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What do you think of the plan for a new free School in Islington?

(96 Posts)
nlondondad Sun 30-Jun-13 22:26:53

This January an Islington Community School, Ashmount, vacated its old building and site near Hornsey lane, London N19 and moved to a magnificent new building on a lovely site in Crouch Hill Park N8 a short distance done the road in January of this year. The future of the school has been secured.

Islington expected to raise at least some of the cost of the new building for Ashmount by selling the old site, at a discounted price to a housing association. They thought they would get about 3 million, but if sold on the open market, the site large, and in between Highgate and Crouch End would have raised ten million. The Council were in effect making a political decision to sacrifice money for social housing. Housing which they had promised to build in their election manifesto on which they had successfully defeated the outgoing Liberal democrat administration.

Last week it was learnt that the Education Funding Agency has chosen to requisition the old Ashmount Site from Islington Council, which they have the power to do, without paying any compensation to the Council.

The site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership; the site will be given to Bellevue Education Limited for a Free School. Bellevue Education Ltd is a commercial (for profit) company, which runs a chain of nine for profit fee paying schools here, and in Switzerland. Bellevue made profits last year of £1.5m on a turnover of £3.7m, so it’s what I believe one would call “a nice little business”. Although if you want to rush out and buy some shares you cannot at the moment as they are not publically listed. Instead the investors are venture capitalists based in Switzerland using Russian money. Perhaps there will be a flotation at some point in the future. I am sure we will be all poised to add a bit of diversity to our share portfolios.

nlondondad Mon 28-Oct-13 23:00:54

Some coverage of the public meeting here:-

nlondondad Thu 24-Oct-13 17:10:15

the meeting, info three posts down, is tonight.

Farewelltoarms Fri 18-Oct-13 20:59:07

Hello nlondon, I took great pleasure in filling out that form thing on the site linked to from Local Schools Network.

nlondondad Fri 18-Oct-13 20:38:13

Hi all:

A new, relevant post here:

nlondondad Sun 13-Oct-13 22:53:02

Public Meeting.

Support Our Local Schools

Should a free school open in Hornsey Lane?

Chair: Jeremy Corbyn MP
Speakers: Pana McGee, Headteacher,
Ashmount School; Councillor Joe Caluori,
Executive Member for Children and Families
at LB Islington; David Barry, outgoing chair
of Governors, Ashmount School and local
resident; Barrie O’Shea, Headteacher,
Duncombe School and Julie Davies,
Secretary, Haringey NUT

7pm Thursday 24th October
Church Hall, Christ Church, Crouch End Hill, N8

Support Our Local Schools represents local parents, teachers and
governors, c/o

MuswellHillDad Sun 04-Aug-13 06:12:09


You are right about the efforts HIghbury Grove has gone too to attract local parents that would usually send there kids further afield.

Having said that, when I asked the new head last year, she took my name and said they would be in touch. I'll ask this year why they weren't in touch.

frogs Sat 03-Aug-13 20:45:43

I think also lots of people just don't even go and look, so don't really give schools a chance. Which is a shame.

Acland Burghley has scary teenagers hanging around the tube station junction, but the school itself doesn't feel scary at all, it feels funky and urban. And the kids seem to be happy and having fun, which is more than can be said for some highly sought-after schools that had better remain nameless.

SMM had the advantage of perceived exclusivity in being a church school and an academy, but I'm not sure they've sustained that as well as they need to. But given the lack of alternatives they will probably manage ok. SMM 6th form a bit wobbly though, no? Not that I know anything about it, not being that side of the borough.

Highbury Grove made a concerted and very deliberate effort a few years ago to pull in m/c parents as a cohort. I can't remember the details, but it was barely short of saying, "Look, we really need m/c families to support us, if you send your kids here we will support them and do well by them." And they seem to be making good on that, I'd have no issue sending dc there if I lived that side of Islington.

But the thing that constantly frustrates me, both on here and in RL, is that people look at the headline % of pupils getting 5 A*-C, which is the most widely-available measure, and mistakenly translate as the probability of their child getting 5 A*-C. And of course the maths of that is completely wrong - the headline figure only really tells you about the intake. What matters is the achievements of the cohort of kids that your child would fall into - so if you think your child is a high achiever, you need to look at how many kids are getting a full house of As and A*s at GCSE. If there are a reasonable number of kids getting seriously impressive grades, then there's no reason to assume your child will not be among them, even if there's a relatively large number of low achievers in the school. I'd be far more worried about a school with a higher headline 5 A*-C rate that had very few kids getting top grades than I would about a school with a lower headline rate and a decent cohort of high-fliers. I know someone who sent their child to Highbury Grove back in the bad old days when it was not any kind of desirable, c. 2005. This child got 11 As and A*s, as did a fair-sized group of his peers, and he's now at a RG university.

People need to have more faith in their dc, I think.

Farewelltoarms Sat 03-Aug-13 10:00:50

As ever Frogs you speak so much sense. Islington schools have such a hangover from the olden days that people like Boris Johnson can blithely say 'oh well my children were at Islington schools so I had to extricate them' when in fact they're way better than average. Tony Blair did the borough such a disservice.

I know people who don't look at Islington primaries and yet move up to say, Crouch End, and immediately put their children into Coleridge. I'm sure it's a great school, but it kind of makes a mockery of all their 'I'd love to send my child to a state school but they're so bright/sensitive that they need small classes'. You realise how much is, as you say, the perception of the sort of people who send their children to various schools.

However, I do think things are improving. I would argue that Highbury Grove and SMM are at least as desirable as Acland Burghley (which has just as much 'fear' expressed towards it, partly because of the disproportionate numbers of boys) and both of which are attracting wavering parents. Still a long way to go until they are like Fortismere/Camden Girls, but they do offer a state option that isn't perceived as being as scary as somewhere like Holloway Boys or the old Islington Green.

frogs Fri 02-Aug-13 23:02:04

FWIW I think the problem is not so much those parents going private, nor the absence of a grammar school as the lack of a school that is perceived to be an acceptable and desirable alternative to shipping your dc out of the borough to selective schools (yes, Emily Thornberry MP, I'm looking at you).

I also don't think the problem is religious schools (SMM is very faith-lite, St Aloysius is notionally over-subscribed, but not what most people would consider a desirable school, Mount Carmel is not over-subscribed) nor single-sex schools - HFS, CFS and EGA are all true comprehensives albeit single-sex, not particularly over-subscribed).

None of these schools has managed to do what Fortismere and Camden Girls' have done, which is to become a realistic alternative to private school for parents who would like to not pay fees but won't entrust their offspring to a 'bog-standard' school. Highbury Grove is having a good crack at that niche, but is realistically a looong way off achieving it. None of them has even come close to what even eg. Acland Burghley in Camden or Mossbourne in Hackney have managed, ie. becoming an acceptable alternative to private for confident parents of reasonably bright children who are not ridiculously precious about their dc mixing with kids from council estates.

Fuck knows what the answer is. Removing the Latymer and DAO opt-out clauses for Islington parents would be a start, but can't see any chance of that happening.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 02-Aug-13 21:04:15

Of course you don't know, how would you? It's just I've heard it said soooo many times since I moved around this way, but never really before. That could simply be because I moved here when I had children. Anyhow, as you were.

Farewelltoarms Fri 02-Aug-13 18:54:01

I've absolutely no idea, GreenEggs! I was totally flummoxed and muttered something about how that would be a shame as they were all the cleverest kids at our school. When obviously I've no idea if this is true and also is just as bad a generalisation but I really loathe this idea that somehow every middle-class child is bound to be far more academic. It might not be all the cleverest kids, but I've seen plenty of whip-smart kids whose parents qualify for free school meals.

The odd thing is that the woman who said this always seemed so nice and who I'm sure thinks of herself as liberal and tolerant.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 02-Aug-13 17:59:22

nlondondad do you know of anyone else who received the "research" phone call?

farewell, or anyone else for that matter, what do you think 'at least it doesn't have any pupils from council estates..'means when the people that say it, say it? Is it that children that live in council houses are stupid, or those that live on estates are rough, or rough and stupid? If a child lived on the estate, but in a private home do you think that would be okay? Is a child living in a council street property fine? I think about this lots (too much !) and I never know what to say to people when they say similar to me...

FadedSapphire Fri 02-Aug-13 16:09:37

My brain fogged up in the heat...
Thanks all for clarifying smile.

MuswellHillDad Fri 02-Aug-13 16:04:59

My bad. Sarcasm doesn't work well on the Internet. I thought the smiley face would have made it clear I didn't actually mean that. However, as more than one has interpreted it that way, I should clarify that I didn't mean that at all. I was actually implying the opposite, that there should be enough bright kids in Islington to have a full cohort of "high attainers" leaving primary and joining secondary to make a peer group at all the secondaries in the borough. The problem is that they mostly seem to leave the borough (Camden, grammars and indies) and this unbalances the comps.

For the record, despite the name, I live in Islington with kids at state primary and have seen many of the Islington secondaries.

I'll shut up now.

FadedSapphire Fri 02-Aug-13 15:39:04

Probably me being a bit slow Farewelltoarms... apologies...

Farewelltoarms Fri 02-Aug-13 14:47:05

I was being ironic in response to Muswellhilldad's post, FadedSapphire.

I've no idea what he meant about there not being enough 'bright' children, but I certainly wasn't suggesting that the whole borough's kids were thick. But clearly I should have emoticonned the statement as a signifier....

FadedSapphire Fri 02-Aug-13 12:51:02

I don't know the borough being discussed BUT- all children in the borough a bit thick- Really?!
Are we entering a 'Realm of stupidity' or is it just snobbery in thin disguise....

MuswellHillDad Fri 02-Aug-13 10:35:00

Sorry if I went a bit off topic. hmm

Farewelltoarms Thu 01-Aug-13 20:45:36

I don't think there's any problem with talking about secondaries because maybe there is an argument for an additional school and that's part of your original question nlondondad.
But the issue with Islington schools is their terrible economic and social fragmentation so a grammar school is only going to increase the (misplaced) perception that the existing comprehensives are secondary moderns for those who fail to get music place at camden, get into Dame Alice, go private etc.
Apart from the fact that it's not legally possible to found a grammar school anywhere (least of all Islington).
And there's the additional problem Muswellhilldad hits on that all the children in the borough are a bit thick...
Apart from my kids obv who like all those on mn were free reading in the womb.

nlondondad Thu 01-Aug-13 19:32:33

Muswellhilldad exactly what is your point?

I started this thread to discuss an issue that matters to all the children of Islington. You would seem from your name, not to be an Islington resident. You now seem to want to witter on about secondary schools in Islington, not the topic of this thread, and when you did not seem to be getting very far with that, you respond to Farewelltoarms thoughtful post, not with an argument but a coarse jibe.

Where do you think you are? Twitter?

MuswellHillDad Thu 01-Aug-13 15:16:33


I think you're right about diehard fee payers. Although I think there must be some correlation between wealth, education and peer group that bears scrutiny even for the most average of private schools. I guess it's simple "insurance" for those that can afford it.

However, doesn't that also argue for a decent grammar school open to all able students?

On the other hand, I doubt there are enough "bright" kids in the borough to bother.


Farewelltoarms Wed 31-Jul-13 19:41:33

Gosh is it only 4 co-ed, non-denom schools? Though to be fair, Mary Mags is v. denom-lite given that the majority of places go on distance.

Re. your questions.
1) I don't know, I presume that the council would argue that they are enough places. Certainly I do wonder what happened around Liverpool Rd area before Mary Mags.
2) Well that's not going to happen (nor should it imo). Though part of Highbury Grove's success is due to how the head marketed a sort of 'grammar stream' by promising pretty rigorous streaming which appealed to wavering parents.

Re. those educating their children in fee-paying schools, I don't think there's any state school that would persuade some of the more wealthy Islington residents. My neighbours didn't even look at our local school because they said that would be pointless as it's an 'inner-city state school' and opted for a pretty ropy private without a playground merely because you had to pay for it. Another perfectly reasonable-seeming woman told me that although the Gower wasn't a great school it at least 'doesn't have any pupils from council estates'. Another lives 200 yards away from the enormous Victorian redbrick could-only-be-a-school and when I said where my kids go, she asked 'oh where's that then?'

These people will never go state unless there was some seriously dodgy selection going on.

MuswellHillDad Tue 30-Jul-13 08:45:28

There are a lot of well informed Islington parents here. So I'd like to take a different tack on the question and ask about secondary schools.

Looking at the DoE website there are 16 secondaries in Islington of which only 4 are co-ed and non-denominational, i.e. actually comprehensive.

One of those is Highbury Grove which has seen a remarkable turnaround in the last few years and is now hugely oversubscribed. It's catchment area is heading towards below 1,000m. This leaves huge holes in the "comprehensive" education available in the borough. Especially for boys as many girls go to a larger supply of girls schools. Highbury Grove has only 27% girls on the roll.

Add into this the number of parents shipping kids out of the borough to nearby boroughs, grammar schools and fee paying schools - kids that could/should be educated in borough?

1) Do we need more comprehensive secondary schools in Islington?
2) Should we have at least one grammar school in Islington?

nlondondad Mon 29-Jul-13 22:32:04

On 25 July at about half five in the evening I received a phone call from a pleasant man who told me he was carrying out a telephone opinion poll on local political issues. He said he was working for a company called "UK Ground Comms" A google search shows that a company of that name exists, but it does not seem to have a web site. I suppose a bit of effort at Companies House might throw up some more information.He said he wanted to ask me four questions. I got him to repeat them, and wrote them down immediately after the call.

1. Did I know about the controversy regarding the Old Ashmount Site? - in order to find out more I said "no'

He then read me a set script thus:

"Local residents have successfully campaigned to obtain government money to put a new primary school on the old Ashmount School Site. Islington Council do not want this, but want to build 140 homes on the site instead."

Following this he asked

2.. Do you support having a new primary school on the site/

3. Which political party will you be voting for at the next local election?

4. if a particular party were to say it supported the putting of a new school on the site would you change your vote?

When I asked he said he could not disclose who the client was.

Interesting bit of research dont you think?

nlondondad Mon 29-Jul-13 19:33:27

@frogs I agree with you about this. In fact I feel rather curmudgeonly about the way, once the new building was confirmed as definitely being on its way - contracts signed, then builders on the site -, we had the "quantum leap' in applications.

Before then, we were undersubscribed with places being taken by parents who saw past the awful building to the really good, highly motivated staff - Teachers AND TA's. Parents who not only got the good school but also, due to the undersubscription small class sizes as well...

I suppose there may have been an element of good morale in adversity as well as we have a really active PTA. The new parents have a legacy to live up to. (In short I think in terms not of whether the school is worthy of them, but whether they are worthy of the school!)

But my heart still leaps when I see the building the children now get, with its spaces, vistas, and surrounded by trees.

But it still raises the question: if the Free School are really going to use the old building who will send their children there?

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