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AIBU to feel that Free Schools are creaming off middle-class families and creating division?

(218 Posts)
KeepOnRockinginthefreeworld Sat 20-Jul-13 10:52:54

Name change as I've been thinking about this for a while...

We have a Free School in our area. It's generally felt to be successful, has a waiting list, and plans to expand at some point. BUT while it was founded "to create extra spaces", its intake seems to mostly to consist of children poached from the surrounding schools (the remainder are bussed in by parents from miles away). The uniform is entirely bespoke from a private school supplier, so no Tesco items, it's about £300 plus for a full set.

Now, I totally get that Free schools are there for "choice" but my concern is that this seems to be selection-by-stealth: they are trumpetting it as a "naice" school, "better" and more privileged than the local community schools (which are perfectly OK) . The parents who transfer to them tend to be the ones with money for the uniform/aspirational for the "best" for their child, and those children have a much lower level of SEN and pupil premium just seems unfair to me that children in the area whose parents have low income, multiple DC, or aren't pushy don't have the same opportunity within the state sector. Everyone has the right to a good education and the Free Schools just seem like an excuse for middle-class parents to remove themselves from the mix of intake that is in the community while getting subsidised to do so.

Can I ask AIBU by feeling uncomfortable about this segregation? Is this just peculiar to the free school in our area? Are there other free schools near you where the uniform is cheap, they aren't creaming off children from surrounding school, and all children from the area are genuinely welcomed irrespective of ability and income?

nennypops Sat 20-Jul-13 10:58:37

YANBU. There's one opening in an affluent area near us, similar rules about uniform, and they're keeping class sizes down to attract people who want small classes but don't want to have to pay for it. What annoys me is that they're getting hefty government funding which the other excellent schools in the area really need.

HollyBerryBush Sat 20-Jul-13 11:02:41

We don't have any in our area so I've had to look at the definition.

Free Schools are all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to what local people say they want and need in order to improve education for children in their community.

The right school can transform a child’s life and help them achieve things they may never have imagined. Through the Free Schools programme it is now much easier for talented and committed teachers, charities, parents and education experts to open schools to address real demand within an area.

^^ That's what the Government says.

Like will always stick with like. In this case a merry band of like minded parents have banded together, got a Free School open. A different set of like minded parents could just as easily band together and get a special needs school open.

KeepOnRockinginthefreeworld Sat 20-Jul-13 12:54:51

Do you honesty think that is likely to happen holly? I just perceive that the one near us is a soaker for the richer half of our local community, those who only have one DC, one who "know the right people" to know when the admission book was just feels like an unfair playing field, which is why it's not the "free" proposition that was touted. Don't you think it's preferable to have resources concentrated on genuine community schools where children can learn that people and families with less money/influence/background opportunities are just as important, just as approachable, and every bit as valued as them? It might help the next generation to treat each other more equally if there is less state segregation from an early age? Of course it's every parent's right to segregate, but is it morally best for the community for this to happen in a State context?

KeepOnRockinginthefreeworld Sat 20-Jul-13 12:57:55

(and also my reason for the OP is a genuine curiosity to find out what's actually happening in the real world for other free schools that are up and running, as opposed to what the government info is promising).........It may be our local one is the only one that works this way.....

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Sat 20-Jul-13 13:06:13

They are open for all. If people don't apply then they won't get in. I don't see your issue.

manicinsomniac Sat 20-Jul-13 13:14:02


It's probably not all of them but certainly some.

The one opening near me has a large percentage from local independent schools whose parents have been struggling with fees for years but felt the state schools weren't good enough. The free school is modelled on the privates with small classes, sport every day and an extended school day. I imagine its intake will be overwhelmingly middle class.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 20-Jul-13 13:19:24

I see the issue if the uniform is £300.

They're not accessible to all if it costs that much. Kids from more deprived backgrounds aren't going to be able to go. So the govt is funding a school that will only benefit a select group.

There really should be rules to stop this.

TimeofChange Sat 20-Jul-13 13:30:15

The issue is that it is the thin end of the wedge to privatising all education.

Private companies could be running all 'State' Education within 20 years.

Free Schools can employ untrained teachers.
They don't follow the national curriclum.

It seems that the rules don't apply to them.

soverylucky Sat 20-Jul-13 13:34:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PearlyWhites Sat 20-Jul-13 13:36:24

Am confused by the £300 issue surely that's normal for high school? Is is what I have to pay .

Worriedmind Sat 20-Jul-13 13:36:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 20-Jul-13 13:41:36

When dd started secondary her uniform was

blazer - £28
cardigan (optional) - £14 We bought 2.
school polo shirt for PE - £10
Tie - £7

Then any shirts/trousers from Tesco/Asda/wherever.

So nearer £100 than £300.

I also assumed this was about a primary school. We don't have any free schools near here but all the ones I've seen talk of seem to be primary schools.

Aquamildred Sat 20-Jul-13 13:49:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NotYoMomma Sat 20-Jul-13 14:04:25

a seperate logo'd football kit, rugby kit and cycling shorts?

what school is that because I fear bullshit

CloudsAndTrees Sat 20-Jul-13 14:15:14


Children from any background can apply and be awarded a place, it's not the schools fault if some families don't apply.

I don't think the cost of the uniform is that excessive. £300 is pretty much what I have spent on kitting each of my children out for (state) secondary school. The only difference is that if parents want to, there is a second hand shop available. Presumably a new school won't have second hand stuff available for a few years, but that's something that can't be helped.

Aquamildred Sat 20-Jul-13 14:19:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Aquamildred Sat 20-Jul-13 14:21:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Patchouli Sat 20-Jul-13 14:42:35

"Like will always stick with like. In this case a merry band of like minded parents have banded together, got a Free School open. A different set of like minded parents could just as easily band together and get a special needs school open."

It takes certain sort of people to have the time, inclination, wherewithal, knowledge and confidence to start up something like a school though.

amicissimma Sat 20-Jul-13 14:50:12

"The issue is that it is the thin end of the wedge to privatising all education.

Private companies could be running all 'State' Education within 20 years."

Do you have any evidence that private schools in Britain offer a worse education than state schools, in general?

BTW, the answer to the uniform problem is to set up 2nd hand sales. I bought DS a blazer, four pairs of trousers (John Lewis, no less!) and two ties for £12 in total. The sales are run by a couple of mums and profits go to the PTA.

CloudsAndTrees Sat 20-Jul-13 14:52:03

So because some people don't have the ability to do something, does that mean no one should be allowed to do it?

How many other things in life could we apply that rule to?

Some parents can't cook properly, so no parent should cook well for their children in case it its good for them? What about foreign holidays? After all, it takes a certain sort of person to have the time, inclination wherewithal, knowledge and confidence to go abroad.

The National Autistic Society is setting up free schools for children who have ASD. For that alone, I think free schools were a good thing for the government to introduce.

Patchouli Sat 20-Jul-13 15:04:51

Oh I agree that special schools should be able to be free from the National Curriculum.

TimeofChange Sat 20-Jul-13 15:08:50

Amici: I think the issue is to do with private companies making profits from education.

In the same way that we are told to expect power blackouts from 2015, because the power companies have not invested enough money in new plants, but have paid money out to shareholders.

coco87 Sat 20-Jul-13 16:34:13

My ds goes to a free school and all their uniform comes from Tesco so no more expensive than any normal uniform comprehensive (Tesco do personalised school shirts for £4 and sweatshirts for £7). He loves it, it is a great school and he is getting a great education without the expense of going private.

ARealDame Sat 20-Jul-13 16:37:53

Buying a good school uniform can be like a rite of passage. Its expensive, but worthwhile from that point of view. And cheap, when you consider the alternative fashionata nightmare!!

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