West London free school

(36 Posts)
Tw1nmummy Tue 25-Sep-12 11:08:47

Really interested in feedback from anyone with a child there.......not interested in any moans about free schools or Toby young - just want to know what you think if you have a child there.

Thank you

Anomis Sun 26-Oct-14 12:28:20

I am about to choose my preferences for secondary school. I have visited Holland Park, West London Free School, Chelsea Academy, Ashcroft, Fulham Boys School, Ark Putney.
So far my choices are 1-Holland Park, 2-West London Free School, 3- Chelsea Academy, 4-Fulham Boys. Are there any parents who have children at Holland Park, West London Free School or Chelsea Academy who can give me some up to date feedback on their experience of the schools?
Many of the posts on here are old and I would like a more recent opinion. Thanks in advance, any contribution will be much appreciated!
Also if anyone is at the WLFS how are you finding the fact that there are no technical or vocational subjects? I like the sound of a classical education and my son's passion and forte is writing and English.

timetoplaysanta Wed 27-Nov-13 09:17:37

dippingbackin - as someone who tries to keep an open mind on things, your anecdote suggests that the turnover could well be a story of:
1. Highly employable experienced teachers were originally nervous about joining the school (which was experimental, controversial and in a state of pre-opening fluster at the time)
2. The school was forced to employ less experienced teachers instead
3. They replaced them as soon as they could with more experienced teachers; perhaps the inexperienced teachers realised they weren't making the grade and moved on of their own accord, or perhaps they were "let go". Either way I wouldn't expect the school to comment publicly.

I don't know if that's the truth, but it's just as likely as the implied conclusion that "they all left because they hated working there".

Smile4Life Tue 26-Nov-13 22:13:31

Interesting thread. I agonised over WLFS and Holland Park, for my DS, for entry next year, and at the last minute changed my order of preference from one to the other, when my son was placed on the short list for music aptitude. School size was another big influence, even though the Ofsted report suggested room for improvements, which I found a little disconcerting... In all honesty, I still lack certainty as to what would be the best choice and am happy to leave it to Fate for now.

With regard to the Head leaving: at the open evening I attended, I made a point of asking the new Head why he had left, pointing out that many prospective parents found this a little worrying. He replied that the old Head was now involved in commandeering the ship that is responsible for floating all the schools: the organisation that is the West London Free Schools (as they are planning to open even more schools in the near future), as opposed to just the secondary school. It sounds like he is still very much involved.

Hope this helps.

dippingbackin Sat 23-Nov-13 21:19:15

I was offered a job at WLFS when it first opened and turned it down due to the sheer lack of organisation and planning. The position was as a Head of Department and was eventually given to a teacher who had 2 years experience (at the time I had 8 years teaching experience). I happened to be looking in the TES and saw a job advert that indicated she had left after a year.

Goldenspots' list of teachers that have left is highly indicative of a school that is not in a 'good place'. Teacher turnover is higher in London than elsewhere but it is rare for that to be at the Head of Department level.

I am also intrigued to know why the much lauded Headteacher that was in place when it opened has left. I have tried, with no luck, to find out - even resorted to tweeting one of the founders about it but had no response.

Would be really interested to hear from a parent who has a child in Year 8 as to why he left or if no reason was given.

Decisiontimesoon Sun 17-Nov-13 16:48:16

That seems an incredible number of department heads for a school which is in it's 3rd year - what is going on there.

Goldenspots Thu 14-Nov-13 19:50:19

Friends son was going to apply for a job there, put off by the following:
in the two and a half years the school has been open the staff turnover has been:

1 Headmaster has left - no one knows why.
1 Director of Studies has left
1 Head of English has left
1 Head of languages has left ( and the 2nd is about to leave, see website)
1 Head of Classics has left
1 Head of Physics has left
1 Head of Divinity has left
1 Maths teacher has left

Quite high staff turnover for a small new school. Sometimes something to be worried about sometimes not.

Elibean Thu 26-Sep-13 14:24:46

Re parental contributions: I do agree. Asking for/expecting or even loudly 'suggesting' regular specific amounts is not on, IMO.

I'm delighted that our primary PTA has decided to make standing order info available for parents who want to support the school that way, rather than asking for or expecting money. There are other ways to support the school (time, for example, or even baking a cake) and although it seems fairly common for schools to ask for regular contributions these days, I think its extremely divisive.

Elibean Thu 26-Sep-13 14:22:50

Oops, said 'streaming' when I meant 'setting'.

I don't think we're going to look at this school after all. Very unlikely to get in, and just doesn't sound the right place for my dd1 - though absolutely does for some other kids, different personalities smile

doorkeeper Thu 26-Sep-13 11:29:42

My kid isn't there, but one thing a friend whose son is there told me really struck me: the pressure on parents to set up a "voluntary" monthly payment to the school of £35/month. (My friend wasn't complaining - she was expressing her distress and shame to me that she couldn't afford that much.) I've got no problem with schools roping parents in to help with fundraising, and indeed I think involving parents is an actively good idea, but this isn't that, and is IMO a fundraising step too far. Combine that with the huge cost of the uniform, and I think the much-vaunted diversity of the place will soon disappear, as lower-income parents self-select not to apply for places.

Ragusa Thu 26-Sep-13 09:57:18

Ah well, IIRC would be one of the few grounds they could make a case on - insufficient physical space. However, lots of free schools are not in purpose-built spaces, but are instead in portacabins, on temporary sites, or are in recycled buildings.

It will be interesting to see what happens with free schools and class sizes.

DiaryofaHollandParkParent Thu 26-Sep-13 06:14:42

Re the last point, a school in a neighbouring borough had class sizes of 27 for several years and successfully defended it at appeal saying the building was purpose built to accommodate that number blah blah. They have now moved to 30 per class - they needed the extra funding...

Ragusa Wed 25-Sep-13 23:28:39

I don't understand how free schools can guarantee class sizes of 24 either. I think if they tried to preserve smaller class sizes they would be leaving themselves wide open to appeal.

ASN5 Wed 25-Sep-13 19:41:08

I think there needs to be clarity on the difference between streaming and setting. Streaming usually implies pupils are placed in teaching groups based on their ability in one subject and they remain in those teaching groups for all subjects. Setting is placing pupils into teaching groups based on their ability on a particular subject, i.e. you can be set 1 for maths and set 3 for english.
The Headmaster said that science, maths, english and languages are set gradually, from Y7, as pupils' abilities are understood. To me, this makes complete sense.
The Headmaster also said that the sixth form will open in 2015 or 2016 and his preference was for 2015.
I asked about football and the answer I got was that 'there is so much football in the community that offering different sports gives pupils a broader spectrum of choice". The Headmaster said that this school is not for everyone; your choice.
I hope my daughter attends this school.

Elibean Wed 25-Sep-13 16:51:50

Isn't there going to be a sixth form? confused

Elibean Wed 25-Sep-13 16:51:12

Several friends went to the open evening yesterday, and all quite liked it. One asked specifically about the lack of streaming: the Deputy Head said it had been recognized as a problem, but was originally due to small numbers - however, they are now going to start streaming for English and Maths from the beginning, and for the other subjects a couple of years in. He also said that in classes that weren't streamed, they have two teachers for 24 kids - so lots of support.

One friend was put off by the lack of cookery/DT etc on display - and thought Latin in place of 'fun stuff' was a bit much. But she liked it otherwise, especially the science department, and felt the Y7 kids showing her around were happy.

This is all second hand, obviously, as I have no personal experience of the school. We're probably bang on the 1.5 mile distance from it, and I'm not sure (given the numbers who were at the open evenings!) whether its worth even thinking about it. Though I'll probably go and see it next September.

My friend's ds who started there a few weeks back is enjoying it, so far.

sinclair Wed 25-Sep-13 16:40:13

not a parent there but live and work in the area so know several who are, and they seem to be happy with the school.

I gather the new head (was the Deputy I think) is a good thing - parents prefer him and his style to the original head.

We were a bit put off by the lack of football (DS) and sixth form (me) - so didn't look this time around - but I would check exactly what they are offering for Sept 14 as presumably as the school grows they may add IT, football etc and introduce streaming - there is more flexibility in the timetable now as it is 3x the size as two years ago.

The inexperienced/unqualified staff thing doesn't bother me so much as I think youth and enthusiasm can go a long way and it isn't teaching to public exams yet - they will staff up as they grow.

tomtommum Wed 25-Sep-13 12:59:02

went to WLFS yesterday. They're still in the temporary site for another 12 months. But I am also curious to know, like decisiontimesoon, why there is a new head 2 years after opening. Seems very strange to me. I talked to a mum who went 2 years ago, and said the new head seems comparatively more impressive, but does leave a big question mark in my mind.

Does anyone with children at WLFS know ?

DalmationDots Sat 14-Sep-13 16:27:19

I believe, Farewelltoarms lots of the young staff in schools like WLFS and the other new academies are Teach First graduates who have done their two years training with Teach First and move on to these new academies/schools to get middle management positions.
I personally love TF, having worked with them on some training and had TF teachers in my school I have found them all so enthusiastic and dedicated and be prepared to go the extra mile (lots of non-TF teachers equally do this, not wanting to cause debate here!). I know it is controversial but this is just my opinion from my experiences. Schools no doubt employ them because they are young and so cheaper, but also are generally very effective.

Definitely agree though a school needs to be run by a mix of young teachers with boundless energy and fresh ideas, combined with older experienced teachers. Too much of either young or old is never a good idea.

Decisiontimesoon Sat 14-Sep-13 10:31:29

Is it true they have a new head -their ofsted report talks about new leadership? That means they have changed after only 2 years - what happened to the first one? What is staff turnover like?
wlmum You say there's lots of young staff - do they stay or move on. I think continuity of staff is vital for a school

Elibean Sun 08-Sep-13 19:56:03

A friend's ds has just started there. He quite likes it so far, though he says they are 'very strict' and isn't happy with the clubs that have been chosen for him (only up until half term, then they choose their own I think).

His mum would not have chosen it, herself. It was her ds's choice.

It will be interesting to hear more over the coming year (not for us, as we're probably out of catchment, but generally).

Farewelltoarms Sun 08-Sep-13 19:49:37

That is such a perceptive comparison - I do feel that there's so much Emperor's New Clothes in school choices. It's as though parents feel that their sense of worth as a parent (as well as possible their sense of their property's worth) is all tied up with cheerleading their offspring's school and schools have reputations (good and bad) that don't always match the reality.

I've always wondered how free schools can promise small class sizes. Wimum you seem to be saying it's by having inexperienced staff whose salaries are lower? That must be so tempting for those setting up schools especially if they have a strong sense of self-belief - the sort of 'I know better than these pesky teachers with their decades of experience'.

I'm sorry you're not happy with your children's school, but in a way it's reassuring that education is, as we all suspected, a lot more complicated and worthy of our respect than some would have us believe.

wlmum123 Sun 08-Sep-13 15:30:46

I feel like this is a case of The Emperor's New Clothes. I know that other parents agree with the points I make here, but no one is saying it. I have a child at the school and I have found it very lacking. There is a high level of enthusiasm and lots of extra curricular focus but there is virtually no organisation, weak management and no quality control. It often feels like a free-for-all where there is no consistency, poor communication and there are occasionally some very, very unsafe practices that would never be tolerated in a properly managed school with real policies and procedures in place. All of the teachers and managers are very young and this means that energy levels are high, which is certainly appealing. But there is none of the steady, guiding wisdom of anyone with experience. Schools should be a mix of experienced wisdom and young energy. This school is lacking on the experience end of things and I think this is why things seem so often to be teetering on the edge of control, with events organised at the last minute and information communicated late at night on the weekends. I suspect that the small class sizes offer a significant advantage to weaker pupils but there is much less attention paid to the top end. It's true that the children are well behaved and respectful, but there are lots and lots of state schools with well behaved, respectful pupils.
I think this could be a great school; the ethos and inspiration is right. But I really believe that the policy of only hiring inexperienced staff, even into the highest of management positions, is holding them back.

wl85 Tue 30-Apr-13 17:20:47

There's an online community created by the Greater London Authority where you may also like to discuss free schools in general. This is the education section: http://tinyurl.com/c28zeqf

Hope this is of interest.

Relaxmum Tue 30-Apr-13 17:00:38

I’m a mother whoes child is at WLFS, to answer your concerns from my point of view
1.ICT is adequate based on the limitation they have in the temp building, however, I do also believe that the core subjects, the creativity and sports are more important than ICT training. I’m sure they will develop their IT skill when it’s integrated with other subjects. For future programmers and web developers , Good solid base in Physics and maths is more important than the ever changing IT courses.
2.We all hope the move will happen on the beginning of the autumn term however a few more months will not impact to the education and care the children get from such a dedicated staff. I also believe the school will do everything they can to limit the disruption they may encounter due to the share of the temporary building with the younger kids.
3.I may be oblivious to this but I’ve never heard from my DC if there is any discussion of political party.
4.Generally, the school is exceeding my expectation; My DC is very happy and I can see the progress he has made in subjects he never has exposure to such as Latin, French and even art. I do believe the foundation is there to success. The relationship between the teachers and the students is great. You can see I’m biased.
I hope you make the right choice for your child I know I did so far. Like the politicians and media, I'm also watching the school like hawk. So far everything is good, if ever I sense any concern, I'm out with plan Bsmile

ingok Sat 27-Apr-13 00:03:39

Renovation works are ongoing at Palingswick House. Realistically, the new building will most likely take longer to be completed than expected (3-6 months extra). The school Head has however reassured the parents that it has in place a number of contingency plans & sites which we believe should reduce the temporary disruption.

The IT structure at the WLFS is adequate, will get better once the new building is up and running. To me, focusing on ideas and core subjects is more important than learning how to prepare spreadsheets, and the WLFS is rightly putting more emphasis on the quality of learning, thanks to small classes and aiming for better academic standards. The headmaster Mr Naismith and most teachers are overall good and capable in motivating and stimulating the children despite the teething issues typical of a newly established school. OFSTED visit is due to take place in coming weeks and will provide additional information on the school's performance.

Yes, some of the school founders have a political bias, but what really matters to me is that they are genuinely committed to make a difference. Overall they have shown they have the ambition to make the WLFS a successful school. The Head and governors are under a lot of scrutiny from the government, the media and ultimately the parents and we expect them to deliver. This will take some time, but as long as the foundations are sound the school has a promising future. Happy to hear other parents' view on the school.

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