West London free school(42 Posts)
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.
I have a 12 year old daughter at the West London Free School who is in year 8. She loves the school. It was a risk to send her there as it was a brand new school but it has completely paid off. She has made so many lovely friends,she plays hockey, netball and rounders, sings in the choir, sings in a band, has gone on many cultural visits, has had french breakfasts in french restaurants and is going to Holland for a 3 day hockey trip. The teachers are very friendly but very strict too. I like the discipline in the school as i feel safe in the knowledge that she is safe and working hard. She's never late, always does her homework (which there is a lot of), and makes sure she is wearing the right uniform. The end of year exams were hard but she managed to get the grasp of revising and passed. The amount of progress she has made in one year is amazing both academically and socially. It was also a very easy transition from primary to secondary because of there being only 120 kids. This year, another 120 kids have joined, and so far they seem to be coping. They are in a temporary building until next September and I think once they have moved into Pallingswick House, it will go from strength to strength. Hope this helps and good luck. Please ask any more questions...am happy to answer.
That's so lovely to hear .....as you say, it's a risk with no proven track record but it sounds like its paying off for you. I watch with interest at the progress!
Hi, I am also a WLFS mum. Both my daughters are there - Year 7 and 8. I think the quality of teaching is excellent and I am also happy with the level of discipline. Both girls are settling in very well. Contrary to what you may hear in the media or by word of mouth, the school is not a middle-class enclave but a real microcosm of West London with children from all over the world and of all different abilities which in my view is a 'good thing'. My one gripe is the school sometimes fails to communicate certain information to parents, relying heavily on the children to let us know things like when they will be late home (from after-school sports, open evenings etc). But I think a lot of secondary schools are like that and as a parent, when you are used to regular and frequent communication at primary school, it comes as a shock when you have to rely on your children to let you know what time they are finishing! Are you thinking of applying?
I really love what the school is setting out to be - on the other hand it is still an experiment and a big risk to take ( I am sure you thought long and hard about it !). I found the deputy head rather intimidating, verging on the unlikeable - have you had any dealings with him?
He is actually really very nice....I think he wanted to make a point to parents about how strict the school is and if you don't like that then don't apply. He does so much more than the Headmaster......
I think the academic level is overall very good at the WLFS. The small size class of 24 students works well, streaming is being introduced to stimulate further the talented children and support those who need extra support and help, but above all I think the school's ethos and approach is across all abilities and social backgrounds. I think this also works thanks to the attentive group of teachers who are motivated and committed to make this school a stimulating learning experience. Parents are also actively involved and encouraged to play an important role in participating and supporting the school from fundraising, to music to school trips across Europe and other social events.
The school is only 1 year old and in my view has been doing remarkably well. There are of course still some teething problems that are being adressed. Issues involve the homework flow which can at times be uneven, and could be more rigorous at times (particularly maths), the logistics of getting the pupils to the various sport activities is not always efficient, IT or lab facilities are limited etc. and we all can't wait for the move to the Palinswick house new building which will happen in September 2013. Overall I really believe that the foundations for a good and successful school are in place.
Can I also comment on concerns about the deputy head. He is actually is very approachable. But he is very keen to get the message across to parents that if they don't agree with the school rules then they better look elsewhere because based on past experience if the parents are not on board, the pupils themselves will break the rules.
I also like the assessment techniques used. I won't go into the details but basically pupils are encouraged to do their personal best, based on data gathered using an online test carried out at the beginning of Year 7 - rather than compete against fellow pupils, which can demotivate the less able, or make the most able complacent. Apologies for that hideously long sentence!
I'll put it another way - my daughter entered secondary school confident but with fairly low self-esteem and her greatest ambition was to be a model. A year on, and she wants to be a lawyer!!!
Can I resurrect this thread in the hope of catching some WLFS parents?
I'm local to WLFS but only know one set of current parents. I asked their opinion (we don't need to apply until later this year) and they raised some concerns. There main concern in the lack of any ICT training which I was shocked to hear as competence on computers is so key to career success. Is this something that worries other parents?
I have also heard the secondary will stay in temporary accommodation for longer than planned and will have to share space with the new primary. Is this true? How will 11-13 year olds share with 4-5 year olds without scaring them? When will the full move take place?
The schools' founders clearly have strong political views. I have no problem with that in itself but would not like my children to be led to support one political party over any other. Is this a problem at the school?
Those are my three main questions but I'd welcome any other views from current parents.
Yes I've heard the new building will not be ready this coming September 2013 and they will have to share the campus with the new primary school children. They are installing portocabin style buildings in the playground to accommodate everyone. I heard this last summer from a reliable source.
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.
Im 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. Im sure they will develop their IT skill when its 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 Ive 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 Im 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 B
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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 ?
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.
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.
Isn't there going to be a sixth form?
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.
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.
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