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Will free schools drive up standards? Read Toby Young's guest post and join the conversation

(706 Posts)
ElenMumsnetBloggers (MNHQ) Thu 01-Dec-11 10:46:14

Are free schools ready to fall or fly? Do they really drive up standards or are they a snobbish gimmick? And should more parents be setting up their own schools? Journalist and producer Toby Young explains why he set up the West London Free School and what makes the free school proposition an exciting one. Join the conversation that Toby's begun and have your say on free schools.

ElaineReese Fri 02-Dec-11 10:53:16

But I think people are doing that as well, and asking him questions as well as place-marking via statements of loathing wink

montmartre Fri 02-Dec-11 11:10:15

Aha! As I predicted- a very different response in Education!

thansk wwbd grin

coppertop Fri 02-Dec-11 11:14:58

I'm interested in the "strict code of conduct, which is rigorously enforced". I would like to know how it is enforced and what allowances (if any) are made for children with SN?

Hullygully Fri 02-Dec-11 11:20:45

How can they "drive up standards"?

It doesn't make sense.

Drive up whose standards? Their own? Schools in general? Mine?

GypsyMoth Fri 02-Dec-11 11:41:50

We gave one about to open on our doorstep. Am confused by the while thing! And we also have the 3 tier schooling system here still

BobblyGussets Fri 02-Dec-11 12:08:27

I remember watching the programme about West London Free School's set up. We gasped and laughed at the very long narrow "catchment band" on the map which neatly cut off the British Asian areas surrounding it.

Has this been changed? How many token students do you have from ethnic minorities and do you let the pupils of left wing parents in grin.

The whole system seems quite autocratic to me; is that how it is in reality?

ElaineReese Fri 02-Dec-11 12:19:26

Is TY planning to join this conversation?

BarryShitpeas Fri 02-Dec-11 12:38:28

Toby Come back and talk to us.

CecilyP Fri 02-Dec-11 12:51:20

Perhaps their understanding of conversation is different from ours.

Luminescence Fri 02-Dec-11 13:04:39

Maybe conversation means something different in Latin.

CecilyP Fri 02-Dec-11 13:09:10

Maybe there is a conversation being conducted in Latin elsewhere that we are not party to.

Luminescence Fri 02-Dec-11 13:19:51

Maybe we should read Shakespeare if we want the answers?

hester Fri 02-Dec-11 13:27:35

I was a great admirer of Toby's father.

WillbeanChariot Fri 02-Dec-11 13:45:39

"Will free schools drive up standards?"



Luminescence Fri 02-Dec-11 13:47:19

Hic puer est stultissimus omnium!

TalkinPeace2 Fri 02-Dec-11 13:58:38

A Question for Toby

Will you and all the founders still give as much time and attention once all of your children have grown up and left the school?

Because from what I can see this is little more than a short term vanity project.
Home schooling at the taxpayers expense.

I would like to see evidence that the founders are contracted to stay fully involved for at least 4 years after their last child leaves - as proof that it is about all children.

onceinawhile Fri 02-Dec-11 16:27:56

It is very laudable that a group of parents would devote so much time to this enterprise, I wonder how many parents in the future will dispose of the time/finances/energy for this if it relies so heavily on volunteers.

Everyone wants the best education for their child and the school looks great - however I can't help but think this is yet another nice school for already priviledged children - it would be good to see how TY comes back to tell us all by maybe revealing how many FSM children attend the school.

ElenMumsnetBloggers (MNHQ) Fri 02-Dec-11 16:54:13


Is TY planning to join this conversation?

Hi Elaine,

Yes, I think Toby is planning to join the conversation a little later on - so if you have a question, feel free to put it to him!

TobyYoung Fri 02-Dec-11 17:24:00

DogStinkHorn, I deal with your point in my blogpost. We need more school places; free schools deliver those places more cheaply than the Building Schools for the Future programme did; therefore, allowing parents, teachers and voluntary groups to set up free schools means there's more money in the DfE's budget available to spend on existing schools. If your main concern is to protect the budgets of existing schools, they you should be supporting free schools, not opposing them.

TobyYoung Fri 02-Dec-11 17:25:53

rightlymoaningminnie, The average cost of building a new secondary school under the last government's Building Schools for the Future programme was £28m. Free schools will, on average, cost half as much.

For instance, the estimated set up cost of the West London Free School is £15m. The cost of setting up a neighbouring Academy that is of identical size, – set up under the last government – is £34m.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 02-Dec-11 17:30:40

Everybody knows that BSF was a stupid plan.
How do your costs compare with refurbing and extending existing buildings ?
Eton has not pulled itself down and started from scratch, it just adapts and extends buildings
and an Oasis academy building is currently going up near me for 900 pupils costing £13.6 million - are YOU catering for 900 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds for your money?

TobyYoung Fri 02-Dec-11 17:31:01

LemonDifficult, You're absolutely right. It would be perfectly possible for a local authority-run school to do exactly what the WLFS is doing. The ethos of Fortismere in Muswell Hill, for instance, isn't wildly different. But most are disinclined to do so, mainly because the head teachers and their local authority overlords misguidedly believe only children at the higher end of the ability spectrum are capable of accessing a classical liberal curriculum. Hopefully, our first tranche of GCSE and IGCSE results will prove them wrong and more schools will duplicate what we're doing.

TobyYoung Fri 02-Dec-11 17:32:31

wwbd, I tried to answer the question of why none of the staff at the West London Free went on strike in my most recent Spectator column:

TobyYoung Fri 02-Dec-11 17:34:29

hocuspontas, We currently employ one full-time member of staff who doesn't have a PGCE. She's our Head of Classics. To describe her as non-qualified would be a stretch, though, as she was formerly the Head of Classics at a leading independent school. For what it's worth, she's currently doing a PGCE part-time at Birmingham University.

Luminescence Fri 02-Dec-11 17:37:24

In Norfolk there seems to be a pretty empirical link between school losing funding already agreed for building repairs and free schools being established. The Norwich free school is in a leased building in the centre of the city which will have a lot larger long term cost to the tax payer. The Norwich free school also causes congestion in one of Norwichs busiest streets in rush hour with lots of cars dropping individual children off.

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