Putney Ark Academy or Richmond Park Academy?

(40 Posts)
joochiat Thu 14-Mar-13 06:13:22

Anyone have any first hand experience of Putney Ark or RPA? I've read posts about RPA but nothing on Putney (formerly Eliot). OK I know they were both failing schools in well to do areas that have been taken over by Academies. We currently live in Singapore and so don't know much about this sort of situation, but since we'll be returning in June its going to be a hurry to find places for Year 7 Sept!! Doesn't look like we'll get much of a chance with any of the oversubscribed schools in Putney or Richmond, so now I'm trying to get my head around these two academies. Any advice would be great....my kid is very sporty, fairly academic, and used to a small school and inquiry-based learning.

The deadline for application for entry to Y7 in Sept 2013 was October 2012, so I reckon you are right it will be difficult to find a place when you get here in June.

I am in Wandsworth. Out of the two I would recommend RPA (there should be spaces in both, to be honest, as they have a history of being under subscribed as opposed to oversubscribed).

RPA is in a lovely location, fab buildings. I went to an open day there and was impressed. RPA has good sports facilities.

You could also consider Christs, in Richmond, a little further out, but a good school.

" OK I know they were both failing schools in well to do areas " That does not apply to Ark so much.... The vicinity of Putney is well to do, but not particularly the immediate area of ARK. (I live a stones throw away)

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 15:52:32

I'm interested in opinions too as I live in the area and need to start thinking about secondary schools. I don't iunderstand tough, Putney and Richmond a far apart, where are you going to live and how will your child get to school?

RPA is just a short bus ride down Upper Richmond road, just across the borough border in Richmond, not in Richmond town.

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 15:56:07

Why does the area matter anyway? A part from proud? My daughter goes to a primary school surrounded by council blocks and poor families and is extremely happy and doing well. I wouldn't t change for the other schools in the neighbourhood with more 'posh' housing around. Oh, I know...is to do with ESL, FSM, SEN......

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 15:58:49

If my daughter goes to RPA she will need two buses if I'm not driving by than. Anyway, I don't know much about secondary schools but you can apply to other boroughs? Isn't distance from home a criteria?

You can apply to other boroughs on your LEA application form. Distance to school matters somewhat, but some schools require you to sit an exam, like Ashcroft, and St Cecilias have a preference for children baptized into CofE who are practicing Christians (they get priority), or who are musical. John Bosco is a Catholic school, as is Wimbledon College, and you need to demonstrate that you are a practicing Catholic. There are plenty of schools in wandswort, so if you require two buses to RPA it may not be convenient for your dc, but for me, for example, it is not so far away.

It all depends on where you live and what journey you envisage for your child.

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 16:10:44

PureQuintessence, do you know anything about primaries in the area too?? For me distance wise for secondary would be JB but she is baptised at CofE so StC or A would be an option. Are these good schools? Because I can't see us paying independent ever. Sorry OP for the hijack.

John Bosco will be moving to Battersea in the next few years. St Cecilia is a very good school I hear, we really liked it on Open Day, but it is tricky to get there for us. I know very little about the primaries, I am afraid. I only know the primaries in Putney proper, like Hotham, All Saints, St Marys and Our Lady of Victories, sort of area.

A is an ofsted outstanding secondary, but I would not send my dc there... They have a special wing for badly behaved children who dont get to take part in lessons with the other kids. Once in the "bad building" it is hard to get out....

Elibean Thu 14-Mar-13 19:01:56

I have a friend with a very bright ds, who is thrilled with RPA so far (he's in Y7).

But don't know anything about Putney schools, I'm afraid - amazing how I can live so close to Putney and not have a clue about schools out of Richmond Borough blush

Goodwordguide Thu 14-Mar-13 19:05:49

I would second quin - we live in the area and I would choose RPA over Eliot - RPA is in a nicer area (near a lovely park and allotments), it is a nicer building and has better facilities. It is also further along the 'journey' out of special measures and it is also very near the south circular, therefore easier to get to from most places in London.

muminlondon Thu 14-Mar-13 19:50:02

I know people who went to both schools years ago and have done very well in life. I think the present head of Ark Putney had already moved it out of special measures in its predecessor school before it became an academy. RPA (with head from redecessor school) has made that improvement since, with a more balanced intake this year, but AP still got slightly better results, especially looking more closely at English results, Ebacc for higher attainers, etc. Of academy chains, Ark seems to have better performing schools than AET, but that could just be the starting point.

Both schools have had local politicians upsetting the head/governors (RPA when it was Shene and Ark Putney). But I think there is a determination for both schools to succeed now.

BoringTheBuilder Thu 14-Mar-13 21:05:12

Well my daughter is still in Y1 so I shall wait and see. Or should I start worrying from now?

Copthallresident Thu 14-Mar-13 21:41:53

joochiat A former expat here, I am sure you have researched the admissions arrangements but when you go on a waiting list for a school you immediately get the priority you would have got under the admissions arrangements. In Richmond borough, all bar the faith schools, that is purely on distance, so move to the doorstep of a school and you are first on the waiting list. When we applied for Year 7 at the end of July for September (at that time you could not apply unless you were resident at the address, though we owned the house and could prove the tenants would be moving out, some people have suggested on here that there is some process now for returning expats but no detail so no idea what that might be, the Education Department will advise) from our house which was in Central Twickenham a place came up at the very oversubscribed Orleans and Waldegrave, three weeks into term. I think that there is a chance of the odd person dropping out at the last minute. Given it seems likely there will be spaces at RPA you might want to take a space there but live strategically for a school you may feel would suit your DC better. Christs, only has a small element of faith selection but is likely to be oversubscribed but it seems likely that the other school in Richmond Borough with spaces which will be available is a new Catholic School that has been established, St Richard Reynolds. Although it's admission arrangements favour Catholics they are undersubscribed and offering it to non Catholics who didn't even make it a preference. Obviously unproven but the former Christ's Head and they have a point to prove so pupils are likely to get lots of attention and focus.

joochiat Fri 15-Mar-13 07:14:21

Thanks everyone!
Copthallresident, thats v useful feedback. Actually we have no home in Uk so we will rent as appropriate as you suggest. Orleans was previously my first choice, but when I called the LEA it appeared the move away from feeder primaries has meant a lot more people have thought they are in with a chance there this year, meaning many more applicants. So being realistic we are looking at the academies (will keep that strategy in mind though for moving close to a first choice!!). I'm not overly attracted to the faith schools per se. DS is musical though, but I didn't want him to feel he was in a minority as a present non-church-goer.
Anyone else with a kid actually in RPA or Ark??
(BTW BoringBuilder: I am not picking the schools because I think they are in a socially "good" areas, I was only trying to give an indication of the level of knowledge I had about the schools when I started the post - i.e. v little! No that it matters but my view is that the most important factors for the success of a school are the teachers and the head teacher's motivation - to a large extent the kids are like putty. Plenty of motivational headteachers in previously failing schools seemed to have demonstrated that. On a smaller scale I see it as my kids pass through primary - some years the class teacher just has that magic thing and everyone gets fired up about learning, whilst other years the teacher is unsuited to the job and even smartest kids start messing about and losing focus.)

Copthallresident Fri 15-Mar-13 08:39:24

joochiat Did you see the thread on RPA www.mumsnet.com/Talk/secondary/a1579588-RICHMOND-Richmond-Park-Academy As you will see there is a buzz about the school at the moment and I was quite surprised it was so undersubscribed this year but Christs' increased it's capacity and I think Sheen parents have got so used to creative ways of avoiding the school, I know a family who sent one child to Isleworth and the other to Clapham, or tutoring their children for selectives, that it is taking a little more time for them to be persuaded. It also paid to gamble on getting another school such as Christs' on a higher preference on the basis that you would get into RPA on a lower preference anyway.

East Sheen ("home" of RPA) is also a lovely area, and not that hard to find decent rental accommodation.

anniesw Fri 15-Mar-13 17:12:55

joochat
I have a daughter in Y7 who is doing very well. She moved with several friends from a local primary. She settled very quickly, thanks to the dedicated Year 7 area - a wonderful facility. She walks to school, loves the lessons and has made fantastic progress thanks to inspirational teaching. She announced the other day that Latin is her favourite subject now.

The school is changing very quickly and a lot of local people are now supporting it and choosing it. The staff are great and offer a very high standard of pastoral care as well as a good educational experience. In fact there is a very good mix of very experienced staff and younger staff (unlike some of the schools which have far too many young and inexperienced staff)

muminlondon Fri 15-Mar-13 17:20:22

If you live closer to Richmond, you may have a better chance on waiting lists for Orleans Park, Christ's or Grey Court and still have good transport links for RPA if there are places there. Christ's has a very new music block so it's a strong subject. The downside is that property is very expensive and mostly flats or 2-bed houses (not related to school choice - many go private).

Crawfordsburn Mon 25-Mar-13 20:23:57

Think RPA would be the way to go. Most improved school in Richmond. Rated good by Ofsted. Opening an academic 6th form in Sept 2014. Great Head. Inspirational staff. £10,000,000 build in progress. This view formed by watching students going to and from school, talking to them and finding out what goes on behind school doors. If you want to find out what's happening in a school, ask a student - or two, or three - no better way ...

Hoover01 Mon 08-Apr-13 01:24:48

I have a DD at Ashcroft, she is happy, good group of friends, in lots of clubs, encouraged to excel at the subjects she enjoys, in a STEM club, part of enrichment programme and likes her teachers.
Don't place too much weight on anecdotal gossip you read from parents whose children don't attend Ashcroft. Make your own mind up. It is not to everyone's taste. However if your child is a science / techno buff, it is great!
As for discipline... removing disruptive children from classes, encouraging them to take part in school life and re-enter the main stream of school again appears to work and is of benefit to all students!

Crawfordsburn Wed 17-Apr-13 11:30:10

Just picked up a Richmond Park Academy magazine in Waitrose last week. Lots of info about this upwardly mobile local secondary. With its new build and lots of interesting things going on, seems to be educationally sound and a fun place to be. Anyone heard any reports from current students?

MrsSalvoMontalbano Wed 17-Apr-13 20:42:01

RPA is definitely on the up. Sadly too late for my DC, but friends with DC in Y7 and Y8 are very happy. Underperforming staff have been eased out, new staff very determined school will succeed, and zero-tolerance of poor behaviour.

muminlondon Mon 22-Apr-13 16:47:39

Both schools are now on the up - RPA was rated 'good' by Ofsted in October 2012 and Putney was rated 'good' in March 2013. At Ark Putney more students made expected progress in English and Maths and passed GCSE science in 2012 than at RPA.

Elibean Mon 22-Apr-13 21:41:47

A group of us from dd's primary went to look around RPA the other day, and were pretty impressed. A lot of building going on, and loads of students were out on a field trip, so hard to get a total picture - but staff were very enthusiastic, the classes are small, children are very well supported and all the kids we met were keen, well behaved, and happy to talk to us.

The pastoral care seemed excellent, and dd would love the art department....and we will go back and look at it again next year, as we have time.

Can't comment on Putney, as know nothing, but friends with children at RPA are very happy with it (one lad I know there is hugely bright, and his mum says he is being stretched appropriately).

anniesw Thu 25-Apr-13 18:22:41

RPA had a public speaking competition for some local primaries yesterday. Y5 children had been coached by RPA Y10 students - it was a great event and the students were impressive

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 26-Apr-13 09:01:29

Predicting here that in a few years time, say 4, Mumsnetters will be fretting about how to live near enough to get inot RPA grin, I think the 'tipping point' is reached or nearly reached in terms of local parents' confidence so likely to be a positive ratchet effect.

warwick1 Thu 16-May-13 14:20:20

Strange then that the Department of Education has barred the Academies Enterprise Trust which runs RPA from taking on any more schools because they are failing to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the schools that they are already managing.

Does the DFE know something that parents of RPA don't ?

Copthallresident Thu 16-May-13 17:38:32

Warwick What the parents at RPA and Ofsted know is that RPA has an outstanding leader and an outstanding team leading huge improvements, and courtesy of the sponsoring body they also now have the investment needed to implement their plan. I am probably sympathetic to your views on the wider issues around Academy sponsors but this local school was allowed to fall, through bad management and lack of investment, into quite shameful decline though served by outstanding primaries and surrounded by outstanding secondary's serving similar relatively affluent leafy catchments. Now those problems are being addressed and it is on course to become outstanding. Sorry but if you want evidence to support your criticisms of the political policy, and to stir up negativity, move on, nothing for you here.

warwick1 Thu 16-May-13 18:12:44

Sponsors like AET don't bring investment. All academies get government funding irrespective of whether they are sponsored or converted. If RPA are doing well it probably is down to local management. If the AET was doing well in supporting the schools they have the DFE wouldn't have barred them from taking on more.

Copthallresident Thu 16-May-13 20:03:46
MrsSalvoMontalbano Thu 16-May-13 20:09:19

RPA was left to rot by the LA. Since the academy took over it has improved dramatically, and the local leadership given the support and injection of good practice that was woefully lacking before. So whatever the politics of it all, the academy is succeeding where the LA failed.

muminlondon Thu 16-May-13 22:50:45

I think, regardless of how AET is doing in its other schools (yes it still has three secondary schools in special measures - it has expanded rapidly within the last couple of years by taking over many failing schools), there are local differences.

In the case of RPA, the decision to convert was to access the generous building grants under the last government, which was desperately needed then and have since been cut by the Conservatives.

And secondly, the local community seems at least to have some representation in its governing body - including the cabinet member for Richmond council and ex-governors of nearby primary schools. It is the only local option for many children so it's really important for them that the school succeeds and is supported.

riddlesgalore Fri 17-May-13 16:46:07

I have been following the comments on this thread with interest as I am moving from Essex where the AET have been controlling several academies for many years with little success, despite many promises. Obviously I am therefore rather sceptical about sending my children to another AET run academy, particularly now that I hear they have been barred from taking on any more schools.

I am pleased RPA are receiving investment (as the Essex academies did), however acquiring that investment had little to do with the AET, investment appears political and academies seem to be rewarded once they accept becoming an academy, whoever the sponsor is. Naturally the sponsor always claims credit along with the local MP's and LA education cabinet members.

I do however find it surprising that RPA was turned around from being in 'special measures' to 'good' in two years. Was it really deserving of special measures in the first place or was it just part of the political manoeuvring that appeared to go on under the old academy conversion system in order to get government investment.

Reading the comments, it appears to me that the turn around in the school has more to do with local management than the AET, which in my opinion is a plus. If so, RPA will not have to rely on AET support in the future and risk back sliding as the AET turn their attention back to those academies they failed as they pursed their rapid expansion plans.

anniesw Fri 17-May-13 17:53:35

Riddles - isn't that a good thing - that RPA has been the main driver in its turnaround? It makes it all so much more sustainable. As a parent there I can see that there are some very positive things AET have introduced - but direction comes from the school which I am in favour of

muminlondon Fri 17-May-13 19:18:31

It was rated 'unsatisfactory' and given notice to improve (not quite special measures) in September 2007. In November 2008 after the current head started (there had been five heads in as many years so badly needed leadership and stability) a monitoring visit by Ofsted said it had made significant improvements and was now satisfactory although that wasn't a full reinspection. So a lot of the turnaround is down to her over since she started five years ago.

But there was a delay while local politicians argued about the sponsor, which was indeed a condition for the rebuild, and just how involved the council (meant to be co-sponsor) - or even Boris Johnson - should be. So that didn't help - it is a relief now for the school and whole community for it to have finally got the rebuild underway.

The Ofsted report comments on governance:

'While continuing to oversee the academy’s development, the Academies Enterprise Trust has stepped back from close involvement in day-to-day leadership and management. Checks and support are provided by the AET’s Regional Director for Education.'

Elibean Fri 17-May-13 21:21:25

Riddles, I can only speak as a local parent....but yes, it was dire, and yes, it is hugely improved and having been to look around, I felt confident my pfb dd would do well there, should she choose it/get in.

A lot of work has gone in to turning RPA around (including local parents, Head, staff - not just AET by any means) and it shows. There is enormous motivation for it to succeed, too.

Copthallresident Fri 17-May-13 21:31:33

And part of the scandal of the school's decline is that it always did have that input by local parents. The history of the governing body is littered with the bodies of all the able parents who tried to stop the decline or improve it from the inside but without school leadership and investment they had no hope of succeeding. I doubt AET would have a hope of sabotaging the local input to governance.

muminlondon Fri 17-May-13 23:37:18

There was more from Ofsted published today on progress in English at RPA. It's worth remembering the hard work and dedication of teachers in so many of our schools, and the needs of children, whatever the politicians throw at them.

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