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Private school wants to open free school near me. Why?

(161 Posts)
Dibbets Fri 23-Sep-16 21:11:59

A private school on the other side of the city wants to open a free school near where I live. The idea is quite appealing as there isn't a well regarded school near here and many children bus out to other areas. But I can't help feeling a bit uneasy about the proposal. What's in it for them? They talk about it being a beneficial partnership for both sides but the focus is on sharing knowledge and a moral drive to raise standards across the board. It seems a bit unlikely that they would invest so much effort into this for such woolly reasons.

noblegiraffe Fri 23-Sep-16 21:17:39

The government Green Paper issued recently says that private schools will have to either offer significant numbers of bursaries to poor kids or open up a free school to maintain their charitable status. Perhaps they're getting in early.

Dibbets Fri 23-Sep-16 21:22:03

How would the free school help to meet their charitable obligations? It will be a stand alone school with its own funding from government.

noblegiraffe Fri 23-Sep-16 21:27:04

All new schools have to be free schools and there is a huge projected shortfall in secondary places coming up in a few years. The government needs new schools opened so needs people to open free schools. The idea is that the private school will use their 'expertise' at running a successful school to make the new school a good one.

Dibbets Fri 23-Sep-16 21:34:09

That's interesting. Is it actually a good idea? Running a selective fee paying school is going to be very different to a comprehensive surely.

MrsBernardBlack Fri 23-Sep-16 22:55:20

OP, I am astonished that this is new to you as it has been all over the papers for some time now, like this link

Whether it will work or not who knows...

justicewomen Fri 23-Sep-16 23:27:46

The free schools in Saxmundham and Beccles opened by Seckford Trust (which runs Woodbridge School) are pretty poor, so don't assume it will be great

Dibbets Sat 24-Sep-16 09:32:10

I wouldn't assume it would be good at all, but people are quite keen for it to go ahead as local schools at the moment are really not popular with parents.

I was aware of free schools. What I didn't know was why private schools want to do this. It appears though that they are basically being forced into it to maintain charitable status. Not sure I want my child to attend a school where right from the beginning it will be obvious they are in a 2nd tier establishment which has been set up only to protect the interests of an elite institution.

catslife Sat 24-Sep-16 10:15:41

There is a proposal in my area for this type of school. It will be an all through school for ages 4 to 16.
There is a severe shortage of primary places in the area, but there are still local secondary schools that have places available most of which have improved significantly over the years.
What concerns me is that the independent school could cream off the brightest pupils at aged 11 by offering them bursaries at the independent school. Would there be safeguards to prevent this sort of thing happening?

AllPowerfulLizardPerson Sat 24-Sep-16 10:18:14

"right from the beginning it will be obvious they are in a 2nd tier establishment which has been set up only to protect the interests of an elite institution."

Are those state schools which already exist in partnerships with private schools rather bad then?

Or are you making massive assumptions?

meditrina Sat 24-Sep-16 10:24:38

"Would there be safeguards to prevent this sort of thing happening?"

It doesn't seem to happen at the moment.

The cost of bursaries (especially when interest rates are low) being a major limiting factor.

I don't think you need safeguards (what sort were you thinking of, btw) concerning something that doesn't occur.

ArcheryAnnie Sat 24-Sep-16 10:30:57

Beware - my only experience of a local (very well-regarded) private school "extending their expertise" for the benefit of local state school children was them organising a holiday programme that was half-arsed at best, and actively insulting at worst. I think it was done to put a tick against some "charitable objective" list, somewhere. It's made me think quite differently of them ever since.

3amEternal Sat 24-Sep-16 10:32:51

I read the independent sector largely wants to remove itself from charitable status, as the benefits are being outweighed by political interference. The difficulty has been how to do so as I believe there is nothing in the law to allow them to reverse it. An article said if schools opted out of being charities the additional tax would will cost around £200 per child per year. Which isn't a lot, but the independent schools near me have up to 25% of children receiving some degree of financial assistance. I imagine this would need to fall to make up the shortfall...

reallyanotherone Sat 24-Sep-16 10:36:50

So set up a free school instead of having to offer busaries.

So their private school becomes no bursary, 100% fee paying, and they can dump any kids who can't afford it in the free school, paid for by the government, meeting their bursary obligations without actually having to pay any bursaries?

Sounds like a no-brainer...

meditrina Sat 24-Sep-16 10:39:04

"The difficulty has been how to do so as I believe there is nothing in the law to allow them to reverse it"

Correct, it would require a change in the laws governing charities and how they can be wond up. Charities other than private schools will probably want to take a view on any proposals.

Yes, the 'benefit' has been repeatedly found to be about £200 per pupil. But that probably wouldn't make any difference to bursaries, which are typically paid for by specific funds, not out of current turnover.

3amEternal Sat 24-Sep-16 10:39:26

Some do quite a lot Archery. 25% of pupils on financial assistance (as I mentioned above), for example. The independents near us also let their facilities for little/no fees to local state schools, organise sporting and other events for local schools, run a number of training courses for state teachers, the local college accesses the drama facilities for free and in turn their students teach the school pupils. As they are charities they are non profit making so no one is getting 'rich' off the back of these schools. They all publish their accounts at companies house so anyone can read online where they spend their fee income.

AllPowerfulLizardPerson Sat 24-Sep-16 10:42:26

'So their private school becomes no bursary'

Possible, but unlikely, as a) the funds are in a separate 'pot' and can't really be used for anything else and b) the schools have been around for decades/centuries and most have always offered bursaries. It's not a remotely new activity, despite New Labour spin that tended to suggest otherwise.

3amEternal Sat 24-Sep-16 10:42:30

Most bursaries are actually paid out of fee income. So children are effectively being subbed by full paying families. There are bursary funds but in most modern independent schools (those without a rich old boys network) they are quite small. One of the schools near me has a tiny bursary and scholarship fund relative to the >25% on assistance. These children are being paid for largely by the other 75%.

AnotherNewt Sat 24-Sep-16 10:44:50

"Most bursaries are actually paid out of fee income."

That might be true of some more modern schools. But scholarship and bursary funds are normally totally separate (and can be run as charities, even when the school itself is a business).

3amEternal Sat 24-Sep-16 10:49:29

A lot of independent schools want to expand their bursaries (and seem to do so each year if you check companies house). Many were initially set up to school poor scholars so it's in their ethos. I think if they were able to remove themselves from being charities the extra costs would need to be met somewhere. As I said £200 (I expect it would be higher) a year is nothing to most families paying over £15k but if those families are also paying that for the subsidised 25% then there might become an issue. Without charity pressure it would be a no brainier to reverse the upwards bursary trend to avoid over stretching the full paying families.

3amEternal Sat 24-Sep-16 11:00:24

12%-15% of the fee money at the 3 private secondary schools near me goes towards paying for bursaries and scholarships. The protected / seperate funds provide a maximum 10% of the total bursary costs (that was the school with the biggest independent bursary / scholarship pot).

3amEternal Sat 24-Sep-16 11:01:56

Sorry pressed too soon. So 90% of the bursary and scholarship costs at these schools are being met from the fee paying families.

catslife Sat 24-Sep-16 11:03:22

I don't think you need safeguards (what sort were you thinking of, btw) concerning something that doesn't occur.
The only reason this doesn't occur at the moment is that schools of this type are totally new.
The local independent school does not at the moment open any of it's facilities for public use and so probably doesn't meet the charitable requirements.
The proposed site for the new school is already used by the local community and provides valuable services such as vocational education for children in a studio type school for 14-18 years. Would the new free school continue to provide facilities for these teenagers - I doubt it!

Dibbets Sat 24-Sep-16 11:27:03

really yes I wonder that too. This school will no longer have to offer bursaries if it runs the free school. Apparently the current parents of the school are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal. Knowing some of these parents I do not think they will be motivated by altruism. They are paying a lot of money and they definitely expect maximum bang for their buck.

The school seems to be dodging responsibility for possibly turfing out existing community groups by saying that final decision on the school location will not be made by them.

AllPowerfulLizardPerson Sat 24-Sep-16 12:04:43

"The only reason this doesn't occur at the moment is that schools of this type are totally new"

There have been sponsored academies for several years now. Eton and Dulwich are two that spring to mind and I'm pretty sure there are others. It has not reduced the number of bursaries they offer, and AFAIK hasn't in any way favoured pupils from the linked schools. Ditto schools that have not gone as far as to act as sponsors, but whose staff assist governing bodies of state schools.

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