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Does any one's dc attend a free school?

(17 Posts)
Bumbez Wed 05-Mar-14 07:38:44

Dd didn't get our first choice secondary school, which is rated good. She has been put on the waiting list. All other secondary schools are either requiring improvement or special measures. I would have been happy with our second choice which she got, seems to be on the 'up' however the very excellent head is now leaving.

There is a brand new free school opening in September and she has been offered a music scolarship. It's a bit of a hike from us and none of her friends are going.

It's the unknown I worry about I guess, on paper it looks fantastic and such an opportunity. Did any one else take a gamble like this ? I'm grateful for any thoughts.

mousetours Wed 05-Mar-14 13:06:48

I teach in a free school (yes I'm a qualified teacher! As are all my colleagues!). My daughter is joining me in September. My school is fab. However it does very much depend on the school. Our parents took a gamble and for them it paid off.

Bumbez Wed 05-Mar-14 15:49:42

Thanks for replying, does your school have long hours? This one is 830 till 4, last hour being compulsory enriching activities. It's a 40 min car ride away, I suspect much longer on a bus, as it would be stopping at a few towns on the way.

The school has been set up by a group of teachers, who previously worked at an outstanding middle school (3 tier system now gone) they are planning to teach gcse over 3 years instead of 2. I have no concerns about the teaching.

We have 2 weeks to decide but I guess it's a no brainier, I'm quite excited, just wish some of her friends were going.

mousetours Wed 05-Mar-14 16:38:35

Our hours are 8.30 till 5. We have lessons till 3 then a short break, supervised homework for 45 min then an activity for an hour. As we only have one year group at secondary level at the moment it means all resources are focused on Y7 which is great for them.
My DD will not know anyone when she starts either but she is very excited. As there are so many coming from different schools it's all new to everyone so she is sure she will make friends quickly. Chances are there will be several children who won't know anyone.

Bumbez Thu 06-Mar-14 20:22:12

I've accepted the place! They're getting together the 12 music scolars in a few weeks and taking them out for the day to get to know each other. She's a lucky girl.

nennypops Sat 08-Mar-14 23:36:12

The trouble with free schools is that they don't have to have qualified teachers. That would put me off on its own.

mousetours Sun 09-Mar-14 08:12:29

Free schools do not have to employ qualified teacher nor do academies. My free school employs only qualified staff as do many other free schools. There are staff in state schools who are taught by 'unqualified' teachers - music staff teaching individual instruments, the cover supervisors who sometimes cover long term sick leave and even TA's who take classes to cover teachers PPA time do not have QTS!

rollonthesummer Sun 09-Mar-14 10:59:16

I wouldn't choose one for my child. I honestly can't see them existing in 5 years.

mousetours Sun 09-Mar-14 11:54:40

May I ask why you don't see them existing in 5 years?

mousetours Sun 09-Mar-14 12:05:09

Sorry another question- what do you think the differences are between academies and free schools?

BananaChoccyPancake Sun 09-Mar-14 12:58:37

mouse - they're the same thing. A free school is just a new academy that has been created from scratch rather than converting to academy status.

mousetours Sun 09-Mar-14 13:04:41

Yes that's my point. You don't hear parents saying they won't send their children to a school which has converted to academy status with the same conviction as not going to a free school. I was wondering what the perceived difference was.

BananaChoccyPancake Sun 09-Mar-14 13:10:11

"I was wondering what the perceived difference was"

Like any new school, free schools are an unknown quantity. You need to do some research to reassure yourself that they're going to do what they say on the tin. Some people have had their fingers burnt, but other schools will be very successful. You just need to choose wisely.

Those that are successful certainly will still be around in 5 years time - nobody wants to close down a successful school. They might not be called "free schools" any more though. If Labour get in they will rename them to "parent proposed academies" and make some changes to the policy framework, but the concept of parents being able to set up new schools will still exist.

akebah Sun 09-Mar-14 17:56:54

On a political level I am not sure I agree with free schools and understand the concerns that many have (parents and teaching professionals) however I put one down as first choice for my DS for secondary school as it was a teacher led free school that offered excellent opportunities and ticked all the boxes for DS.

Labour do not have a policy of abolishing free schools en mass (and there would be the practical issue of where would all the children go - it would cause chaos) - I think it is far more likely that they will tackle some of the issues relating to (converted) academies particularly where large chains are involved (though this is also highly unlikely to occur as there are too many vested interests).

Not all free schools employ unqualified teachers - and the one I visited had an energy & confidence about it that established schools did not have (and I visited 3 outstanding schools on the endless round of open evenings). All the teachers were qualified (though a fair number with teach first rather than the normal PGCE route - I don't necessarily have an issue with this, and all the teachers I met impressed me in terms of passion and approach to teaching, which was not the case in all of the schools that I visited)

In the end we did not get a place at the free school so they were obviously oversubscribed this year (I will check the figures when they are released out of curiosity - I doubt it will be as over subscribed as West London Free School who had 1,100 for 120 places) - and got our second choice (but more than happy with this result too and will not change even if offered a place at the free school on waiting list)

mousetours Sun 09-Mar-14 18:32:23

It is refreshing to see balanced views. I tend to find people are either completely for free schools or trot out the line about unqualified teachers. Whilst some free schools do employ unqualified teachers many don't. I sometimes feel like wearing my qualification around my neck when having conversations about free schools!

BananaChoccyPancake Sun 09-Mar-14 18:38:37

"West London Free School who had 1,100 for 120 places"

Much is made of that, but it's due to their admissions policy, which is a lottery over a large and densely populated geographic area. People put it down as one of their 6 options because they know they have a chance of getting in. If it had a distance-only policy, it would attract far fewer applicants, because it would be a wasted choice for anyone living beyond a small catchment.

akebah Sun 09-Mar-14 20:23:08


I did not realise that West London Free School had a lottery (to be honest in that particular area there is a logic to it)

And yes, if there were only 6 schools in a given area with a population of say 720 applying for schools, then the "worst" school could still have 720 applications for 120 if everyone put them down in some place on the form. The first and second choice breakdown is important in understanding the popularity too and not just the total applications.

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