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Would you send your child to a Free School?

(38 Posts)
MrsJamin Mon 05-Sep-11 13:23:57

If you had the choice? It is pretty much in the running for us (choosing primary school this year), and I wasn't really concerned but my Dad thought it was risky as you don't know how this government (or the next) will deal with them in the future, i.e. they could be more likely to close than your standard Local Authority run school. Anyone else in a similar position? I don't want to feel like I'm gambling with my son's education!

noblegiraffe Mon 05-Sep-11 14:51:55

How do you know if it's going to be any good?

LemonDifficult Mon 05-Sep-11 15:00:07

I would love to be sending my DSs to a free school, particularly if it was Toby Young's West London one.

Obviously, it does depend, and if the free school was set up and run by the Mormons or something then I might have reservations. But as for general principal, then, yes, free schools are definitely going to benefit the pupils. I used to work in school admin and the LEA would WASTE SO MUCH MONEY. It used to drive me insane as I'd unpack box after fecking box of 'Five a day' posters or carrier bags advertising the benefits of swimming (500 bags for school of 80 pupils) full of useless plastic twaddle, week after week. With money going directly to the school it will (or should) be put to much better and more direct use.

madeupme Mon 05-Sep-11 15:00:08

Its all a gamble. You just have to find out if you agree with the ethos of the school. Factor in if benefits such as better funding, relaxed guidlenes, improved flexibility, smaller class size etc outweigh your fears of closure, inexperience, no proven track record, relaxed guidelines, flexibility......

Personally if I agreed with the method statement and approach of the school I would send dcs to a free school. I have concerns about over testing and large class sizes in LA schools so I would run the risk. I would also accept that it is a risk and would be prepared to move dc very sharpishly if it didn't work out.

sprogger Mon 05-Sep-11 15:07:55

I wouldn't, unless I could see that the people behind the free school had a serious background in education. My biggest concern would be that the free school would be run by people who think they have lots of great ideas on how schools ought to be run, but no practical experience of doing so. (And if there's one thing I've learned in my years as a private sector senior manager, if you're a consumer of a service viewing a problem with said service and wondering why the obvious solution hasn't been engaged, you likely don't have a complete view of the whole problem.)

sieglinde Mon 05-Sep-11 15:14:19

What's a serious background in education, though? Just curious.

GrungeBlobPrimpants Mon 05-Sep-11 15:39:58

Well, having read through the list of the 24 free schools opening today, I can safely say I'd rather send mine to the local overcrowded rough/bad ofsted/special measures school than any one of these.

I think the list included

- being based in temporary accommodation including church halls - christ this makes my dc's portakabins sound luxurious
- a school with different term dates to every other school in the area. So er, what happens to a family's children in secondary/another school then?
- various faith schools which is great if you are of the said faith, tough if you are not
- particular teaching methods eg Montessori and transcendental meditation - wtf?
- I cannot speak of Toby Young with any respect. Compulsory Latin for all? Utter bollocks. And I did Latin at grammar school.

FFS, I would not touch any of these with a bargepole

EdithWeston Mon 05-Sep-11 15:43:39

The risk I think is that in being freed from LEa control, they fall directly under the SoS for Education. It is Whitehall control that has never been dreamed of before. I think OP is right to be wary - under this administration, and any others with similar "small" government instincts, they will be fine and may flourish. With a more totalitarian minded government, then who knows what sort of Whitehall edicts they would have to comply with?

Ladymuck Mon 05-Sep-11 17:30:40

Once set up there seems to be no difference between a free school and an academy. Some of the local academies are amazingly oversubscribed and have fantastic results, others are already viewed as "failing". I guess that you can read in a lot to who the backers are.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 05-Sep-11 17:31:09

Free schools do not have to employ qualified teachers
are Ofsted going to check that all their CRBs are up to date?

what happens in 7 years when the founders kids have left and it slumps into a morass without the support of the LEA?

if a normal school has problems, at the moment the LEA parachute in managers
some Labour academies refuse to admit they have problems
and I know that many inner London LEAs are dire - frankly because they are too small to have the economies of scale and expertise that we have in Hampshire
but for crying out loud - who REALLY thinks that policy wonks in Whitehall will have a CLUE when the odure interacts with the ventilation device

EdithWeston Mon 05-Sep-11 17:37:54

Yes, CRBs will have to be done properly or there will be an immediate safeguarding "fail".

They are free to employ who they like - just as the independent sector always has been. In practice, it is rare to find unqualified teachers in the classroom (outside a few specialist subjects) and schools usually publish staff lists with qualifications so parents can easily check. I think this bogeyman has been grossly overdrawn. The schools will stand or fail on their results, as in the private sector (remember the retiring head master of Westminster who offered his services free in any maths teaching role - but was told he couldn't do this in a state school as he wasn't sufficiently qualified? Qualification is important, I agree, but it is not a synonym for effective).

But I couldn't agree more about the role of the policy wonks.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 05-Sep-11 18:05:25

EdithWeston
The schools will stand or fail on their results
which is exactly the problem

Kids only go through school once.
If the school fails, their career choices are scuppered for ever.
The school will go on and the Governors will "learn from their mistakes"
Which is why mine are going to a school with a proven track record, not the sponsored (rapidly failing) Academy up the road.

I was AT a disintegrating school. The head was fired, the governors were replaced. But it did not make the fact that nearly half my year had to retake our A levels any easier - or cheaper for our parents.

pinkytheshrinky Mon 05-Sep-11 18:13:20

It is all a risk - some of the best performing schools may not suit an individual child - i think the ethos is important and if that floats your boat then so be it - always worth a go and not a huge gamble, you can always move to another school if it does not suit. My Dd's have moved school and have not come to any harm.

EdithWeston Mon 05-Sep-11 18:40:10

TalkinPeace2: very sensible approach. But I think any new school (free, independent, state -either set up or merger) carries that risk, as indeed to a certain extent so can any established school following a change in head or management/ethos. So many children over the generations, have been exposed to this risk. But unless you're going to set up and run your own school, it's an inherent risk.

And setting up your own school takes us back to the beginning of the thread.....

BeerTricksPotter Mon 05-Sep-11 18:44:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IndigoBell Mon 05-Sep-11 19:03:13

I'd send my child to one, if I liked the ethos behind it.

They are no more likely to close than any other school.

AssetRichIncomePoor Mon 05-Sep-11 19:05:31

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I say this with around 5K's worth of fees bills on my desk as I type. I would bite their hand off.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 05-Sep-11 19:48:21

As I've never had the money to afford school fees your predicament is outside my experience

MissBetsyTrotwood Mon 05-Sep-11 19:54:18

Does being free from LEA control also mean being free from LEA support? What happens if things go wrong? Where do they get their independent advice from?

For example, a school gets a blip in its GCSE Science results one year. They've gone down massively and it's hard to pin down why. At the moment an advisor from the LEA could come in, say, once a week for a while to observe/collect data/look at schemes of work to help identify the problem. This kind of detailed, intensive, complicated intervention can only be done with a subject specialist and preferably one who has a lasting relationship with the school. How would this work for a free school?

The jury's still out for me. If we stay round here we pretty much only have academies to choose from at secondary, unless we go private.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 05-Sep-11 20:05:22

Betsy
It won't
Case in point : Oasis Academy Mayfield
The sponsor will not admit there is a problem
the LEA is powerless to intervene
Local MP demanded the Council help out till council leader pointed out it was MP's stupid policy that they were not allowed (or funded) to.
My local sponsored Academy is having a £13.6 million 900 pupil building constructed for a school which is down to a 60 pupil intake for the past two years. ie around 300 pupils by the time it opens

MrsJamin Mon 05-Sep-11 20:10:22

A very interesting set of responses, thank you everyone. Some friends are on the committee of the free school which definitely increases my trust but it's the government I don't trust, and the fact that the SMT don't have a local, experienced support team in the shape of an LA. A lot to consider...

EdithWeston Mon 05-Sep-11 20:12:30

TalkinPeace2: I don't think your example can be a Free School - the first of those opened only this term (hence being all over the news this week).

MissBetsyTrotwood: my understanding is that they have to buy in services previously provided centrally by the LEA - either from the LEA or from any other provider they want. So the budget might be higher, but so will the costs.

thisisyesterday Mon 05-Sep-11 20:13:44

yes. we are!

ds1 starts on thursday

thisisyesterday Mon 05-Sep-11 20:14:23

oh and they won't close, or shouldn't do.
they're on a rolling 7 year contract. so if they do decide to close one/all of them down they will have seven years to shut

ragged Mon 05-Sep-11 20:20:12

When I was on a preschool committee in theory we had to buy in advice, too, what info we couldn't free from Tinternet or from the PLA (limited capacity). So.... we didn't get advice in at all. We stumbled thru most things badly, and I think a lot of preschools have the same problem. I wonder if Free Schools will be similar....

Answer to your Q, OP, is it depends on the individual school & the alternatives. I am (very silently) on the email-newsletter-round for a local group trying to start a Free School and I feel they are talking wank too much of the time.

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