their abilities, to prepare them for later life.
Free school meals are being provided as is the case with Islington schools.
They can't have the small class sizes of independent schools or some of the very specialized teachers but they can pool resources and will do
in partnership within their existing network. Joint activities are planned.
An email today confirmed that their sister school Rutherford House, in South London received 300 applicants for 2 classes after only 1 year of existence, its a good indication.
I understand Ofsted are visiting (Rutherford) soon, its a shame about the timing as that report would have been very handy.
"I think the competition alone [from Free Schools] will push up standards in general"
You mean like described in this story?
No, I mean the already High standards set by this particular trust. I already agreed that each school needs to be looked at individually. I'm sure we can all find some pretty appalling public (and private) schools that have been threatened with closure, but that would be petty.
Let's put it this way, if the prospect of this new school opening, wasn't terrifying some school governor's and ex chair's of a nearby 'competing'
school, then they would not need to fill the internet with 'anti Whitehall park school campaigns' and just let us make up our own minds.
@juztaparent the irony is that after so much anti Whitehall Park School rhetoric from certain governors/ ex chair's, the 'competing school's' cut off distance this year is so small anyway it doesn't touch the Whitehall Park area and is therefore currently not affected one jot by Whitehall Park School opening!
I'm always a bit sceptical about new/free schools that promise to 'treat each child as individual, aspire for the highest of standards, make sure that all pupils achieve their potential' etc etc.
I think most existing schools aren't exactly hoping that they have the lowest of standards. It's very easy to promise these things, but harder to achieve them as unfortunately some of the new free schools have shown.
I also disagree with Juzta that the aim was to narrow the gap between state and private schools. I thought that the aim was to introduce further choice and to have a free market approach to the building of new schools.
Juzta you seem very lacking in scepticism. Admirably so perhaps. How do you know they are very good teachers? How do you know all this about their sister school? You seem very close to the source.
Oh and a question, what happens if there are too few pupils for the WH Park school? The FOI stuff that Nlondondad did suggests that there were only 70 something applications in total. How many have been offered the school and are accepting it over one of the established schools that they've been offered? How many do they need to be viable?
I'd be interested to know what would happen if you were physically unable to pick up a child from school? Thinking of 3AS with no transport and schools in different locations but same finishing times, if you simply left a child there (theoretically of course) and arrived 30 min late would it trigger Social Services? If so would they have a duty to do something, if so what?
..sorry wrong thread...Duh!
I wouldn't touch a free school with someone else's barge pole.
@Playfortoday I'm not 'close to the source' you can gather any information you want by visiting Whitehall Park School's website or talking to them directly.
I've been to 3 'get to know' meetings arranged by the school at the Hornsey Lane community center. There's another this evening for those on the waiting list. I'm also on their mailing list and receive lots of updates.
I met the Head teacher, she is already the Head of St John the Baptist School in Hoxton. We met 2 deputy head teachers last week and one was already a deputy if I recall correctly and responsible for her curriculum.
They talked about their qualifications, reasons and visions. You need to consider that they are giving up their current good jobs for what they consider as a challenging and exciting opportunity.
Also as there would be only 2 classes to start with the head and assistants would be able to 'Lavish' attention on the Children. (Their words)
Regarding the cut off point for viability we were told 12 was the limit.
If I wasn't a bit skeptical. I would not have been searching and found this thread. I agree that it's easy to promise but harder to achieve.
Actually Laura Birkett, who I have no doubt is a pleasant person, is not Head teacher of her school. The "Executive Head" of the school is Sian Davies. Laura Birkett's school is part of a federation, united under a single Head (Ms Davies) and Governing Body. Laura Birkett represents the overall Head, so far as her school is concerned. So being appointed Head at Whitehall Park is a promotion, and nothing wrong with that, but to represent her as the Headteacher at the school she is coming from inaccurate. If Whitehall Park have represented her as a Headteacher in their publicity, well then that would be false advertising (again). The Advertising Standards Agency have already ruled against them once, and, no doubt, could do so again...
threads like this make me glad
(a) I do not live near London
(b) my kids are at the latter end of school so have been less affected by these idiotic free school ideas
St John the Baptist School
Head of School Laura Birkett
NOT "Headteacher" which is a "legally protected title"
The Executive Head, Laura's boss, is Sian Davies
The information is on the same web link
Is it possible that Bellevue are engaging in a bit of CV polishing?
Do you not perhaps think that describing a teaching professional as 'perfectly pleasant' is patronising in the extreme? Particularly in light of how she is commended in her latest ofsted report.
'The school is exceptionally well led by the head of school, who, together with governors, has brought about significant improvement in the quality of teaching and pupils’ achievement since the previous inspection.'
Juniorjones have you accepted a place at Whitehall Park School yet? I have an offer and I know the deadline is on Wed but still feeling unsure. I went along to the 'Meet the leadership team' tonight and while they were able to answer a lot of questions they did acknowledge that we obviously will be taking a leap of faith into the whole venture.
Have you attended all of the previous meetings and do you feel fully reassured by the team and the plans and timescale?
At least six parents there tonight had either not been offered any school place by Islington or one which wasn't any of their six preferences and at the other side of the borough so there are some who simply don't have a choice. We were told approx 24 would have to accept to become viable and that they had almost reached that target from those who had accepted so far.
Markmyplace I have been to quite a few of the meetings and have got to a place where we feel reassured about how it will work and the team running it and behind it. It's a difficult decision and a leap of faith especially where the timescales are clearly tight. It makes me feel better about it that everyone is having to take the same leap of faith. Hopefully that means a degree of commitment by parents to making the school a success, despite the negative campaigning that has taken place locally. It's unfortunate that a lot of the political debate seems to have forgotten that there are small children involved.
For the avoidance of doubt - before anyone suggests it - I am not close to source but a parent of a four year old who has done a lot of research
Almost all of the schools where I am are Academies. There is very little difference between Academies and Free schools - except that Academies were once LA schools.
As with all schools, LA school, Academy, Free School - each school needs to be considered on it's merits - that includes the site, the curriculum, the teachers, the people managing it etc.
Thank you Jakecat. That is very reassuring! It was the first time I had a chance to meet with any of the team tonight and I was hoping to meet other parents who had already taken up their offer but most there tonight were still on the waiting list.
Yes the negative campaigning has created some doubts and left me feeling slightly apprehensive about sending my four year old into such an atmosphere but the leadership team tonight came across as positive and very capable.
Nlondondad you provided me with good advice recently and I respect your fantastic knowledge of the area and the school system but if you had attended the meeting tonight you would have seen a lot of desperately worried parents who are considering Whitehall Park as their best (and in some cases only) choice of a school for their child come September.
Markmyplace I've sent you a mail with more detail but yes we have accepted a place at Whitehall Park.
Markmyplace We've also accepted a place by the way - meant to add that to previous post
Thank you both Junior and Jakecat for making the decision much easier.
Just noticing I'm not the only one to think that "Juztaparent " is anything but.
And from your description of the new free school, Juzt, I wouldn't touch it with anyone else's barge pole either. We don't all "aspire" to a Norfolk House type education for our children. In fact that would make me run very fast in the opposite direction.
I don't see how this school purports to be offering the equivalent of private education with class sizes of 28. It's worth also bearing in mind that, if the school is popular, those classes are highly likely to go up to 30 after appeals, as they will have major difficulty in proving that they would be prejudiced in taking more pupils.
I agree I would never take a place at a new free school for my child: not only are there all the problems mentioned by others above by virtue of the fact that the school does not need to keep to the national curriculum or employ qualified teachers etc, you are also dealing with the fact that you are being asked to take their ability to teach and run a school totally on trust, often in a totally unsuitable temporary building. At a free school local to me, there were great promises about the wonderful plans and the brilliance of the headteacher, only for her to disappear mysteriously within a few weeks. In general, staff turnover rates in academies and free schools are also worrying.
There are one or two oddities on the website for this school. For example, the sample Reception timetable bears no mention of assemblies or religious worship. The bit about SEN provision refers to supporting children with "specific learning needs" which is not the same as special educational needs; and it lumps in with that children with English as an additional language, which suggests serious and very worrying misunderstandings about both SEN and those who do not have English as their first language. The barrister governor is described as a part time judge, which is technically correct but a little misleading as he is simply a deputy district judge in the Magistrates' Court, which is approximately the lowest level of judge in the system and may entail sitting as a judge for only 15 days a year. I don't have the knowledge to assess the CVs of the other governors, but if there are similar exaggerations there, that does not fill me with confidence. If the school's recruitment programme went to plan, they only recruited one of the teachers earlier this month and the advert encouraged applications from NQTs, which again I would have thought inappropriate in a new school.
Not for me, thanks.
my private selective school had classes of 30 and 31
but that was decades ago
Free schools don't HAVE to follow the NC, and they don't HAVE to employ NC qualified teachers. However, it doesn't mean that a lot of them do not have, as policy, both NC qualified teachers only, and follow the NC.
If it was a new state school, would you all be so upset? That isn't tried and tested, but a new school has to start somewhere. If everyone refused to send their children to a new school, then existing schools would just have to get bigger and bigger.
Private schools don't have to teach the national curriculum, nor do they have to employ qualified teachers, and yet somehow there isn't a huge call to shut down all of them.
If individual parents wouldn't choose to send their children to a certain school, fair enough. But if someone else did want to, then fair enough. Personally, I would be quite annoyed if people rubbished the school I choose to send my child to just because it isn't their chosen school.
If it was a new state school, would you all be so upset?
Because it would be set up by the LEA using systems and structures and recruitment policies and finances that are tried and tested and transparent.
There are no schools being set up by the LEA where I live. There are almost no schools that are still with the LEA, and those that are will all turn into academies in the next few years.
I would prefer if the system was still an LEA system, but in some areas, it isn't. Consequently, there is absolutely no point in wanting your children to go to an LEA school because there literally aren't any.
Schools have essentially been privatized, and it is shocking how 'under the radar' it has happened. I also agree how frustratingly untransparent the finance and management system is. However, a single sole academy has arguably less idea what they are doing than a free school which is part of a consortium (particularly an established one). So, the only thing you can do round here is judge each school on their merits, and be aware of the consortium they are in (if any) and what the other schools are like in that. It isn't helpful just to reject all academies and free schools, unless you were willing to move to a different Borough.
There are no schools being set up by the LEA where I live.
That is because LEAs are effectively banned from setting up new schools even where the demand is intense.
Could you name me ANY Free school consortium that has taken kids right through to their A levels with success?
THAT is what I call established.
TalkinPeace You are slightly missing my point. I know why there have been no LA schools. I'm not saying that the consortium are established at all. They are no more established than the Academies (independent or part of a consortium). But the point is, if you have a choice between a sole trader Academy, a consortium academy, a free school part of a consortium, or a satisfactory LA school that will be an academy in the next few years (ignoring the fact that you would never really have the choice of that many schools!), then what do you do? It is totally fair enough to think that Gove has totally wrecked the education system, but as a parent, you still have to choose from what is available.
Just to add, the three free schools opening near me this year are being run by Harris Academies (x2) and CfBT (x 1). In all cases, the schools WILL have NC trained staff, and WILL follow the NC.
The Head at Whitehall Park confirmed last night that they will base their teaching on the national curriculum with an emphasis on reading, writing and literacy. She is also very experienced in SEN and will take the lead on that within the school. All teaching staff will be qualified, the two reception teachers are coming from a state school and there will be a cook on site for school lunches.
My older child went to an outstanding primary notorious for parents doing whatever it took to get their child a place and she spent a good deal of time in portacabins as there was building work to expand (which is still going on now, 3 years after she left Year 6). The school also had to close their kitchens for a year when it was discovered that an unhealthy amount of lead was leaking from the pipes. My point is that an established outstanding primary is no guarantee of an easy ride.
All schools have to start somewhere and for parents with no allocated school for their child in September this is the absolute best alternative to home teaching or going private.
I think with the parents input (you have no idea how determined and 'pushy' North London parents can be) this school stands as good a chance as any.
@ Scarletbanner Its quiet funny really the moment anybody counters your ideology. the personal remarks wade in, very democratic of you.
I just countered the obvious misinformation being plied here which you are repeating.
The idea was to offer the 'best of both' (private and public) I mentioned that they can't have the same class sizes or specialist teachers already.
You repeat the misinformation that there will not be qualified teachers we have shown that they are extremely well qualified. One has already moved location nearby- a sure sign of high turnover.
You repeat the misinformation that the national curriculum will not be followed, the lessons have been based on the national curriculum.
I focused on Whitehall park, not free schools in general.
You focus on total irrelevances (just like nlondondad....?)
Regarding the Barrister governor: Deputy district judge in a magistrates court / part time judge. Sorry to disappoint that hes not an old Bailey judge! The point being he is a highly qualified professional.
There was an article in the observer yesterday confirming that the gap in achievement between the private and public sector schools have grown threefold and is increasing. If you're happy with that good for you.
This is a public sector school it will be run on a non for profit basis funded by us, the taxpayer. As a parent I hope do my bit to make it succeed.
Sorry I read scarletbanner and nennypops post together above so apologies to nennypops.
for parents with no allocated school for their child in September this is the absolute best alternative to home teaching or going private.
I wonder if this is part of Gove's plan. There seem to be a lot of areas that don't have sufficient school places to fulfil local demand. Is this his way of fast tracking people into the new private school sector he is designing? [tongue in cheek]
this is the absolute best alternative
Don't you mean this is the only alternative to HE and private. I'm not sure it has been sufficiently "tried and tested" to claim its the "best".
juztaparent - As a parent I hope do my bit to make it succeed.
Good luck with that. However, I think you will find plenty of parents who are not prepared to make their DC the sacrificial lamb in the governments latest experiment.
In my area, last year, when there were around 50 children who didn't have any school place offer, the LA opened two bulge classes in a 'satisfactory' (just out of special measures) junior school in the less nice part of town [tounge in cheek]. The school thus became a through school a year early, and the classrooms were in portacabins. The school will be becoming an Academy at some point.
This year, there are three free schools. All in 'nice' [again, tounge in cheek] areas. All will be NC and qualified teachers. All 'supported' by a consortium/trust.
Honestly, who would prefer to send their children to the recently special measures and still only just satisfactory school with no PTA (yes, really!) and who would prefer the 'free' school? And all of this is assuming you can't afford private and you can't do home education?
MumTryingHerBest I agree with you. I hate what Gove has done to the education system. However, if my only choice was a free school or a practically failing school, I'd choose the free school.
@MumTryingherBest. Fully understand your point. Good luck to everybody with these difficult choices.
allyfe there are schools that are going from good to special measures in a relatively short period of time. On the back of this I would be more inclined to do thorough due diligence on both schools before concluding that either school is the best choice. In short, I would not choose any school purely on the basis of what is written on a piece of paper or a short list of statistics.
I certainly would not choose a school just because the other school is classes as failing. What's to say that the free school won't be assessed as failing in a year's time. There are already free schools that have been assessed as failing and even closed down.
As I said before, the free school model is still in its infancy and there is not sufficient tried-and-tested evidence to suggest that it provides a superior option or even an equal alternative.
These schools, in my mind, are nothing short of start up new businesses. When I look at the failure rate in business start ups I'm not convinced I want to gamble with my DCs academic future.
MumTryingHerBest I totally agree with you that all schools should be assessed on their individual merits. But essentially the result for me is that, given the situation here, it isn't possible to dismiss free schools simply because you may be opposed to the model. Not least because there is so little difference between a free school and an academy when the organisation running them is the same.
There have been failing free schools. In the same way that there have been failing state schools. The Government essentially shuts them down and brings in an Academy consortium to run them. The difference isn't that great.
I think that where we disagree is in the view that Free schools are all the same. When someone like Harris is running a free school (whether you agree with their school/teacher policies or not), it isn't the same as a start up business, or at least that they are that different to any new school, LA or otherwise. They have equal chance of success and failure. I just don't think that free schools can be judged en mass. Or at least if one were to do that, the same judgements should be applied to Academy schools. Each school has to be considered in it's own right, based on who is setting it up, what it is offering, where it is, etc. etc.
You must try harder Juztaparent, and read my post again. You protest rather too much as I didn't say any of the things you're attributing to me.
Would I accept the school if there was no other option? Probably, and very reluctantly, as home ed not an option for us. But I would make sure I was on the waiting list for all the other schools in the area.
Allyfe, I fully agree.
I imagine a persons perspective on Free Schools vs Academy may also be influenced by the area they live in. All 7 of the SW Herts Consortium schools have Academy status, all of them relatively high performing semi-selectives. In the areas presented with this scenario, many will hold the view that Academies are a good option. Just to be clear, I am not saying that this is my own view.
Scarletbanner I read your post 'together' with the following one, hence the combined reply and I apologize for that mistake.
My choice of school would be purely on the quality of education for my child. Not whether it was public a free school or private.
If I chose that school on the basis of ideology or hearsay without the facts then I would be shooting myself in the foot.
I quote Nlondondad from a previous thread "ashmount school primary school" on the local Islington mumsnet:
"Nlondondad Sat 04-Aug-12 20:19:20
I am aware of no evidence that there is a "forecast shortage" of School places in the area of the current Ashmount site "from 2013" onwards. The only people who could make such a forecast are Islington Council and they have not made one. If you have evidence to support what you have said please give it. Also Ashmount School is not moving very far and the area around the current site will remain inside the new catchment.
Also I dont know where this "struggling to be in the catchment' of any school area could possibly be as a short distance to the East of the Ashmount site will give you a continued choice of Ashmount and Coleridge, while people to the West far enough to be out of the new Ashmount catchment would be well into the Hargrave Park catchment. Most people will continue to have a choice ......................"
But not me!
I live in what would have been the old catchment area (between the old and new ashmount sites) and have not been offered a place at ashmount. or Coleridge. Not Hargrove park either. In fact my child has not been offered a place by islington at all despite the continued protestations about there being no shortage of places. Clearly there is!
Thankfully it appears that the Whitehall Park School will mean that there is no longer such a shortage.
I had been meaning to post some useful information I got from Islington Admissions recently, and this seems like a good time to post it. This information only applies to people resident in Islington.
This is the Islington Admissions information
"At this stage there are 171 children in the whole of Islington who did not get an offer for a school for which they expressed a preference. This is out of a couple of thousand applications.
This is a similar number to last year and we also have a similar number of vacant places available in Islington at this stage as we had last year.
This means that we can expect all applicants will eventually get an offer.
A crucial difference between the way Islington work and Haringey work is that Haringey give everyone an offer of some kind on offer day. In Haringey if you do not get one of your preferences you are "allocated' a place. An "allocated" place will be at the nearest school to you with vacancies.
In Islington if some one does not get an offer of a place for one of their preferences we hold on to see whether a place becomes available for them, at one of their preferences. Places become available in two ways:-
1. People who have been offered for one of their preferences decline the offer. The main reason for this at this stage is that people's circumstances have changed between the closing date of 15 January and offer day. A second reason which can be important in a few areas is that people have been awaiting a place at a private school which they did not know about on 15 January and have been using the state application as a back up.
2. Then after the second round of offers have been made enabled by the first round offers rejected, some people who were offered on the first round, get a second offer for a higher preference than before, accept that and so free up their original offer. Which then allows a third wave of offers to be made, and so on. Also as time passes people who have accepted an offer in good faith find their circumstances have changed - move house - move out of London - and relinguish the places. We call this the "churn"
By hanging on we aim to offer as many parents as possible one of their preferences rather than an allocation outside that. And to offer people the highest preference possible. So for example, some people who did not get their first preference on offer day, will by the end of the summer.
Last year, the number of people in Islington who had to be allocated at the end of the process to a school they had not applied for reduced to five. By the end all applicants had an offer for a primary school place in Islington, and there was a small surplus of places.
Of the 171 this year, in the whole of Islington, not offered one of their preferences on offer day 29 (17%) of the 171 live in the N19 area."
This is my comment
The postal district N19 is a lot bigger than the Whitehall Park Area and is served by eight or nine Islington Schools and by three Harringey schools.... so the 29 figure is actually pretty vague and will include people living quite far from the old Ashmount site.
This means that anyone who applied through the Islington will have an offer of a place by the end of the summer, all but a handful in the whole of Islington will have a place at a school they originally applied for, and moreover a significant number originally offered for a low preference will get a later offer for a higher preference.
So if you are one of the, at most, 29 and you have also applied for a place at Whitehall Park you will have had a separate offer direct from them. There is nothing to stop you from accepting that offer and hanging on to see what eventual offer you get from Islington, comparing the two, and making your choice.
In otherwords, in Islington, although the great majority of applicants DO get an offer on offer day, the admissions process, is a process, and extra offers keep being made throughout the summer, and everyone gets an offer by the end. Some even get more than one, with the better one being later. This explains why waiting lists matter and why you should make sure you are on the waiting lists of all schools you would accept an offer at, either in preference to your current offer, or if you are in the upsetting position of no offer, as yet, well then a school you would accept.
This of course does not detract from the fact that it is a stressful process for the minority involved.
I wonder if Islingtons forecasting also includes the future potential development at both the ashmount site and also the redevlopment of the university site at the bottom of Highgate hill which will be adding 350 properties. I would suspect some of these may even have children of school age. I wonder what school they may look to go to.
Yes, Islington's forecasting does take account of new housing developments and their potential "child yield"
Really? How fascinating? Perhaps you could share the "child yield" data they are using. Do you work for the council nlondondad?
Whether I work for the council not relevant. School place demand forecasting is carried out by all London Boroughs and the forecasts are revised on an at least annual basis. The concept of "child yield" applies to new housing and reflects the type of housing. So for example the conversion of Archway Tower into bedsits will produce a development of negligible child yield. Once the Peabody development you mention is finally agreed (gets planning permission) and the types of housing known, then a "child yield" will be calculated.
Nlondondad just following through that logic - if Islington revise or revisit their forecast each year and if planning permission is granted for the Ashmount housing development & the Peabody development, and say those developments complete in 2017 providing family homes (which I understand is the intention in terms of the nature of the housing - I am speculating about the timescale), then Islington would have to increase school places in the following years to take into account those extra children because the figures are already tight. None of the existing schools in this area appear to have capacity for that (apart from Whitehall Park). Particularly if you then factor in that the birth rate has been increasing year on year too, which exerts natural pressure in school places even before you factor in the creation of extra housing.
It turns out this thread has not gone unnoticied.....
In case this is reassuring to anyone, we live in Whitehall Park and were 12th on the waiting list for Ashmount on Reception offer day last year (we live 0.416 miles from the school). DD got a place there six weeks into the autumn term - and at least one more child further down from us on the waiting list got in the following week.
So even though I agree all of this is a total mess and an extraordinary source of stress (it was equally bad last year, although we didn't have the added element of not knowing whether to choose the free school), things do change quite a lot over the five or so months from the day you get your offer to the time the children actually start in September (or if you're willing to jump ship mid-way through term as we did, even longer)
Thats a really informative post about how it feels to be at the receiving end of the admissions process. In fact I have been wondering if there is any way of speeding up the process whereby parents respond to offers of a place. At the moment when an offer is sent out, people are asked to reply, yes or no, by a certain date. But if they just do not respond the admissions people are not allowed by the rules to "take that as a no then" but instead have to follow up individually with phone calls etc. And failure to respond promptly is a major cause of delay.
I was wondering, but this would require legislation I presume, whether there would be support for FINING parents who did not respond in time?
No doubt opinion will divide between those who think that a bit over the top, and those hanging on for a place who would cheer me on.
By the way the number of children in Islington who have not yet received an offer for a preffered school, one for which they applied, stands now at 102. Whole bunch of new offers to go out early June.
An interesting post on the Local Schools network about the Whitehall Park and the recent local elections. Contains a potted history of Whitehall Park School proposal, and explains why a lot of local people, including it seems a lot of voters, do not like it.
Interesting post written by you nlondondad, please stop pretending it is written by an independent third party.
I was wondering, but this would require legislation I presume, whether there would be support for FINING parents who did not respond in time?
It is very understandable that parents want things to move as quickly as possible and most parents do reply quickly. Those that need to be reminded often do not understand the need to reply or reply quickly (remember most people only go through it a few times and often years apart so aren't always up on the rules).
Admisson law requires a council to issue reminders and give parents some extra time to be contacted. There are reasons for this:
Letters get lost or delayed - LAs cannot remove a place from someone who did not receive the offer or got it very late.
People go on holiday - you cannot expect everyone on every waiting list to sit next to their letterbox from March 17th - September 3rd on the off chance an offer letter arrives. If they are away when it comes then delays are unavoidable.
Pushing people for a quick answer won't stop places being blocked by those that have a private offer too. They simply reply to say 'yes' to their state offer knowing they can always turn it down at any later date. Nothing can be done about that just as anyone else is free to say 'yes' but then decide to Home Ed instead at the last minute.
It would help of councils didn't work in batches as some do (saving up a pile of offer letters to process in one go rather than doing each one as and when it comes up). This definitely can be an issue as happens when people at number 1 on the list are told be academies that an offer can now be made only for it to then take another 2 weeks for the council to actually send the letter.
You are purporting to identify me in real life. This is strictly against Mumsnet rules. I am advised that I must refuse to confirm or deny any purported identification.
But I would make the point that just because I put in a link to something written by someone that is not evidence that I am that person. After all I also put in a link a few message earlier to an article in the Evening Standard. Doesnt mean I am that journalist either.
You would be well advised to drop this matter now.
I find the tone of your last note on this thread threatening to say least and completely out of order.
I think if you openly declare on Mumsnet "I am a governor at Ashmount Primary School, and a member of the Islington Schools Forum" like you did on this thread and then continually link to blog posts on the Islington Schools Forum written by a governor at Ashmount Primary School it is not so much JuniorJones revealing your identity, as your own idiocy.
Calling someone an idiot is not an argument, just an insult.
But I have never linked to a blog post on the "Islington Schools Forum" let alone "continually." Actually I do not think such a blog exists. i mostly link to (relevant) newspaper articles actually. The information I posted about myself on the thread you indicated applys to a number of people. Which I suppose is why mumsnet allowed it.
I did not intend to be threatening, nor in fact have you said you felt threatened, but just incase, I merely wished to make the point that I thought you were pursuing an unprofitable line, as actually who I am, or indeed who you are, not relevant to whether the arguments we use are valid.
And the rule is that on mumsnet we are all people with pennames. And that we dont make postings seeking to identify other mumsnet users.
I always find your protestations that who you are has no bearing on the validity of your arguments laughable. Knowing that your one-man campaign against Whitehall Park School is being waged because you are terrified that the school you represent will return to being undersubscribed if it is has to live in the shadow of another potentially 'outstanding' school does undermine pretty much all of your arguments.
The rule isn't that we are people with pen names. You are more than able to identify yourself, or post under your own name, stating who you are if you choose. Some people do. That's why your post about your being a governor stood, not because it applies to several people. MN is also not a moderated site. They won't read even a quarter of the posts here unless they are reported.
I agree the rule is definitely that you don't out other posters. Although, if you are the person in that link, there might be a bit of a grey area where it could be argued that you outed yourself.
Please read carefully the difference between these two statements:
Children did not get a place at any school.
Children did not get a place at any of their top three choices of school.
I do not represent a school: nor are any of my posts on here criticising the proposal to set up the Whitehall Park school based on a concern for any individual school. I am, it is true concerned for all the Schools in Islington which will loose collectivily three million pounds from their repair budget. I am also concerned for the welfare of the children who will remain in over crowded housing, because of the loss of council housing that would otherwise have gone on the site.
As a taxpayer I am concerned both at the waste of money embodied by the Whitehall Park scheme, and the transfer of public assets paid for by tax to a private company.
By the way all schools are "potentially" outstanding: Its getting there is the trick. It was failing to observe this distinction in its publicity that lead to Whitehall Park Schools publicity being censured by the Advertising Standards Agency.
Bellevue, has of course no track record in running Free Schools, being still in the first year of the only one it runs, but it has a big track record in making promises.
" I am advised that I must refuse to confirm or deny ...."
I have noticed you offering to relay enquiries to Islington. But I have also noticed some very strange descriptions of quite ordinary Admissions procedures, which led me to conclude that you were new to schools issues.
Interesting article in the Islington Gazette here:
A story has appeared in a Wolverhampton paper. Is this the future for Whitehall Park School? This is an edited version of the story, full story available at the link below.
"Anand Primary School opened its doors in Wolverhampton in September last year.
But it can today be revealed the body set up to oversee the running of the school has agreed to relinquish its control amid fears about the low number of pupils - just 20 - on the school roll.
Headteacher Kulbinder Kaur Pouni, who took up her post in September 2013, told the Express & Star she had resigned and would be leaving on September 1.
Anand Primary aims to have 420 pupils on its books by 2019....
...But only 20 children started classes last September - 40 fewer than the initial target of 60 starts.
And a letter from the Wolverhampton Local Education Authority sent out to governors in February stated only 14 pupils had put the school down as first choice for next year...."
Bellevue is a rapidly expanding business.Has its ability to offer education with integrity been truly assessed?
Nlondondad - the Wolverhampton school is a totally situation because it's a Sikh school in an area without enough Sikhs to fill it.
I don't think it's comparable to Whitehall Park.
What is comparable is the shortage of applicants, what, I agree, is (probably) very different is the reason for the shortage. Shortage of Sikhs in one case, shortage of children in general in the other.
I was interested that this school was shut down for lack of enough applicants in its second year. Assuming Whitehall park gets going this year with the same sort of handful of children as this school had, what happens next year when it becomes apparent that there will be no new building for the children ready only what, one must presume, will be really crowded temporary accomodation.
Can anyone update on what is happening with whitehall pk? It's not relevant for us for this Sept but soon will be. I saw portacabins in the back but the old school building still standing abandoned. The schools own website is so slick and generic it doesn't tell me much.
we just fall inside Haringey but are basically on the dividing line so we are out of catchment for ALL other state primaries. is WP the only choice likely to be offered to us in future then as it's now our nearest and will presumably have a massive catchment as it needs kids.
We can't really afford to move and don't want to but are starting to think about if we could do it to avoid the DC starting at a completely unknown quantity school in portacabin which could fold at any time for the reasons discussed upthread. Am interested in worst case while try to balance against possible move. How likely is it that the school will go ahead as planned over say next 5 years? What actually happens if a free school closes what alternative offer would the kids get?
All schools are unknown quantities.
School is a diff experience for each child who goes there. There is no school which is perfect for every child.
As the say in finance 'past performance is no indication of future performance'
Not sure I agree about the past performance thing, endof prior performance can be quite predictive IME in various areas of life.
Anyone got any other thoughts on this?
I wonder why the previously enthusiatic supportes of Whitehall Park School are, it seems, not to be heard from. Could it be that a matter of days before the school is due to open all is not well? A bit low on pupil numbers perhaps?
LocalMummyperson feel free to PM me if you are genuinely interested in more information.
Out of interest, does anyone know how many children will be starting at Whitehall Park this week? Will it be 56 or anywhere near?
The last I heard it was around 50
No matter how many or how few in numbers they are, the reality is, some very real little four year old children will be starting their very first day of school tomorrow, no small feat for them or the parents that got them this far; so let's please put the knives away - it feels instinctively wrong, odd and not a little creepy.
I agree its all about children:
So what about the children in Islington Schools, which because this school has been set up, have lost 3 million off the repair budget?
So what about the children, who because Islington have not been allowed to use this site for social housing will remain at best seriously overcrowded, at worst in bed and breakfast accomodation?
There is a real issue here, and I regard it as a great disgrace that the children attending WPS, should have been made pawns in a game of politics against Islington Council mounted by Mr Gove and the Swiss based commercial interests of Bellevue Ltd.
But, whatever, there is omething odd here. I passed by WPS today and other than a large banner on the railings on Hornsey lane announcing that this was the site of a new school opening in autumn 2014 - the banner is new - there was no sign of any activity. Is the school term for WPS starting late?
Foxmon I do agree that there is an unfortunate level of 'personal' hostility upthread and really hope that we can stay away from that from now on here, while I get it that we won't all agree on the issues. Saying that though, if we shouldn't discuss complex issues because real kids are involved then the whole of MN had better find something else to do with its time.
I want information about my local school which I haven't been able to find on their website. While recognising that there are other bigger problems in the world it's stressful not knowing if my local school is any good, what it is going to be offering or even whether it will exist for the duration of my kids' education.
I think a lot of the confusion about this school could be solved by its website being more specific about its plans but because it isn't, that feeds into my concerns that because it is run by a commercial organisation it's not going to want to be that open about things. I'm really trying to keep an open mind but the lack of info doesn't help.
Yes, Whitehall Park is going ahead despite all of the controversy, and there is every reason to think that it will be there for your DC next year. If you're genuinely concerned, why not ask for a meeting with the Head to learn something about the school to help you make your decision? Given this year's experience, you're right that you are unlikely to get a place at another local school, but fortunately Whitehall Park seems to be coming together well.
Whitehall Park School has its first day of school tomorrow. The opening party was on Friday. I don't know the exact number, but there are approximately 50 kids among the two reception classes.
Can I just point out that "this years experience" would have been, given that Localmummyperson lives due North of the old Ashmount site that, by now she would have had an offer of a place at both St Mary's Hornsey and Highgate Primary School? And possibly, depending exactly where she is, Coleridge? But that actually she is interested in the situation in two years time, and that what happens then is driven mainly by pupil demand in Crouch End. As pupil demand, that is the number of unique applications, not the number of preferences, has been falling slowly over the last three years, were this trend to continue, then her position, regarding having an actual choice of school could be expected to improve.
Two quick points:
First, the argument over whether Whitehall Park School is needed is over. It's been funded and has opened. Everyone on Mumsnet knows that you don't think it's needed, but it's happening.
Second, as far as Lazaymama2's decision goes, the important point in considering moving out of the area is that there is now a school practically across the street from her that many people, including myself, think will be excellent and to which they are sending their kids. In my case, which I think is typical of this area, I was offered nothing in April except WPS. As you know, last month we were offered a place at St Michael's at the last minute, but we decided in the end that while they are both excellent schools, WPS will be a better option for our children.
My advice to you is to ignore the politics of this and arrange a meeting with the Head at WPS, Laura Birckett, and see for yourself what you think. It's also worth both learning about her track record as Head at St John the Baptist in N1 and speaking to Bellevue Place Education Trust, the non-profit Free School Trust to which WPS belongs, to see what you think of their ethos. For the record, BPET is support by two UK-based private companies: Bellevue Education, which runs independent schools in the UK (including locally the well-regarded Norfolk House School in Muswell Hill) and Switzerland, and Place Group, which is a well-established contractor supporting the establishment of academies and free schools. It's worth going to see Rutherford House, the first Free School the BPET opened in Balham, to get a sense of where WPS is going. Get the facts, meet the people involved, and see for yourself.
So you were offered a place at St Michaels School ...N6
First point. This is yet another example of Whitehall Park School being not needed, because in fact you DID have an offer of a place at another school.
Second point. Despite being offered St Michael's School N6 you chose Whitehall Park School.
So you are telling us that you turned down an over subscribed, well regarded, "sought after" school, with excellent facilities, on a very fine, very spacious site (in 1852 it was a working farm) - spacious enough to have a full set of playgrounds, sportsfields on top, AND their own "nature trail" in favour of a school whose future is not certain, where the children will be housed for some time to come in portocabins (really cosy in January) on a building site, which during the building period, will have virtually no space for them to play in? And where instead of a long established record of achievement you have marketing promises?
"very spacious site (in 1852 it was a working farm)"
How does that mean a school has room? My house was part of a large Orchard in 1852.
Its an interesting historical thing. The school was set up in 1852, with the same number of pupils it has now, and on the same site it has now, and at that time there was a farm attached to the school. They have retained all the land, but they no longer farm it....
So the school was not BUILT on a farm, it HAD a farm!
Are you crazy!!?!! You turned down a school that had a farm attached to it 160 years ago. When I was choosing a school for my child that was top of my list of priorities.
I make no comment about anyones sanity: but for the avoidance of any doubt St Michaels School still has all the land it had when it opened all those years ago. Have a look at the website...
But I would have thought the Ofsted "outstanding" grade more significant myself.
Agreed, St Michael's has an amazing site - possibly the most amazing of any state school site in London, and more amazing than many independent schools. Definitely one of the biggest pro of the school.
Leaving the benefits of St Michael's aside, I think that one of, if not the, most important choices in choosing a school is how much confidence you have in the school's leadership team and how much attention that children are going to get from that team. Whitehall Park has an amazing leadership team and with only two classes, and as a result is able to give a great degree of focus to the children and their individual needs.
As for the need for Whitehall Park, if it had not been there we might have gotten a place at a school in special measures in Tottenham and, if we hadn't had the good fortune that a St Michael's child moved out of London, we would have been left with that unacceptable choice or an independent school (another school nlondondad is skeptical of, by the way, which just got an Outstanding inspection report). We would have been forced to choose the latter to ensure a high quality education for our child, and at this point we would already have been liable for a full term's independent school fees. That seems to me like need, if not dire need.
"would have been" is surely the relevant point. You were offered a place at a school within a reasonable distance of you, ofsted outstanding. You did not "need" Whitehall Park...
be that as it may it would still be interesting to know how many children WPS actually has, ought to be pretty evident by now.
Your argument is flawed because it ignores the fact that the place left vacant at St Michaels by highgatedad choosing Whitehall Park will have been filled by another local parent glad not to have been left with a choice of a failing school in Tottenham or paying exorbitant independent school fees.
Oh and despite various people having already answered your question about the number of children at Whitehall Park School I will happily reiterate that it is 5 times the number that you gleefully predicted with the exclamation "THEY WILL BE LUCKY TO REACH DOUBLE FIGURES" (your capitals)
Actually no one has actually answered the question: it is not a difficult one.
"How many children are actually attending Whitehall Park School?"
(telling me its five times another, unspecified, number, does not help).
Although an equally interesting question is:
"How many of them live in the Whitehall Park area?"
Its true that neither of these questions could be answered precisely until term started, but it has....now.
A lot of the children are local to Whitehall Park and the immediate surrounding areas both on the Islington and Haringey sides of the site.
Do you have reception age children that you are looking to move to Whitehall Park School? Speaking to the Headmistress will I am sure give you the information on numbers of children and their precise journey time/route to school.
So the supporters of Whitehall Park School are, it seems, unwilling to give actual figures on Mumsnet for the number of children attending the school. Despite the fact, that, if as you all claim, you have children at the school this must be really obvious, I mean a mere glance around the portocabin would do it. Yet you appear to have figures for other schools.
I note, by the way that the school web site still announces that "reception places are still available" Odd, as during the summer, the Head teacher described her school as "oversubscribed" and earlier still demand for the school was described as "overwhelming"
The information is publicly available nlondondad.
When you have consistently been so hostile to the school and our decision to send our children there why would we give it to you.?
As your prediction was single figures (so at best 9) and another poster has already told you it is 5 times that number then I am sure you can work it out and will be first to congratulate the school on such a fantastic achievement against all the odds.
Again, I am sure that if you contacted the school they would be in a position to provide you with the figures.
I need advice plzzzzzzz
As we moved to a new house , my soon had offered a place for reception in Ark academy school
To be honest i don't know this school is just opened last september , and i don't know what is the difference between a normal and academic school
Plzz plzz someone give advice
One of the key differences between the two is around control - academies and free schools are run independently of the control of the local authority but for more info here is a link to the official gov website which might assist.
Best of luck
I think the game is up. Nlondondad with his Sherlock Holmes-esque sleuthing skills has discovered the conspiracy. I admit it, there are only actually 4 children at the school. We take them in the front gate, sneak them out the back and bring them in the front again several times each morning to create the illusion that there are more of them.
None of us even live locally. I myself commute from Glasgow every day and one child even flies in from the Channel Islands.
if the information is available publically please tell me where we might find it.
The only public information I can find is on the Whitehall Park website where:
1. No numbers are given
2. Applications are still being solicited for reception places, which indicates vacancies, (but actually you seem to accept there are vacancies)
When I contact the school I get no response. I am not the only person to have had that experience. Perhaps you could contact the school on my behalf as you seem on good terms with them?
What I am looking for (to repeat) is the number of children in the school and how many are from the Whitehall Park area.
Autumn school census day this year is 2 October.
@nlondondad,Your obsession about this subject is at best odd and at worst downright intimidating. However I'm sure the detailed freedom of information request that has been put in my someone who seems to share your passion will give you the information you are after. Perhaps you know him?
It is a simple question and I think it now speaks volumes that you decline to answer. Indeed FOI is a possible route: Interesting that you would appear to be in good enough touch with the school to know what FOI requests they are getting, and yet unwilling to say how many children there are. Its very relevant information to any parent considering the school for next year, and who would like some reassurance regarding its long term viability.But there are a number of people in the area who share my concern, (there was you recall, a whole public meeting full) so I am not surprised an FOI has gone in.
seems like you can wait until October and all will be revealed.
You don't seem to have answered my question? How odd. Do you want to repeat it?
Actually nlondondad another parent told me about David Barry's FOI request so nothing to do with the school.
In terms of answering your question about number of children, as stated earlier you only wish bad things for the school and as you don't have reception age children so have no personal need of this information, why would we give it to you?
Your continued refusal to answer a simple question regarding numbers of children at Whitehall Park School conveys an obvious message to any parent seeking to use Mumsnet to find out about Whitehall Park School. And to find out how well it is doing. And what the risk of it failing to attract enough children to its portocabins to continue might be.
Your descent, not for the first time, into personal comments also speaks volumes.
Bringing my children into it, is however a new low. You do not know whether I have school age children or not.
I was simply assuming that your interest was based on a personal requirement for schooling for your children which I would have anticipated would be young enough to attend primary school reception class. I cannot think of any other reason why you would be so interested in this primary school.
I think it's a reasonable deduction that you do not have children at Whitehall Park school. After all, if you had, you'd know the numbers.
All schools do their numbers in October. In most parts of London there is significant churn at the start of a new academic year, and it takes a few weeks into term for the numbers to settle. Much better for all schools to wait and go for the more settled figures. Especially as the pan-London predictions for shortages of school places in the years up to 2018 run to thousands. Undersubscribed schools will be like gold dust
This is a quote by you in an earlier thread about Whitehall Park.
"both my children went to Ashmount School. The youngest now 18,"
I made no comment about your children other than they were not of reception age, which is something that you had already stated. Quite how that constitutes me 'bringing your children into this' or 'sinking to a new low' I'm not sure.
I will happily speak to any prospective parents reading this thread who want to contact me about Whitehall Park, the class sizes, the enthusiasm and impressiveness of the teaching staff and head teacher, the positive comments that have been made to me and to my daughter my members of the local community in recent weeks, the future viability and building plans of the school and, most importantly, how happy my daughter is and how much she is enjoying it
Ditto. Like Jakecate, I also have a child at Whitehall Park School and would be happy to talk to any prospective parents about the wonderful experience that my child is having.
relevant press stories.
In previous stories Islington Gazette relying on press releases from Whitehall Park School reported the school as "overwhelmed with applications" then in due course "oversubscribed". Now it seems the school is prepared to be more forthcoming about the actual state of affairs....
Assuming this is now accurate it would still be interesting to know how many of the children are from the local area.
As commented on above, I too would be delighted to chat to parents applying for Whitehall Park School for 2015. The school is fantastic. We got offered no school by Islington council and could not have hoped for a better place for our child. The teachers are so impressive. The head teacher is passionate and caring. Our child is receiving the best possible education and care and is extremely happy. And the community is DELIGHTED to have a local school again. I know for certain that many of us got offered schools very far away that were impossible to get to without giving up work (!!); some were offered nothing or even told to home school our children; and some were offered religious schools even though they had outlined that they were not religious. Yes the class sizes are not yet full but that is due to the fact that there is no building yet! Look at the high number of us who have taken a leap of faith and are delighted we did. Those personal experiences speak a hundred times louder than any stats and data. I really wish people would just let this school grow and blossom and if you cannot see the vision and are not willing to visit and see for yourself why we are all so happy then fine, it's not for you and please look elsewhere.
But can any of these enthusiastic supporters of Whitehall Park School explain what has happened about the new building?
You see the press story just above which confirms that Whitehall Park School is seriously undersubscribed also now says that the new building will not be ready until autumn 2017. Whereas we were being promised by Whitehall Park School that the children would be in portocabins for a year, with a new building next autumn. And there is no room for more portocabins, which are in any case temporary structures for a year only, and only have temporary planning permission to boot. So if there is no new building next autumn where do the second year's intake go?
Mind you the promise that there would be a new building in 2015 was made at the same time as Whitehall Park School was claiming to be "overwhelmed by applications" and "very oversubscribed"
A June article in the Islington Gazette said that the building would be finished in September 2017 but it also said that the first permanent classrooms would be finished by September 2015. So, unless plans have changed, it would appear the second year's intake go into the first part of the building to be completed and brought into operation whilst work continues on the rest of the building.
Your over-the-top use of language always makes me chuckle and one can only assume it is intentional to try to scare off prospective parents from considering WPS.
A classic example is you describing WPS as "seriously undersubscribed". If the figures from the article are correct then WPS is at about 76% of capacity. Ashmount School, for example, is currently at about 72% of capacity I.e. there are 118 "empty desks" does these mean Ashmount is "very seriously undersubscribed"? What about other Islington run primaries like Copenhagen Street and Pooles Park that are at 50% capacity? How would you describe them?
but surely, if as you say Ashmount is at only 72 per cent capacity then surely that would prove the claim that there is no shortage of places in the area and that millions of pounds of our money is being spent on a school - Whitehall Park School - which is not needed.?
Projected shortfall of 100,000 places by 2018 in London. If Islington is boosting capacity now, they are probably the only LA who will be sitting pretty in 3-4 years time.
If we are to strive for the accuracy that your antecedent namesake would certainly endorse… Then it is surely not nl'dad's overarching claims for the necessity of the new school or otherwise that 'NewBrown references, merely his use of inadvertently chucklesome hyperbole.
If the figures given unthread are correct, it does rather identify the whole labelling of 'undersubscribed/oversubscribed', whether seriously or very seriously etc, as kinds of nonsense terms that are wheeled out when convenient, as rhetorical aids to shore up particular positions. We all buy into this nonsense of course, but when they are clumsily deployed and exposed as such, you are left with egg on your face.
You ask if I would describe three schools you list in Islington, namely Ashmount, Copenhagen Street, and Pooles Park as "seriously undesubscribed". Assuming the figures you quote are accurate, the simple answer is:
Wasn't me that asked that, I was too busy sinking to new lows.
Apologies to JuniorJones, it was ThenewBrown. Its just that your posting styles are so similar.
I guess it must be hard picking out individuals from the cacophony of voices pointing out how misguided your campaign of hate against a new primary school is?
It does not make Whitehall Park School feel very open or welcoming if its supporters on Mumsnet react in such a hostile and suspicious way to reasonable questions.
As to accusing nlondondad of conducting a "campaign of hate"......because he is not a Whitehall Park School supporter, and he seems to ask questions you do not want to answer...
Pythagorous - many of the supporters of Whitehall Park have been very open & welcoming, in particular to prospective parents who are interested in the school as an option for their children. There are several examples on this thread.
However, the reality is that Nlondondad does not support the school and has been very vocal about his position for some time now, so it is perhaps not surprising that people are cautious about volunteering information in direct response to him. In any event, the questions he has asked have also been made the subject of a freedom of information request to the school so if they are reasonable (for example, the individual who has made the request has asked to be provided with the full postcode of every child at the school) the information will be made available.
Just coming back to this thread after a while and seems the discussion has gone downhill again.
If the school is not sure what FOI questions are admissible there will be someone in the local authority that can advise them or there is the Information Commissioners Office.
It's nice that some people/parents are delighted about the school and if they have happy kids there that's brilliant. But it doesn't follow that asking questions is unreasonable or anything to do with hate.
The school is brand new so has no track record, the type of school it is has had a very mixed press, the Whitehall park school website is not very detailed as I have said before.
it seems very normal that when a school doesn't have to abide by the same basics as a conventional school (free not to follow the national curriculum or qualified teachers etc) that there will be questions.
We're all taxpayers paying for this school so anyone should be able to ask (pretty much) anything they want to know. The withholding of information and obvious tension (on this thread at least) has created a strange atmosphere around it.
LocalMummyPerson it is worth revisiting the website which has been developed significantly.
I accuse nlondondad of conducting a campaign of hate because that is what I have witnessed him do, on forums such as this, over several years with respect to Whitehall Park School.
Going through the application process and having your first child starting school is a deeply stressful time for most parents (even in the best of circumstances) and I don’t think it is unfair to say that nlondondad has made this experience even more stressful and unpleasant for a whole community living near the new Whitehall Park School.
I fully respect his right to have opposed the opening of the new school but I found the manner in which he went about it distasteful, often insulting and frequently misleading. (I’ll happily trawl back through a few of the other Mumsnet threads related to this topic to provide examples if you would like?)
I guess I naively assumed that once the school had opened (which it has) and proved it was viable (which it is) that he would gracefully concede defeat and stop attacking it. Unfortunately he is still here and his intent seems to now be to try to scare off potential parents from considering Whitehall Park School for their children in September 2015. Something, incidentally, I consider an ethically dubious thing to do considering he has openly declared on Mumsnet that he is a governor of Ashmount School.
With regard to his information requests, I don’t know if you have children at school or not, but if you were in a similar situation to Whitehall Park parents and someone on the internet was asking for detailed information on the numbers and addresses of children at your school, I assume you would do what we have done and direct them to contact the school to obtain that information. Partly because I don’t think any of the parents have the information to the level of detail that nlondondad seems to want and also because I would be unsure about what information is appropriate to be disseminated through internet forums. If nlondondad wants to portray this behaviour by parents as evidence of some sort of cover-up or conspiracy then I suppose that is his prerogative.
Obviously there is a lot of ill feeling on this thread. But to the newcomer to it, interested in information, to see the term "campaign of hate" thrown about by you, when there is no evidence of it on this thread, and its not only nlondondad asking questions (and if he is, as you say, a school governor as well as a parent that would explain why he knows what questions to ask). Also while the number of children at the school has been asked for, I see no reference to their addresses being requested, which would have been silly anyway. Asking which boroughs they are from on the other hand makes sense to me, and these figures are easily available for Coleridge, for example, so why not Whitehall Park School? Also I repeat that you have produced figures a few postings up which suggest that there is a surplus of school places in Islington as you list three schools including the nearby Ashmount with vacant places. If that is so, why should public money be spent in large amounts on WPS? I have to tell you that there are a lot of my neighbours with children who are bemused by the whole Whitehall Park School thing and your attitude, and that of others, does not help.
The vacant places I referred to at Ashmount are unfortunately not in reception, where the demand is, they are higher up in the school and obviously you can’t mix reception kids in with year 4 classes!
You ask why public money should be spent on building new primary schools? I am not sure I can think of many better uses for public funds than that. If a political party said they would raise income tax by 5% and all the money would be ring-fenced to build new schools they would definitely get my vote.
I’m just curious. Are your neighbours with children who are “bemused by the whole Whitehall Park School thing” all in the catchment area of their local OFSTED ‘outstanding’ school or are they in a schools black hole left by their local school being moved somewhere else against their wishes? It is amazing how passionate the latter situation can make previously bemused parents.
I was surprised to learn recently from a parent with older children at St Michael's Highgate primary, (with the previously-mentioned farmland attached!) that at the start of term they had some unfilled places in reception. I don't know whether these will have been filled up by now.
This seemed to me to demonstrate the aforementioned 'churn', making the existing local provision seem more plausibly adequate than first appears from the published results about the catchments at offer day. Is there some adjusted info about 'real' catchments that finally gets published somewhere, does anyone know..?
It really surprised me to hear this though, as St M school is legendary locally for being the one that parents will go through extreme contortions to get their children into.
This parent thought that some children who accept St M then go to independent schools, but their parents hold on to St M until the last minute as back up. This friend had no insider knowledge so who knows. I just thought that the spare places were surprising (and self-interestedly this cheered me up, as someone who worries about the black hole thing).
Not great for schools to be undersubscribed for any length of time obviously but I can't see St M's having too much trouble with that given its fantastic reputation/OFSTED.
Now that is interesting re. places. I too have heard that St. M's is used as a back up if the independent option fails, & yet, as we have seen on this thread, those much coveted spaces do come up.
However, it is somewhat cold comfort.
If you have been looking, as we have been, at various primary school options for the last two years or so, the last thing you want is to determine your children's place of education by the seemingly random, or at least unknowable outcome of the spin of a wheel conducted in the dog days of August just before term starts.
To concur with the similar sentiment expressed above - the luxury of being bemused, or similar states of mind, seems solely the preserve of those nestled comfortably within desirable catchment areas or those with no primary aged children at all.
This new school (WPS) does seem to redress the balance somewhat, and I feel it only right and decent, now that it has been set up, to give it a fair chance and assess it on evidence and personal experience, rather than these increasingly acrimonious forum based ding-dongs.
We shall be visiting WPS at the nearest opportunity to form our own opinion and the only sensible option for those parents with little toddlers nearing reception age is to do the same, as in the end, it will be their school not ours.
I don't think NLondondad has waged a campaign of hate. He seems to me justifiably concerned with what (to me) seems like an inefficient use of limited education funds.
Nobody wants to see children without a place, but an unaccountable private company being given a site that has already been proved unfit for the purpose of housing a primary school seems to be something worth questioning closely. The best way of insuring all children have a place is some sort of collaborative borough (and London) wide planning not ad hoc schools starting up here and there.
I don't have children in the immediate area but I do have children in an Islington primary which will be starved of funds as a consequence of the site not being sold as was the original plan when Ashmount moved. Even if I had no vested interest, I think anybody is allowed to ask questions about the use of taxpayers' money.
And, ultimately, if this ill-planned project goes belly-up, it's the children and families attending the school who will be most adversely affected. I don't wish it ill for this reason, but I would like reassurances.
As aside, people keeping hold of coveted state school places with no intention of using them are an abomination (eg at St Michael's). It's so selfish.
Relating to your query about whether anyone publishes 'final' figures of cut-off distances, I don't think they do and Islington certainly don't. I remember being a bit frustrated by this when I was going through the application process last year because it was hard to make informed choices based on the 'offer day' distances. Some schools did provide the 'September' cut-off distances when I contacted them directly so I would recommend ringing around any schools you are considering to find out.
unaccountable private company
Free schools are run by charities.
The best way of insuring all children have a place is some sort of collaborative borough (and London) wide planning not ad hoc schools starting up here and there
Putting aside the fact that many London boroughs have been pretty poor at planning for primary school places, supporters of free schools would argue that it is reasonable to create a school in areas where the existing schools are rubbish even if there isn't a shortage of places.
starved of funds as a consequence of the site not being sold
Was the plan to sell the site and use the money for other schools? I'm surprised given government restrictions on the use of money by local government but happy to be told otherwise, especially if someone can point me at anything giving details of this plan. However, in terms of revenue spending the presence or otherwise of this school will only result in existing schools being "starved of funds" if the number of pupils they have on the roll goes down.
Maybe it feels more like a campaign of hate when you and your family have been on the receiving end of it for several years.
To add to Prh47bridges comment I would also say that the site has not 'been proved unfit for housing a primary school' it is a perfect site for housing a primary school as it has done for 60-odd years. It is just that some of the school buildings need major refurbishment or rebuilding which the DfE is now providing.
I am also not sure how (or why) you think the school will go 'belly-up'. The initial funding agreement is for at least 7 years. Technically any school could go 'belly-up' by 2023 and there is no reason to think this school is any more likely to do so than any other.
"supporters of free schools would argue that it is reasonable to create a school in areas where the existing schools are rubbish even if there isn't a shortage of places."
In general, this still raises the question, that with a limited budget should not creation of school places, in areas with a shortage of school places not take priority over the creation of surplus places? ie given that money restricted where is the more important place to spend it?
In the particular case of Whitehall Park School, there is no shortage of places in the area, we know this both from the admissions system figures and also from the way supporters of Whitehall Park School have claimed to have chosen that school in preference to places offered at other schools, and all the local schools are rated Ofsted "good" except for those rated "outstanding"
"Free schools are run by charities'
Indeed they are, by law. But who runs the charity?
In general that varies from Free School to Free School. It depends on who set the charity up, and how they set it up.
In the case of Whitehall Park Free School the charity was set up by Bellevue Ltd and Place Group Ltd, with Bellevue the dominant partner (Place sell services to Bellevue) and they controll the charity as a wholly owned subsidiary. The charity completely accountable to its owners. Bellevue is a (very profitable) limited company owned by shareholders based in Switzerland, to whom it is, of course accountable.
So the charity rund and controlled by Bellevue, and Bellevue controlled by its shareholders, described by Bellevue as a small number of families based in Switzerland.
The money to be raised by selling the site, at a discount, to a Housing Association, and amounting to a bit more than 3 million, was to be used by Islington Council to replenish the capital account for schools which had been partly depleted by the cost of building the new Ashmount School. But of course in order to do this they required permission from the Secretary of Stae, Mr Gove, which, in the event was refused, and he appropriated the land without payment to the council.
I agree - I don't think nl'dads campaign is borne out of hate, but it is quite evident for all to see that he has an agenda directed towards disqualifying and delegitimising the WPS at every turn. With that in mind however, I undoubtably support his right to challenge and question & if legitimate concerns can be identified by this, all the better. It is unfortunate to say the least that the dialogue so far has often become bogged down in petty & confrontational snippiness.
I likewise share your concerns about the public purse, as I, like you, contribute towards it. But, it is not the site itself that is unfit for purpose but the old school building, this is to be demolished and a brand new building put in its place, the site, located on a green and wooded elevated position over London is beautiful. The perfect location for a primary school.
But you suggest a number of other assumptions about WPS that rather beg the question, and consequently seem unsubstantiated, namely; it has used funds inefficiently, it is unaccountable and it is ill-planned.
Now, as I understand it, WPS is not some autonomous fiefdom but answerable to the Department for Education, as all schools ultimately are, additionally its funding allocation is administered/determined by the Education Development Agency, at least initially, which deals with its primary funding allocation, it also must necessarily maintain a healthy and productive communication with Islington Council. Furthermore, it will be subject to OFSTED inspection and evaluation. All of these elements would, unless I am mistaken, suggest an adequate framework of accountability.
As regards to it being inefficient and ill-planned, unless you somehow know of future outcomes, that really does remain to be seen, doesn't it?
As a parent I empathise with your concerns for your children and how their school might be effected by the creation WPS. May I perhaps, in return, ask you to consider what the effect of no school at all may have on my children?
As I have stated above, now that this school is up and running lets give it a fair chance. It may help (all of us) to keep the criticism/evaluation levelled at a general policy level rather than an actual criticism of the environment that actual 4 year old children inhabit, which, I will never tire of stating, just looks very wrong.
Can we all try and raise the bar a bit?
controlled by its shareholders, described by Bellevue as a small number of families based in Switzerland
This plus your comment that "Bellevue is a (very profitable) limited company owned by shareholders based in Switzerland" looks like deliberate distortion. According to their website Bellevue has significant financial backing from "a small number of British and Swiss families who are passive investors in the group". It is a British company based in London.
You describe them as very profitable. In 2013 they made a profit of £1M but the previous year they made a loss of £0.5M. Without knowing their turnover (not published) it is impossible to tell whether this makes them very profitable or marginal. The directors were unpaid in 2013 having received £30k between them the previous year. It does not appear that there has been any distribution of profits to shareholders.
Bellevue Place Education Trust, as a charity, is not allowed to distribute any surplus to its members and there are restrictions on the trustees and any businesses with which they are associated (which includes both Bellevue and Place) being paid by the charity. That doesn't mean it isn't possible for them to be paid but there are rules which have to be followed, breach of which could result in action against the charity and, in some circumstances, individual trustees. I would accept that enforcement isn't always as good as it should be.
if you are going to accuse someone of "deliberate distortion" you need to be very sure that you have your facts straight, otherwise it is yourself you leave open to that charge. Please re read what I wrote, using I suggest, more care this time.
It is very uncharacteristic of you to make a mistake of this kind.
If the figures for vacant places at local schools that you quoted, are, as you now seem to say, irrelevant, why did you quote them in the first place? Am I missing something?
I am concerned at the language being used in this thread,nlondondad has been accused of pursuing a "campaign of hate" when on reading the thread what he is doing is opposing WPS, and I agree with Foxmonaught that the questions he is asking should be asked. Now he is being accused of being deliberately deceptive by describing WPS as being ultimately run by people with a connection to Switzerland. Well I have had a look at the Bellevue website, and they are very open, even proud of their Swiss connections.
A lot of their business, by their account is in Switzerland. They also describe themselves as running WPS with no mention of a charity.
Here is the link. Interested to hear what others have to say.
Yes, it does seem that you have missed my reasons for posting those figures. Foxmonaught explained the reasons to you, much more eloquently that I ever could, in his/her post on this thread on 27th September.
I read what you wrote. To quote:
controlled by its shareholders, described by Bellevue as a small number of families based in Switzerland
You have obviously visited their website which talks about "a small number of British and Swiss families". Why omit the mention of British families? That looks like a deliberate distortion.
A lot of their business, by their account is in Switzerland
You must be looking at a different website from the one I can see at that address. The site shows that they have two schools in Switzerland and 17 in the UK. According to their website they did not start operating in Switzerland until 2012 but they have been operating in the UK since they were established in 2003.
They also describe themselves as running WPS with no mention of a charity.
Did you not spot the words "Operated by Bellevue Place Education Trust" on the WPS page? The Trust is the charity. You may not be aware that any free school must, by law, be operated by a charity.
Just a wee qualifier - I championed the asking of questions in general, I made no specific endorsements of nl'dad's particular questions, neither in their relevance or their validity; only the hope that some relevance might come out of them.
I have a couple of questions:
New Brown - but I thought that continued public funding for any school would depend on there being enough children attending that school? And so even if 7 years public money is promised won't that be dependent on the school attracting enough children?
(And if enough children do attend- what happens after the 7 years?)
surely the future is less secure for Whitehall Park school in particular, more so than other local schools, as this school has the combination of being an unknown quantity AND of being still undersubscribed after the start of term.
I agree that it seems that various known-quantity (rated good or excellent by OFSTED) local schools are also undersubscribed, to a greater or lesser degree- but don't these have (some) security in having a track record and local reputation? Unless their OFSTED ratings suddenly take a tumble that is?
foxmon your mention of the building of the new school 'put in the place' of the old one, sounded a bit like it would be built on the footprint of the old one.
That sounds good but does that mean that something has changed?
I had thought that this was not going to be a like-for-like rebuild? I had understood that, the old school is being demolished and replaced by flats and presumably their parking spaces etc.
Then in what's left of the old school's playground, (next to the housing development) will be built both a new school and its playground.
Or have I gotten confused along the way in this thread? (Quite possible!)
Thanks for anyone who responded to my queries.
It's all very confusing, in part as a reflection of a mismanaged process with a certain degree of obfuscation on the part of the DofE, but I do think the best way to clear up any confusion is for people (NLondonDad included) to keep asking questions. If there's no issues with this project, then there should be nothing to hide.
I think these questions are absolutely in the best interests of parents/prospective parents with children at Whitehall Park Primary.
Ok - well, I'd look at the Ofsted and work out why it is now a good school. Some friends of mine rejected a school rated as good - because the thing it was really good at was getting children with no a very poor start up to an acceptable standard - but the Ofsted noted it didn't have much to offer able pupils.
As far as the free school goes - you do have the option of taking it and a) staying on continued interest got other schools b) taking a view about progress and possibly going private from Year 1 if it's not working for you.
The plan as I understand it is 49/51% split between WPS and LBI respectively, see more details here:
Looking at the site currently, it seems that they are going to demolish the existing Ashmount building and then build the new school AND playground on the old footprint. This will then free up the lower part of the site for LBI to build housing, (this last bit is speculation on my part, but it would make sense to proceed that way). The first part detailing the split however, is confirmed. It's a compromise, where there is both a school and housing.
With regards to your earlier comment about the lack of information. I agree this was frustratingly true in the past while negotiations we ongoing. I think they are now trying really hard to address this, there is a lot more content available online and the Headteacher, Laura Birkett sends out a weekly'ish newsletter with general info & updates (including how the build/planning is progressing). Have a look under 'Contact' on their website. I hope this helps.
but I thought that continued public funding for any school would depend on there being enough children attending that school? And so even if 7 years public money is promised won't that be dependent on the school attracting enough children?
It is not true that 7 years public money has been promised. The standard funding agreement allows the Secretary of State to terminate the agreement without reason on 7 years notice. In some circumstances the agreement can be terminated far more rapidly than that.
The amount of funding any school receives is directly dependent on the number of pupils it has on the roll. There is no set number of pupils below which a school stops receiving funding. But clearly if the number on roll is too low it is no longer possible to operate as the funding won't be enough to cover the outgoings.
I guess the issue is that the questions are not being asked from an neutral stand point but largely by someone who has publicly opposed the project from day one. Doesn't mean the questions shouldn't be asked, just that it doesn't feel very much like the interests of parents and children who are at the school or may go to the school in the future are really at the heart of the questioning.
Meanwhile on a positive note away from the mumsnet minefield my happy four year old continues to thrive and love his time at Whitehall Park.
You guys have clocked the OP doesn't actually live in Islington?
I think most of the recent participants in this thread have clocked this.
I agree it seems a bit hard on the OP, but what happened was that this thread having opened, a small number of highly partisan supporters of the Whitehall Park School in Islington weighed in - the connection being that it is a Free School - and away it went. Interestingly what this small group have in common is that not only are they partisan supporters of WPS but a search on their usernames shows they only post on threads relating to Whitehall Park School.
On the otherhand the thread has attracted a number of posters with a more general involvement and interest in issues surrounding Free Schools, so although the focus a bit narrow, some worthwhile points have been made of more general interest.
Hmmm - well, all I see is a bunch of people continuing an ongoing argument and not being much help to the OP at all - who wanted advice pertaining to her own situation, not the ins and outs of educational policy in North London...
I was pretty much thinking along those same lines, and before I posted I deliberated if I should add to the whole NorthLondoncentric conflagration, as the whole thread has been totally hijacked. But this is all too common these days, I blame the internet.
Regarding the OP, though - they must have made their decision by now, and they struck me as wishing to remain candid about revealing what school & where etc. so unless they decide to pipe up now, I guess we will never know. I hope they made a decision they were happy with, and one that was right for their child.
I am not sure many would agree with your précis of the early thread - far from "partisan supporters" of WPS weighing in, after the OP - you are the second poster on this thread, soon thereafter a spat ensues between these "partisans" of WPS and yourself, by your own reckoning, does this make you a partisan opponent of WPS?
Also, do you really think it fair to denigrate parents and carers with the term 'partisan' simply for being supporters of their children's education?
You seem very thin skinned when it comes to comments you deem "personal" directed at you, yet you choose not to extend this consideration to others.
Some of us here are trying to make a balanced, rational and informed decision about where to send our children to school next year, in the past I have found your contribution quite helpful, less so these days i'm afraid, which is a shame.
I think in fairness to the OP and perhaps just to clear the ground a little, we should consider creating a new WPS specific thread.
Yes, I agree I am an opponent of WPS school. And I do not agree that the supporters of WPS are "simply supporters of their childrens education" as if by contrast other people such as "namelyname" are not....
The decision to establish a school, using public money, which has the potential to benefit one small group at the quite literal - the figure is at least 3 million pounds -expense of other children in Islington is bound to be controversial. I make no apology for being "partisan" in support of the children of Islington who will suffer disadvantage because WPS has been created.
But further, and almost more importantly I have become more and more concerned at how much the WPS project is characterised by "spin" and PR - they employ a PR agency(!) and I believe there are serious questions that need to be asked relating to this school, and the facilities children at it will actually enjoy. Promises are being made which I do not see possible of fulfillment, and further there is already a growing record, as time passes of over promising.
OP here and i have just been alerted by nlondondad to the fact that people are curious as to what We decided in the end.
We accepted the place at Braywick Court (part of the Bellevue consortium of schools). There will be 4 teachers (head, class teacher and part time specialist maths and english teachers) at this school, which we thought was fantastic so happy to send dd there despite other schortcomings which we were confident would be resolved in time.
Then we were offered a place at the local outstanding primary. After mulling it over we went for the established, proven school for those reasons. Dd was very happy and settled from day 1 so we fell like we made the right decision
One thing I have noticed from reading this thread a few months ago is that how much more passionate London parents seem to be than the ones locally to me. I recal that only one person local to me ever inputted to the thread!
Thank you for the update OP and really glad that everything worked out well for your DD.
As you can see your situation as outlined in your OP is broadly shared by a fair few of us.
We are carrying on this thread as parents/ potential parents and interested local people with new free schools starting up (or all/none of the above) and I for one really appreciate you starting this thread. As a place to ask questions and share what we know. There are many schools this thread is relevant to and I think sharing knowledge is generally helpful so I'd be happy to stay on here rather than start a new WPS specific thread. Though everyone is free to do what they want obvs!
I was also looking out for the ofsted inspection report for Rutherford House School as I thought this would be in line with Braywick would get in the future. However, when I last checked, I think beginning of Sept, there was still no Ofsted.
I think this will useful insight for parents as to how Bellvue operate thier schools.
I am starting to realise that one of the things about Mumsnet is that the OP has no say on how a thread develops! So its just as well that the OP doesnt mind in this case.
I have gone back as a relative newcomer both to the thread and the argument. There are couple of things that struck me.
First of all nlondondad's first post on this thread was a general one relating to the OPs question advising that as Free Schools are a new thing and intentionally not regulated like ordinary state schools - for example they do not have to employ qualified staff - that anyone considering any Free School should make careful enquiries of the school to a greater extent than they might an ordinary state school. This was followed by a personalised post from one of the WPS people saying basically "dont listen to Nlondondad he opposes WPS" So actually I suppose I am saying that what the record shows is that nlondondad did not "start it"
Continuing the playground feel, and a general failure to "play nicely" various personal attacks are made on nlondondad, for it seems having the temerity to ask questions culminating in the charge that he is pursuing a "campaign of hate" but when he makes a sharpish remark in response there is an immediate chorus of "look miss, he said a rude word!"
Then there is an argument developing that only people with reception age children are entitled to have an opinion, as if no one else has any right to have a say. Well while the obvious retort that if the WPS is going to cost millions of public money we all surely have an interest has been made, I happened to mention WPS in conversation to a friend of mine who has her child in a school in South Islington. They have just been told by their Head that repairs they were hoping for to the school, have been delayed, and may not happen because of Whitehall Park School, and the loss of three million for the Islington School building budget caused by it being set up. She is pretty angry about this. Should she not have a say?
I have a child at Ashmount and there are many parents discussing the new Free School on our old site. We vacated the site because it was not fit for purpose and obviously we now have a newly built school so do not have the concerns of parents who have school sites that need to be renovated and upgraded that will lose out because of the funding going to WPS. This is not about being uncharitable to the 4 and 5 year olds at WPS but about all 4/5 year olds in Islington (and Haringey where we live, right on the border of Islington) who will lose out directly because of the funding going to WPS; a school which is not required in terms of admission numbers.
nlondondad's posts have been fair, measured and well informed and the criticisms of him have been petty and small minded. He speaks for many, believe me.
Please could you let me know which school in South Islington that is? I wish to make a formal complaint to the head for propagating the lie that the hole in the school repairs budget has anything to do with WPS rather than Islington's own financial mismanagement when they built the new Ashmount. Feel free to PM me the name if you are too embarrassed to name and shame the school on a public forum. Thanks.
Congratulations: You have driven TheNewbrown into threatening to make a "formal complaint." Respect.
@TheNewBrown while Pythagorous is considering, as no doubt she is, your kind offer to "name and shame" the Headteacher of the School her friend's child is at. (No reason why she would have any trouble with that, surely?) I have a modest suggestion for a way forward.
You see there is a Headteacher, who has, a number of times "propagated the lie" that setting up WPS is causing a hole of a bit over three million pounds in the repair budget for Islington Schools. He is in North Islington, so its not Pythag's friend's head.
His name is Barrie O'Shea, and he is Headtteacher at Duncombe School. I have no problem naming him on a public forum as he, for example wrote letters to the Islington Tribune and the Islington Gazette for the express purpose of "propagating this lie". He also attended a public meeting about WPS and spoke from the platform, and made the same point. Setting up WPS means a loss of funding to Islington Schools.
He is easy to contact, just go to the Duncombe School website. Google Duncombe School islington.
By all means contact him to tell him he is a liar. Go ahead with your "formal complaint"
But perhaps I should mention that he did what he did to point out the financial consequences for the children of Islington of WPS in his capacity as Chair of the Islington Schools' Forum, so he was acting as representative of all the other state funded schools in Islington. So in a way you are calling all the Heads in Islington liars.... So no half measures then.
Come on now NLondonDad I know you understand how free schools are funded and it is wrong to pretend otherwise to further your argument.
You say "Setting up WPS means a loss of funding to Islington Schools."
All the money for setting up (and indeed running) WPS comes from central government. Whereas the budget for repairing Local authority run schools is held by Islington so they are completely unconnected. It would be just as nonsensical if Islington claimed they were reducing bin collection to once a fortnight because the Ministry of Defence was building a new Aircraft Carrier.
My concern is that the aforementioned head of this South Islington school seems to be misinforming the parents at their school (based on PythagorousPlannedIt
Correct me if I'm wrong (and I might well be, I'm absolutely no expert), but isn't it true that Islington's educational building budget is £3m down as a consequence of not getting the money that they'd planned on receiving for the sale of the old Ashmount plot?
So, yes, the money for the setting up of WPS does come from central government but they're not paying for the site itself.
As I understand it, it went like this: Islington rebuilds Ashmount on its new site, planning for some of this immense cost to come from selling off the old site. DofE swoops in and says they can't sell the old site, they have to 'give' it to Bellevue. Islington therefore has £3m (or more) less than they'd budgeted. All schools under the Islington axis therefore have their pot of money reduced.
If I've got this right then the cost per pupil to Islington of WPS is immense.
But do 'set the record straight' if I've got this wrong.
All schools under the Islington axis therefore have their pot of money reduced
Revenue funding for schools (i.e. the money to meet running costs) comes entirely from the government. Revenue funding for schools in Islington is therefore unaffected by whether or not the Ashmount school site was sold.
As I understand it the money raised from selling the Ashmount site was to be used as part of the funding for moving Ashmount School to Crouch Hill Park. They are therefore having to find this money from other sources. I believe it is coming from the capital budget for building repairs. Having said that, a quick look at the 2012/13 accounts for Islington suggests they had budgeted up to 2016/17 on the assumption that there would be no income from selling the Ashmount site so this £3M, if received, would have been additional to budget.
I should also note that, had the free school proposal not been approved, there was an alternative proposal from a local school wishing to use it as a sixth form college. It is likely this would have been approved by central government in preference to selling off the land for high density housing, which was Islington's proposal.
prh47bridge - thank you. That's a really helpful and interesting clarification. Also one further point to mention is that it appears that the site is going to be split, with Islington retaining half which is likely to be developed for housing. Presumably, if that is the case, Islington will still make money from the site by selling off their half for development, because part of the deal with the DofE would be that it could be taken out of educational use? It would also be interesting to know whether that land had increased in value since the Crouch Hill move was planned and budgeted.
Your exposition of the financial position is accurate, so far as it goes. The taking of the site from Islington by the Secretary of State without paying for it, and its subsequent transfer to private hands - Bellevue Place Educational Trust - has no effect on the revenue account for schools in Islington. It is the capital account that is affected. 3 million of the cost of moving Ashmount was budgeted on the council receiving 3 million by selling the site to a Housing Association for social housing. Consequently Islingtons schools have lost three million from their repairs budget, from which this three million was spent. As Barrie O'Shea, Head teacher of Duncombe has pointed out.
The accounts you mention already took the loss into account as the Minister's intentions were made known some time ago.
There was no proposal for a Sixth Form Free School on the site, or at least not one known to the DfE
No, the proposal was not for a sixth form free school. As I'm sure you are well aware the proposal was for St Aloysius College to use the site for a new sixth-form college so that it could stop using Archway Methodist Hall for lessons. I believe the NUT supported this proposal.
Just for clarity, I believe the site remains in public ownership but the Trust leases it for a peppercorn rent. This arrangement is used by a significant number of academies and free schools.
Ah now I understand. There was a proposal put foward by the NUT shop steward at St Aloysius, but it was never put forward by the school. My understanding is that the Governors of St Aloysius considered the matter, and decided not to support it. I dont know why they rejected it. Of course had there been a proposal to use the site for a Sixth form centre the arguments would have been different, as a Primary School proposal put forward by a for profit company and a proposal for a sixth form centre put forward by, in this case, the Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster would be so disimilar. The demographic argument for a start. But the appropriation of land to give to a church, would I think, be controversial.
But anyway this is not the option before us now.
Your point about the lease is, with respect, pretty meaningless pedantry. Are you going to tell everyone reading this living in a leasehold flat that they do not "own" it? As they are not the free holder?
Prh47bridge - One question that I have never had a complete answer to is why was a budget for the new Ashmount building allowed to include £3 million of funding when the receipt of that £3 million was based on an assumption that they would receive permission to take the old site out of educational use and sell it to a developer for housing? Surely it is that assumption that has caused a deficit in the capital budget rather than WPS? Who had responsibility for the decision about the sources of funding for the new Ashmount building?
Its the decision by the Secretary of State to appropriate the land without compensation that causes the deficit. WPS is then thrust into the firing line because it benefits from this decision.
In short, no WPS no appropriation. So the children who attend WPS are made innocent pawns in a political game whereby Mr Gove seeks to score a point over Labour controlled Islington. And all the other children in Islington are made to suffer, so that this political point may be scored. And Bellevue Ltd get control of a valuable public asset without having to pay for it.
jakecat - I have to say I agree with you. It is by no means certain that the LA would have been allowed to sell the land even if there was no WPS.
nlondondad - Yes, I am quite happy to tell anyone living in a leasehold flat that they don't own it. Legally they don't. It is not meaningless pedantry. It is a very important distinction.
If you own a lease you do not own the property. The property remains in the ownership of the freeholder. You own the right to occupy the land or building for a given length of time and the lease may include significant restrictions on what you can do with the property. When you sell a leasehold property all you are actually selling is your right to occupy it. You cannot sell the property itself. It is not yours to sell. If you want to own the property you have to buy it from the leaseholder.
The same is true here. The land still belongs to the LA and cannot be sold, redeveloped or used for any purpose other than running a school. No public assets have been transferred into private ownership.
So the children who attend WPS are made innocent pawns in a political game whereby Mr Gove seeks to score a point over Labour controlled Islington
Notwithstanding the fact that many local residents campaigned for the Ashmount site to continue to be a school? And notwithstanding the fact that sites owned by councils of all political colours have been passed to free schools over the objections of the council you insist this is due to Islington being a Labour council?
And Bellevue Ltd get control of a valuable public asset without having to pay for it
There goes that allegation again. In what way do they have control of it? Can they build housing or shops on the site? Can they sell off the site? Can they do anything with the site other than run a school on it? Here's a clue - the answer to all three questions is no.
Nlondondad I don't agree. Surely it is "no permission to take the land out of educational use, no £3 million". But also you ignore the point that the site is expected to be split, with Islington retaining over half of it. Which would mean that any deficit caused by not receiving permission to take the site out of educational use will be less than half the "£3 million" you assert.
Oh god, this is what I mean. The whole thing is so confusing, I don't know what to believe. This is one of the big problems with education at the moment, the lack of clarity and transparency.
Had WPS not been 'given' the site, would Islington Council's capital budget by £3m the richer?
I have thought of an analogy of this situation.
Imagine I am shopping around for a new car because my current one is clapped out. I am looking at practical, affordable cars but then remember that my wealthy Aunt Edna is on her last legs and I will probably inherit some money in her will. I promptly ignore the affordable cars and splurge my money on a sporty, little Mercedes.
Aunt Edna duly pops her clogs but, horror of horrors, it turns out in her will that she has left all her money to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. I am now left with a car I can’t really afford and when the central heating in my flat breaks down I have no money to fix it.
The key question here is who is to blame for the financial situation that means I can’t fix my central heating?
NLondonDad would have you believe it is Battersea Dogs & Cats Home’s fault for having the temerity to be the beneficiary of Aunt Edna’s will - that is clearly nonsense.
One could maybe argue that it is Aunt Edna’s fault for writing me out of the will but that doesn’t hold much weight as it is really her prerogative how she disposes of her money.
The real culprit here is my poor financial planning and the questions jakecat asks are valid, namely ‘who were the people who made the decision to buy the Mercedes and shouldn’t they be held accountable for their poor financial management?’
Had WPS not been 'given' the site, would Islington Council's capital budget by £3m the richer?
Not necessarily. Any disposal or change of use of land used for state schools needs permission from the Secretary of State. The current government has approved a much lower proportion of such applications than the previous government. So it is possible Islington may still not have been allowed to sell the land.
I believe the site was valued at around £10M but Islington intended to sell it for much less than that so that it could be used for low cost housing. If jakecat is right and the site will be split it is still possible Islington may be allowed to sell off part of the site and may therefore get some or all of the "missing" £3M.
Does anyone know what the cost of the new ashmount school was. I have seen figures bandied around but nothing definitive. But I am assuming that it was less than the cost of making the old ashmount school fit for purpose?
I take it it was substantially more than £3 million.
The Crouch Hill Project was to provide, on the site of the former Crouch Hill Recreation Centre, a new school building for Ashmount school, a new nursery for Bowlers Community nursery, a refurbished youth centre at CAPE, improvements to the security and accessibility of the Metropolitan Open land, projection and enhancement of the plant and animal life on the Metropolitan Open Land, a combined heat and power system to provide energy to the new buildings and to a neighbouring Council estate. Provision was also made to allow the revival of some of the community facilities lost when the old community centre closed. The cost to the Council of the whole project was, I understand £9.25 million. I am basing this on an old council report.
What I do not know, and would be interested to find out, is what proportion of that cost was the new building for Ashmount itself. I imagine that that was "commercially confidential" at the time so only members of the project board would have known it, but it must be a matter of history now. Maybe someone will put in an FOI.
The figure from Islington's website is £16.5million. See here
Or you could read this thread started by NlondonDad where he says he expects it to cost about £16million.
nlondondad Sat 04-Oct-14 00:00:29: "Bellevue is a (very profitable) limited company owned by shareholders based in Switzerland, to whom it is, of course accountable."
Er, no, it is a UK company, jointly owned by an entrepreneurial prep school headmaster and a Hong Kong private financier, with some other passive investors which it describes as Swiss and UK families. See its Wikipedia page here.
It has grown very rapidly. I'd be nervous about its ability to maintain quality at that rate of growth, and its success in the free school sector isn't yet proven, but otherwise the intentions of the company looks reasonably sound to me.
I am indebted to thenewbrown for the update and correction. It would seem that the officially announced figure for the cost of the "Crouch Hill Campus and Crouch Hill Park" project was 16.5 Million pounds. But unfortunately this does not answer whitehallparkdads question which was how much the new Ashmount School building cost as this is only part of the whole project (of course). [To recap it was a new school building, a new voluntary nursery building, the old one being demolished, a large scale refurbishement of the Cape Building, and energy centre, works on the adjacent Council Housing estate, reinstatement of the derelict public park, construction of a new Multi Use Games Area, construction of a new adventure playground, a new skateboard ramp, and some works on the Parkland Walk proper and re instatement of some community facilities.]
So the closest I can get for the cost of Ashmount School is "less than 16.5 Million" Not very helpful. Perhaps someone else has more accurate information?
I passed by the old Ashmount site yesterday, the old building is looking really run down now and no work seems to have started on it at all, but there is a sign on a gate saying it is the entrance for Whitehall Park School and I suppose the temporary classrooms for WPS must be behind that gate.
There was a poster on a tree near the gate announcing a public meeting to protest against a decision to take away the school playground and use it for housing. The protest group say it will leave the school children at Whitehall Park with quite inadequate space - I think they said less than half the recommended amount. Does anyone know anymore about this?
yes Pythag its quite intriguing.
You see the "Ashmount Site Action Group" is now very close to Bellevue Ltd - they have Bellevue representation at their meetings - and they are, it would seem, very angry that the DfE have agreed to split the old Ashmount site with Islington (the original owners) with Whitehall Park School being given half the site and Islington getting the other half to use for Council Housing. ASAG say on their website that islington have
"strong armed the DfE into giving up most of the school playground -leaving the new school with just half the playspace recommended for children in the department's own 2014 deadlines!"
They go on to say
"Of course more housing is needed in London -but does that mean that children should suffer tiny playgrounds when the necessary space is already there?"
And they are calling a public meeting this week to protest about it.
At the SAME time as CURRENT parents of children at the school are being urged to rally behind the cause of "saving their childrens playground" PROSPECTIVE parents for next year when they ask about play space are told there will be plenty of playspace.....
The full notice of the meeting is here, on their web site.
I attended the public consultation for the proposed new school last Thursday and was left with the understanding that no building work can start until it goes through Planning with Islington Council. This is currently in the process of being submitted.
They appear to be going with a complete rebuild so the existing building will have to be demolished first. Going with the standard 8 weeks required for the application to go through, demolition proper looks set for February.
I think it important not to somehow conflate the 'Ashmount Site Action Group' (ASAG) with Bellevue Place Trust or the WPS itself. They are not related in any formal sense.
I think historically they shared a similar objective, as did others - that of retaining (the whole) Ashmount site for educational use. ASAG are still pursuing this goal, but at every meeting or consultation I have attended recently, representatives of the Bellevue Place Trust and WPS have shown themselves to be both accepting of, and working with the current thinking, that is - the site will be split roughly 50/50 between WPS and LBI. Every recent plan and drawing I have seen of the proposed new school reflects this.
So to suggest that those associated with the new school and ASAG are " now very close" would seem not to be the case, and suggesting they are somewhat muddies the waters for parents trying to choose school places for next September.
In your shoes if accept the free school place as infants is mostly play and in most countries formal education doesn't start till 7 years anyway.
I would also put DS on waiting list for your first and second choice school
Thanks, I suppose because I live in Haringey I did not hear of the public consultation, and I am sorry to have missed it. The reason why I was puzzled no work had started is that I understood the new building was to be ready by September 2015.
Can this really happen now, if they dont start to demolish until February that only leaves eight months to get the work done? The Coleridge School refurbishment of the old TUC college, now Coleridge East took longer than that.
"Not related in any formal sense"
Well err I never said they were "formally" linked just that they seemed to me to be close, and I based that mostly on things said by ASAG, But you may be better informed.
But the point is simply this:
The official position of WPS is to accept the split and its also true that at the consultation on future building plans run by the Whitehall Park School - which I take it was the one you meant Fox - the 50/50 split was the basis on which they consulted.
The position of ASAG is that the school playground is being "grabbed" for housing by Islington, and this means that the children will be left with wholly inadequate playspace, less than half ASAG say than should be provided under Government guidelines. And they are calling a public meeting tonight.
So, indeed, perhaps, NOT so close then as rather a difference of view here.
I think parents would wish to be aware this argument is happening. I do not agree that making them aware is "muddying the water"
Have WPS got plans drawn up for the new school building yet? Wouldn't it make sense for them to build high, with a roof top playground, like Brecknocks for example? Or maybe that would make it too expensive, building and servicing lifts.
Yes there are proposals on the whitehall park school website and a rooftop play space is part of the plan in addition to ground level play space.
Oh thanks Juniorjones, I'll go and take a look.
We are on the Haringey side too and even if we were not actively looking at reception school places for next September and therefore researching, looking around schools etc. we were informed independently of the consultation by our local residents association and we saw there were leaflets about it at our nursery etc. Perhaps you were just unlucky in not seeing it? But like I say we are looking out for this stuff.
Regarding building timelines, going on what I gained by speaking with both the architect and representatives of the construction team. They are looking at a 3 week demolition followed by a Spring/Summer build.
So, aside from digging out the footings/foundations which necessarily has to be done on site - a lot of the piling and framework for the building will be precast off site then delivered for construction. This is a remarkably quick process, (aside from their reassurances, I have independent experience of this construction method elsewhere), and a three storey building such as the plans suggest could be achieved in the time proposed. This then leaves a shell to be clad in whatever final surface treatment they propose, typically a combination of glazing, brickwork and/or timber cladding. The required lifespan for these buildings is 100 years plus, so they are not some temporary quick fix. To contextualise - the current Ashmount building is 57 years old.
This all looks to be doable within the allowed timeframe, but, I agree, it is quite tight. Even so, the whole thing does not have to be totally complete. It is only essential in the very early stages that there is enough room for two reception and two year one groups with some communal/auxiliary facilities for both pupils and staff, this, I feel is definitely achievable. The situation with Rutherford House, their 'sister school' in Balham, was very similar when we visited last year - Building in place, but not fully fitted out or furnished but this was rolled out, as required, over the year and everything was then fully finished in February this year.
Sure, I simply stressed 'no formal' links for emphasis and to scotch the notion that ASAG and those associated with WPS were in cahoots. They never seemed related in any real sense beyond the narrow outcomes of the Ashmount site.
I entirely agree with you that parents (amongst others) need to be made aware of various divisions and arguments. It was not making people aware of the arguments that I took issue with, my objection was I felt you were conflating ASAG and WPS /Bellevue and that act might obfuscate matters.
It seems quite clear to me, and from your last post, now to you also, that WPS/Bellevue Place and ASAG are following separate paths.
I attended the ASAG meeting last night where this was confirmed - the Bellevue Place Education Trust was not supporting or in anyway endorsing the ASAG proposal to retain the whole site for educational use. One can only presume they will be concentrating on making a success of the new school within the proposed 50/50 split site. This at least will provide both schooling & housing, not as much space for either as some would like, but personally I feel it is the most pragmatic solution to what has, so far, been quite a protracted and torturous episode.
So ASAG and Bellevue Ltd not associated then, and whether they were in the past (as ASAG claimed, also in the past) they walk seperate paths now. So water unmuddied on this point. As you were at the ASAG meeting can you say whther they are going ahead with their threat of legal action against the site division?
What you say about the building not being fully finished until say February 2016 sounds quite sensible to me, But I would point out that that is not what Whitehall Park School seem to be telling parents. A neighbour of mine assures me she was told that the new building would be ready for the children in September 2015 and referred me to the web site. So I had a look. This is what is on the website
"We will provide more information on the draft ideas from the architects once we receive them and keep you informed on progress. The contractor is currently working on a detailed project plan for the design and build of the school, but is still working on the assumption that the new building will be handed over in September 2015 ready for the school to move in."
Regarding ASAG/WPS/Bellevue etc. You should of course draw your own conclusions based on your own evidence and experience. I can only offer, should it really need mentioning, my own personal opinions.
The ASAG meeting? Yes there still seemed to be a healthy appetite for legal action, but as I was primarily interested in how this may effect the new school, and having come to the conclusion that any further action on the part of ASAG would have no real detrimental effect on its opening, I left. There were however some scruffy unshaven men in dirty Barbour jackets scribbling into steno pads who may well have been local hacks, but this being North London, its so very hard to tell. Be on the look out for some mention in the local press/free-sheets for sure.
Just to clarify. I made no mention of Feb 2016 as a finish date for WPS, what I did say was - Rutherford House, in Balham, was finished in Feb this year.
If WPS are giving reassurances for a September 2015 handover, why doubt it until there is evidence to the contrary? I assume this statement on their website is informed by what their architects, builders & engineers are telling them, and they are ultimately in a better position than most to give good council.
On ASAG and its relationship with Bellevue I dont think we need be far apart in the sense that while ASAG claimed a close connection in the past, and there was also some evidence for this, there is no reason why this might no longer be true and your information (and therefore opinions) be more up to date than mine.
My suspicions that there MIGHT be some kind of continuing relationship, but not one they would wish to either disclose or discuss arises from this consideration.
Over the many years in which ASAG fought to prevent Ashmount School from moving so that the vacated site could not be used for council housing they frequently threatened legal actions both against the Council and individual members of the community who disagreed with them. The main weapon was a threatened application for Judicial Review at various stages of a long, and convoluted decision progress, threats of JRs against Islington. against the Mayor of London and so forth. Each time the threat had the fact of halting the process for three months until the time limit for a JR had expired.
However they never actually did it, they did investigate whether legal aid could be obtained, but under the stricter rules of today there was no pathway available for that. So the assumption was reasonable that what put them off is cost. A JR is VERY expensive.
Now for the first time, soon after they have declared friendship with a company that makes millions of pounds a year in profit, they do appear to have the money to apply for a JR. A JR which if they win would simultaneously get what ASAG want (no council housing) and greatly benefit Bellevue by doubling the size of the site. But given Bellevue's need to maintain a good relationship with the DfE any suggestion that they might be involved in suing the DfE would be one they would wish to avoid...
So you would expect them, to, in public show no connection with ASAG as far as the legal action is concerned. And of course they may, (on the advice of their lawyers?) actually have no connection. With my suspicions of a covert one, groundless...
I was at the meeting in public of the Islington Council Executive last night.
They announced that the ASAG legal action had been heard by a Judge. ASAG lost, and costs were awarded against them. ASAG have now upped the anti by lodging an appeal (more costs!) which will probably be heard before Christmas.
Further to the cost of a Judicial review.
A solicitor friend tells me that the cost to each party of JR is in the region of ten thousand pounds.
Now ASAG were taking the Secretary of State to JR, but chose to have Islington Council added as a party so they had to have a legal team as well.
So ASAG, so far, will have run up three sets of costs. That is in the region of 30 thousand pounds.
Now for the ASAG version of events - a new posting on their web site here:
You will see that their version is a bit different from Islington Council's.
1.They claim that 51 per cent of the site is being taken for housing
2. That this means that Whitehall park School will only have half the playground space a school should have
3.They have the support of Whitehall Park School
As I understand it ASAG are seeking the funding for any possible Judicial Review from local residents, and if their case is unsuccessful all costs will be exclusively their's - they alone will be responsible for paying both their and any other parties' costs, with no drain on the public purse.
If private individuals decide to pursue this, it is their right to do so, they have been made aware of the risks. If, on the other hand their case is successful it will have been decided so by an impartial judiciary.
So with the above in mind, I find your inferred notion that Bellevue is now somehow meeting the ASAG legal costs, on the quiet, to be both surprising & implausible in equal measure. This would be an extremely reckless act on their part. Is this really what you are suggesting?
Those associated with setting up the Whitehall Park School entered into a Funding Agreement with the EDA within the Department for Education. This was no doubt a fairly comprehensive contract, which now signed and agreed, is binding. Any such contract would almost certainly contain a clause, or even several varying clauses to the effect that - You do not subsequently take the Department for Education to court over those agreed terms.
Even if such a clause did not exist it would be extraordinarily shortsighted with a foolhardiness bordering on stupidity that one would contemplate such an act. Especially if, as you yourself have mentioned, you ever wanted to work with the DfE on opening up more schools in the future.
It is also very important to stress that the overall nature of the Judicial Review concerns itself with ASAG challenging the DfE's decision on the change of use of land.
Specifically the 51% of the total Ashmount site being changed from educational use to residential use.
In no way is the Judicial Review asking, requesting or demanding, or any such like, that the Department for Education is to somehow give the land over to Whitehall Park School. Should ASAG's challenge be successful there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever, nor even any implication that this will necessarily benefit WPS in anyway. In light of this I feel your claim that it would "benefit Bellevue by doubling the size of the site" to be fallacious.
I think we all now know what can happen when we make assumptions about the future use of land and what we can or can't do with it.
In any case WPS seem to have totally committed themselves already to the compromised split and it looks to me like they are trying to make the best school they can on the 49% of the site allocated to them. They would have presumably already assigned their budget towards the design and construction costs of a new school building to be ready for a September 2015 handover based on that 49% split.
The whole ASAG Judicial Review thing is undoubtably interesting. But seeing as it will have little or no effect on any actual existent school it seems at best a sideshow, parallel to the primary concern of this thread which is choosing a place for reception aged children for next September, a concern which I feel it is in danger of being distracted from.
So, on that note - we shall be visiting WPS this Friday to see how it runs on a day to day level. I shall be happy to post our findings for any interested parent who can't manage a visit. Also it would be really useful if any current parents/carers could please give us their views, nearly one term in, on how it's all going? Thanks.
As to who is actually paying for the legal action well, all I have, by the nature of the thing is conjecture. If Bellevue were to be supporting ASAG in anyway, as you point out they would be mad to do it in a way that was detectable. Maybe ASAG really have raised 35,000 pounds from contributions by their neighbours. I wonnt argue the point.
However I do find it surprising that you seem to feel that the size of the playground is not a relevant issue for parents who may be choosing the school, and uninterested (it seems) in exploring the very real disagreement between Islington Council and ASAG on the size of the site. The assertion that Whitehall Park School are in favour of ASAG's stance, is made by ASAG on their website.....
Yes, I do believe the size of a playground is an overall relevant concern. Yet in the end a compromise has been reached and that is the true reality of the situation. I have spoken with the design team during the consultation period and they are confident that they have created as much play space as possible, and it will be sufficient through incorporating the roof as an additional outdoor space. As parents choosing schools ourselves, where possible we are considering everything to the nth degree, and think what they will be able to create is a decent, workable solution.
The claim on ASAG's site is that WPS "would like the whole space for the school", that is hardly a controversial comment, find me a school that does not want more space. It is not the same as saying they favour ASAG's stance, nor, by implication that they favour the Judicial Review.
Here it is important to re-emphasise the point. The Judicial Review is challenging the Secretary of States decision to change the 51% of the site from educational to residential use. Even if the JR is successful it does not mean WPS will get the land, it just means the land stays in educational use. It will not be 'handed over' to anybody. All that will happen is no housing will be built on that land, and a stalemate will occur. Whatever else happens the new WPS will still be built on the other 49%. The JR, successful or otherwise will not change this. It will not necessarily result in more playground or more anything. Just further disagreement between LBI & ASAG; a disagreement that already has a long history and still may have an equally long future. Who knows?
In the mean time we have to consider reception places in the here and now and we must make that decision on the best evidence we can get in that same here and now, and not base our decisions, where possible, on unknowable outcomes or, as I'm sure you will appreciate - on conjecture.
@foxmonaught and anyone else thinking about Whitehall Park for next year.
I would be very happy to share my thoughts about how things are going one term in.
My son loves it, we love it and the kids are making amazing progress so bottom line is we are very happy. Feel free to send me a private mail with any particular areas you would like to hear about.
I think we need not either of us expend further energy on the JR issue: The hearing is scheduled for 17 December so after that date we should know what the outcome is, and whether it has any practical effect on the issues parents take into account when choosing a school.
However I am intrigued by your view that we should accept WPS giving reassurances for a September 2015 completion. You say "why doubt it until there is evidence to the contrary"
Can I just ask what will count as evidence to the contrary?
If I were a parent I would want to see their current project plan.
"I have just had an email from someone I know who lives in Islington and I thought I would pass it on:-
Any parents interested in applying to Whitehall Park School in Islington and interested in finding out more about the Ashmount Site Action Groups various criticisms of the plan for the old Ashmount site, including their core claim that:
'The play space for the children will be half the recommended size in the Government’s own guidelines'
or about the court hearing of a legal action being taken against the Secretary of State for Education by the Ashmount site Action group, or you just want to drop in and give your views, will be welcome at:_
84 Whitehall Park
7 December 2014, between 10.30 and 12.30 "
It does seem to me FOX that anyone considering this school would want to make up their own mind regarding the playground issue, and this event looks like a good chance to get a proper understanding of the ASAG point of view. Its particularly interesting as they have always been, so I understand, supporters of Whitehall Park School. And they seem to be spending a lot of money in support of their point of view.
It would perhaps have been a little more likely for anyone to get a proper understanding of the issues involved through attending this event if this information was posted before it actually happened. Never mind though, this subject has been detailed recently up-thread.
Two quick points:
- Any claims made by ASAG about percentages of play space 'lost' were made well before WPS had even issued concept drawings for the new building so the percentage of play space available at that time was unknowable, therefore any claim was, at best, guesswork
- The raison d'être for ASAG is the retention of the whole Ashmount site for educational use. They support WPS principally because of it being a school. They would I am sure, be equally supportive of almost any other conceivable project, provided it was a school or educational establishment.
Finally, of course - people should be allowed to make up their own mind on these matters, nobody could reasonably disagree with that. This should be assisted through the provision of accurate and relevant information wherever possible, seeing as the fraught decisions, that some of us are currently undertaking, will effect our children's development and future well being, it is only fair and right that we make every effort to provide the best information we can in this respect.
The JR was never an issue for me in the sense that it will not, in my opinion, have any adverse effect on the opening of the new school building for WPS. But yes, lets leave it, at least until after the hearing on the 17th Dec.
I will only refer to it here partly by way of an attempt to answer your question "…what will count as evidence to the contrary?"
After the 17th Dec we shall have some clear evidence as to how a specific situation (application for JR) is progressing or otherwise. Different and differing groups of people will be anticipating various outcomes in accordance with their beliefs and expectations. At least some of these people on the 17th Dec will inevitably be provided with 'evidence to the contrary' - that is, it will then be clear to them that things will not be going the way they initially thought they would.
As far as the completion date for the new WPS building goes we have been given a handover date of September 2015. Now, this date has been given by parties associated with the school and one could well make the argument that they will give a more optimistic account than those who oppose WPS. But, the claim is also made by design and construction professionals who are making an informed statement that will be based on solid evidence derived from professional acumen and past experience of similar situations.
So far, this is the evidence we have. A claim for a completion date has been made. What we are currently without is any evidence to the contrary, that is - no contrary or counter claim has been made from an equally informed, demonstrable position. This may well come, but as yet I see none being offered. A key word here of course is 'evidence' not improbable speculation, conjecture, innuendo etc.
It hardly needs saying, but I am not for one minute suggesting we passively accept any claims made and I would also consider it a given that any prospective parents should examine all the plans, furthermore they should ring the school, visit the school and importantly ask questions, raise any doubts they have and consider the answers given, carefully. This is the only way we can form any practical body of evidence on which to make as informed a decision as possible.
So with that In mind, and also because I said I would report back on our visit to WPS for the benefit of anybody interested I will try and put up a brief outline later on when I get the chance…
Well done to everyone that organised and joined us yesterday at our first PTCA event at Whitehall School Park. It was amazing to be part of the team of teachers, parents and community members bringing us together to celebrate our school and our children while raising funds and awareness for the school. Seeing their small faces proudly sing to the crowd has encouraged me to post and give some insight from a personal perspective.
Prospect parents my advice as a current parent who had endless nights deciding on whether to go with a school I knew nothing about and had no building or whether to choose an established school, is to go and visit the school. I don't think it is for everyone. It is a very focused, driven school where students are challenged and good behaviour is part of everything.
In addition we are in porta cabins. For me and my child this is not an issue at all, nor any of the others I know mind or even notice this. I would not be upset if they didn't have a building for another year.... but you need to decide if you can live with this, just in case there is a delay with the new site.
This is what I know and what we have experienced so far:
My child loves being in a small school. He doesn't miss not having older peers because he knows no differently and I'm not sure he would even want older kids given a choice.
He loves the individual attention he gets. The classes are subdivided for phonics and he is being challenged daily. His teacher gives him extra work and tasks to ensure that he is engaged.
He loves going to breakfast club where he is in a small group and gets extra playtime with his friends.
He loves football and can't wait to start Yukilale in the after school clubs.
He has made good friends and loves being able to walk or cycle to school.
He loves the art and drama that is incorporated into daily classes.
He loves the school meals.I'm less happy about this.
What I love:
His Learning Journal is unbelievable. Every page is filled with different activities that they do,all outlines with the learning element involved.
Being close to school.
The hard working and dedicated staff who are creative and passionate.
The lovely parents.
The art from junk materials.
Being greeted at the gate by the Head teacher or another member of staff daily.
The opportunities to get involved as a parent in the class setting.
The openness to other religions and sensitivity around this.
The huge opportunities given to these kids.... they have been on an outing to the science museum, been to a church for Harvest Festival, had a winterwonderand land event yesterday, and on Weds is their Nativity play. They have recorded a CD of winter songs by a professional team of parents...all of this in 2 months. How does this compare to other reception classes?
We are all, except one, new parents with our eldest or only child at WHP, so we can't compare our experiences to other schools but naming these different activities that have been done in 2 months makes me a proud parent but also astonished at how much the school has done for the kids while still doing everything else involved in running a school.
I'm happy to answer any questions.
Congratulations Rafaz on your first ever post on Mumsnet..... Almost as if you had joined Mumsnet for the sole purpose of making this post... but then perhaps you will prove me wrong by being active on Mumsnet in other threads beside those that mention Whitehall Park School. Or perhaps you will be like some others who only ever post to say how marvellous Whitehall Park School is.
Yet consider: In your comprehensive list, you list as special features of Whitehall Park School things which are actually commonplace in schools in Islington and Haringey.
Your implication by the way that the school is "not for everyone" as it "encourages good behaviour" : Surely you do not mean to suggest that the other schools in the area do NOT encourage good behaviour?
@nlondondad, there was a request a few posts ago for current parents of children at whitehall park to post their thoughts about the school which @Rafaz kindly has done. He/she is not saying any of the above is unique to WPS just what his/her experience of the school is. Not quite sure why the fact it is a first post is an issue, lots of people watch threads without necessarily posting and lots of people only post about a single subject which they are interested in. I know it pains you to hear something positive said about the school but the reality is that the children who are there are very happy.
@rafaz makes an important point about behavior. Whitehall Park School uses the Stay on Green behaviour policy, including Bronze, Silver and Gold awards for exceptionally good behaviour and achievement. You can read more about it here: www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk/stay-on-green/ . I think that the policy works well, and many schools use it, but it may not be for everybody, and prospective parents should take the time to understand both the behaviour policy and the focus on academic achievement, as they are core parts of the school's ethos.
...Whitehall Park School Visit
As promised, but unfortunately delayed by tedious back-to-back winter illness…
We visited the school for one of the open days last Friday week, where we got a chance to meet the teachers, teaching assistants and see the children at work/play. The fact of it is - it all looks pretty good and by that I mean it all looks pretty normal, it was a situation that we had seen many times before, and in line with other schools in the area. Except here, rather than being whisked through seven different year groups we had only the one reception year to focus on, so we had time to take a good look at all the Gruffalo & Snowman related work the children were currently doing (the idea here being they develop literacy, numeracy and communication skills by exploring the themes/content found in the books). It all appears to be in line with the National Curriculum Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and similar to learning activities we have seen in the other primaries we have been to visit.
The teachers with whom I spoke were confident and articulate and they really seemed to be relishing the opportunity they had been given. I do not make this last point, as some throwaway comment; I was really struck by how genuinely enthusiastic the teachers were, it left me with a really good sense of the standards one could expect from WPS. Similarly, Laura, the head teacher, seems to possess the necessary verve and gumption to steer this new school along the right path. It was the same reassuring feeling I got from the heads of the other schools we liked, and overall we were impressed and convinced of her ability to head WPS.
Having visited a fair few primary schools over the last 18 months or so I can say the standards in all of them were pretty decent. I think as parents we will all inevitably tend to base our decisions on details that are additional to the core education, some are perhaps trivial, some less so. I think the anxiety that some parents feel (myself included) about their child not 'thriving' in one school over another is perhaps a burden we bring upon ourselves, but merely identifying this anxiety does little to explain it away. We remain anxious about making the 'right' decision; the 'just so' school though, is perhaps only to be found at the end of the rainbow.
So with that in mind, I think Whitehall Park School deserves our serious consideration. Whilst allowing for the fact that we have to somehow 'strategise' our choices on the schools application form I would consider it in our top three. The other two schools that we like & 'feel good' about, are still a fair distance away, we are well outside of their catchment area, but perhaps we might get an offer during the spring/summer 'churn'. We have seen several other decent schools besides these but the reality is we won't have the slightest chance of getting in.
In the end WPS will be our local school, and there is a lot to be said for that, not least because it is the one that we can actually walk to, but there are many other obvious advantages a local school can offer. Like I said, I think it deserves serious consideration & I hope this post will actually be of some help to any parents making these choices at the moment.
I have signed up again as Rafaz1 because I cant seem to log in with Rafaz.
Following on from Foxmonnought- the children follow a book for two weeks, a relatively easy book, so that it can be used in multiple capacities. The children's maths, art, writing, spelling etc will be based on the book. As Laura explained to us, this creates continuation and makes a lot of sense to children rather than jumping from one subject to the next, they move from one book cycle to another book cycle.
If any prospect parents would like to meet up and ask questions I am happy to do this at any point, please don't be shy. I know what a difficult decision this is and that it may not be suitable to ask every question on this forum. We could get a couple of prospect parents together if there is the take up.
I thought there might be some interest in this, and unlike my previous posting of information about this group its not out of date!
A report from the Ashmount Site Action group
NEWS FROM THE ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE
Before JOHN HOWELL QC
(Sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge)
Wednesday 17 December, 2014
ASAG today had its day in Court - but it is with great sadness that we now write to say that ASAG were denied the Judicial Review that was believed would have seen the Secretary of State and London Borough of Islington give proper credence to the Government’s own playground regulations and not give the playground site over to housing development.
The Secretary of State and London Borough of Islington have asked for, and been awarded, £10,000 towards their costs - a large sum that surely prevents any thought of appeal.
The judgment makes a number of points, but the main thrust of the it says that the regulations have been not breached. This is galling because of course the former school enjoyed a decent playground, but the new one will have far less. Whatever the spirit of the regulations migt be, they do not protect play space. The judgment makes clear that the absence of proper guarantees in legislation or regulation leaves the Secretary of State and London Borough of Islington free to eliminate, if needed, all and any play space.
The absurdity of this judgment is plain - but the regulations are proven to be insufficient to safeguard the playground.
Children in the future will have to make do with what is left after the developers have had their land.
Under the circumstances, ASAG is not asking for any further donations, and will now review the funds it has already gathered to see if they match current awards made by the Court. However, ASAG does not expect to have to fund raise any further, pending a further public meeting and any new resolutions that any be made by the community.
Whatever the specific considerations that led John Howell QC to reject the application for Judicial Review, one of ASAG's central arguments was the claim that a split site would result in a diminished & restricted use of playground space, with all the negative implications that that would entail. I have always considered this a problematic and questionable claim (see upthread) & have come across some relevant information on WPS's own website quoted below, that appears to dissolve such a claim.
[Whitehall Park School] "are advised by the EFA that the configuration of the site when occupied by the former Ashmount Primary School contained 3,222sqm of deemed playing field land for a 3FE primary school. The current proposals for the newly designed 2FE primary school will provide a total of 3,987sqm of playing field [The definition of playing fields are contained in the Department for Education Building Bulletin 99 and 103 and includes both hard and soft playing surfaces and does not just refer to grass playing areas.]
This increase of 765sqm occurs despite the reduction in the size of the site and is achieved by a more efficient building design."
it goes on to say…
"On the proposed site configurations, we will seek to provide a healthy curriculum that delivers two hours of physical education per student each week, along with after school activities that promote sports."
The only issue I would take with the above statement is that as I understand it, Ashmount Primary was not originally built as a 3FE (three form entry) but a 2FE, it was expanded to 3FE later to meet the increased demand for primary school places in the area, (imagine that). But even with taking that amendment into consideration, if the figures in sqm. quoted above are reasonably accurate this is still a 'like for like' increase in actual play space. So despite the impassioned rhetoric given by ASAG the loss, reduction or restriction of play space seems unfounded in any conceivable or practical terms, and through better design it seems the new school building may have more play space even with a site that has an overall smaller footprint.
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