New Secondary Schools for Richmond 4(1001 Posts)
Welcome. This is the fourth (or perhaps fifth) in a series of threads about Richmond Secondary Schools.
The discussion was originally triggered by Richmond council's publication of its Education White Paper in February 2011. It started with two parallel threads here and here.
In November 2011 the most active of the original two threads reached 1000 messages (the maximum allowed) so we continued the conversation here.
That thread filled up in May 2012, and was continued here.
It's now November 2012, and once again we're at the start of a new thread ....
Heathclif, thankfully my DD already knows about Mary Seacole (and Mary Anning, and Emily Pankhurst). I grew up thinking science was for boys and history was about white men and battles - why do I get this feeling that Gove's reforms with regard to exams and curriculum are putting boys back in their rightful position of superiority (and last minute cramming)? Interesting to see Waldegrave's house system role models ...
Goves proposals on the History curriculum are politically driven as well, it is an imperialist powerful white man's history, and yes as you say, boring (I think I studied History at uni in spite of school history, not because of it) as well as totally at odds with the History taught at universities. My daughter is currently studying the colonisation of Africa at A level , and it is far from a celebration of the British Empire, the responsibility for the first concentration camps etc. I'm not quite sure how Gove's proposals would have prepared pupils for a complete shift of emphasis at 16, perhaps that is why he has backed down to some extent.
Re: Thomson House (ChrisSquire2 Fri 08-Feb-13 13:54:52):
From the Planning Portal: Change of Use Planning Permission: Use Classes: 'The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes'.
The following list gives an indication of the types of use which may fall within each use class:
. . D1 Non-residential institutions - Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court. Non residential education and training centres.
. . Planning permission is not needed when both the present and proposed uses fall within the same class . .
Example: Wanstead: Nursery owners expect planning permission to convert church: . . Mr Samouelle said: We do not have to register for a change of use. But we will put an application in because we are planning on putting another floor in and making changes to some of the walls . .
I wonder how many applications there have been for Thomson House? Capacity is clearly needed in East Sheen but I remember when I was looking around primary schools, facilities and outside space did influence my preferences (of course they are all so oversubscribed you are lucky to get into the nearest).
The annual primary school admissions brochure has never included church schools in its statistics about previous applications - will free schools also be omitted? Yet the secondary brochure has always included applications to Christ's. Data on primary applications has been published in FOI requests and some council reports so I have never understood the omission in a brochure aimed at parents.
That's interesting Chris - no planning application would have been required anyway for the United Reform church to become a school even before the new planning waiver for free schools. The main difference between all these uses is the amount of traffic and noise generated I suppose especially between a closed facility and an active one. It seems odd that there are so many rules about what makes a site suitable for a school in terms of outdoor space but they actually don't matter in practice.
I agree about the dogwalkers on Craneford Way playing fields Heathcliff. Turning open grassland into a fenced off multi use sports area will not be popular! Friends of the River Crane Environment actually applied for Craneford Way West to be given village green status some time ago but not sure if it has been approved yet.
muminlondon They have never managed a year's admissions in Sheen that did not involve giving parents no other option but a last minute portacabin class at one school or another, usually the least popular, plenty of roads are in black holes. I am sure Thomson House will fill up with willing parents anxious to avoid that.
"It seems odd that there are so many rules about what makes a site suitable for a school in terms of outdoor space but they actually don't matter in practice"
Lottie, they do need to provide outdoor space, but it doesn't all have to be on the same site. There's more detail about their plans on their website. Given their strong connection with Harrodian I've always assumed there would be some usage of their facilities.
I can't see that having access to playing fields a couple of miles away where you are taken for organised sport once a week is enough when you are a lively 7 year old - what about being able to run around on some grass outside at breaktime? I think the Government and local authority are offloading their moral responsibility to provide a decent school environment for all children through these free schools and through bending the rules about where the outside space has to be.
LP, yes, its not ideal, but the free school model was always about re-using existing buildings and improvising, to set up schools cheaply and quickly. I'm not defending it ... just spelling it out. In a crowded London where sites are scarce, budgets are stretched, and the population is booming, it's one solution.
Is it more acceptable for a Secondary school perhaps? St RR will use playing fields at St Mary's. Tiffin has playing fields near Hampton Court.
I do take on board that sites are scarce etc. but I thought the model was about letting motivated people set up schools free from the dead hand of the local authority not about setting up schools on the cheap in places that aren't suitable for children!? Clifden has plenty of green space so the Sir RR children won't suffer. I am absolutely convinced about the benefits of outdoor learning for primary school children. I don't think it matters quite so much for most secondary age children and I'm not bothered about sport being practised elsewhere, but not to have any proper outdoor space at school when you are little is very sad. Some of the children will no doubt come from flats where they have no outside space at home either.
"but I thought the model was about letting motivated people set up schools free from the dead hand of the local authority"
LP, yes, that too. In many cases one will compensate for the other, and its certainly the case that Free Schools will get away with compromising on accommodation much more easily than a Local Authority would if it was having to set up schools under the same conditions.
Thomson House has impressive enough credentials, so it's likely to be popular.
I thought it was a teacher-led free school? There's a lot of experience among the governors in multinational companies and civil service but mainly voluntary interest in education. Of course community governors are not usually educationalists either, and this group certainly looks very competent and intelligent and good with finance. But I imagine you are speaking hypothetically with regard to the 'dead hand of the local authority' because at primary school level at least, Richmond LA has been so successful both in terms of results and Ofsted ratings. Thomson House and Harrodian are likely to derive benefit in collaborating with the other local schools - even just as a parent I've heard so much about initiatives for professional development, secondment, battle of the books competitions, etc.
"but mainly voluntary interest in education"
Muminlondon, that's not how I read it at all. There's a "head of prep", a "deputy head of seniors", a "head of seniors", all professional teachers from Harrodian on the Governors. There's also a Headteacher from another independent school.
In addition to the Governors they have an "Education Advisory Board" with more heads and senior teachers from the independent sector on it.
I imagine lots of people will see it as "like a private school, but without the fees" and be attracted to that despite the awkward buildings.
Also, LP referred to "organised sport once a week", but part of their vision is for three hours of PE a week.
(And again I'm not defending it or promoting it, just trying to be accurate and putting it into perspective. I agree with muminlondon about Richmond LA's strong track record).
There's a "head of prep", a "deputy head of seniors", a "head of seniors", all professional teachers from Harrodian on the Governors. There's also a Headteacher from another independent school.
You're right, I suppose that these positions didn't mean much to me as 'head of prep' could be a teaching assistant leading a homework club as far as my knowledge of private school hierarchies go! I'll admit I skim read it and mainly clocked the names Goldman Sachs, Kraft, SOAS and Foreign Office. As I said, many of our community and parent governors have similarly impressive CVs so I'm not knocking their competence or enthusiasm.
However I would agree that outside space is about so much more than organised sport and that would definitely influence my personal choice of school. My memories of school are mainly from the outside - skipping, hide and seek, making daisy chains, endless 'let's pretend', funny shows, etc. while boys organised their own football (or even pretend football) every single break time around their jumpers.
"making daisy chains"
You're luckier than me. Ours was all concrete and stinky outdoor loos. I think they moved the loos indoors halfway through my time there, about 1980ish, but I still have strong memories of the stench.
My DCs have fantastic outdoor space, including wildlife areas, and that's definitely one of the main reasons I chose the school, along with the fact that it was all on one site, rather than two like the alternative. It doesn't have much in the way of free-play grass though - the last little bit is about to be replaced with astro-turf because "mud in winter and dust in summer" leaves it roped off for weeks at a time.
I think I was lucky, although I also feel very lucky so far with schools in Richmond that do still have both concrete and grassy/nature areas and skipping/clapping/pretend games are alive and well. It was a big shock to go to secondary school on a split site - for the first two years we spent hours trundling up on buses to use the sports and science facilities at the Big School. And stinky toilets and mean-sized yards seemed to go hand with stinky mean-minded behaviour. I don't mind the inside of Victorian buildings but break times in the tender early years of secondary school were about glueing myself to massive cast-iron radiators and hoping the teachers wouldn't find me!
Yes, by "dead hand of the local authority" I was referring to the Conservatives overall approach not LB Richmond which I agree has done pretty well with state schools over the years notwithstanding losing the plot recently, thanks partly to the teachers of course. I am genuinely surprised that Thomson House's "credentials" don't include anyone who has worked in state education - it seems very arrogant and that would put me off as a prospective parent but, as you say, there are probably plenty of parents in that area who won't be put off. It does seem that this is a private school in all but fees. I wonder if it will lead to more pupils for Harrodian secondary - presumably the parents will feel terrified of sending them to RPA for secondary after a quasi prep school experience, and scholarships will be awarded to the bright but poor? I imagine that the PE will include one lengthy session a week at Harrodian and a bit of skipping about indoors or in that concrete playground in front of the Court House for the rest of the three hours!
Don't forget that LBRUT have done well in the development of good state primaries but most definitely not in terms of school place planning, and allowing three of it's secondaries to deteriorate. There are plenty of parents in the borough effectively excluded from their provision of good state schools, quite a lot of them in Sheen.
"I wonder if it will lead to more pupils for Harrodian secondary"
They have a "medium term plan" for a secondary free school (see FAQ11). I remember reading something in the past (can't remember where, sorry) that they wanted to create secondary places in time for their first primary cohort transferring to secondary.
" I imagine that the PE will include one lengthy session a week"
I'm pretty sure some of their early adverts talked about an hour a day, but that might have evolved now, along with the realities of site availability.
"I am genuinely surprised that Thomson House's "credentials" don't include anyone who has worked in state education"
Their newly appointed headteacher has worked in the state sector.
not in terms of school place planning, and allowing three of its secondaries to deteriorate
School place planning has been addressed at primary to a large extent through two new schools and numerous expansions, though the borough continues to attract more and more families. It's a complex picture at secondary but this is where you have most political interference on both a local and national level and where the influence of selection and independent schools also comes into play. People are prepared to commute further, and there are historical anomalies such as a concentration of Catholic schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, grammar schools in Kingston and Sutton, etc. With link policies (or not), church influence, sponsored academies and now converter academies on top it becomes a patchwork of provision where 'good schools' depend on intake, and much more competitive between schools rather than collaborative as is clearly the case at primary level and the LA's role much less effective.
muminlondon I do not agree, consistently for the last 25 years to my knowledge they have planned too few primary school places and relied on parents to be deterred by last minute arrangements cobbled together to deal with the pupils without primary schools places. Last year in St Margarets you had children unable to start school until Christmas and then in a church hall a hike from the main school. All over the borough they allow roads and whole neighbourhoods to become black holes of provision, fobbing each new year group off with the explanation it is just a blip, it is the result of too many families moving to the borough, fewer going private (in a recession, there's a surprise). In Twickenham we have been immune to that to some extent, the reason we moved here, but in other parts of the borough, and especially Sheen, there has been very consistent under provision with more than a hundred pupils without places year after year. The new schools, Marshgate and Kew Riverside came too little and too late, to address the continuing problem. I am sure Thomson House, especially serving that area of Sheen and Mortlake will be a very welcome new school, with or without a playground. However I do appreciate that in terms of local residents it is going to be a disaster, narrow residential streets where they already fight over parking spaces.
On the secondary front Shene School does not serve a catchment area that is any different in social make up to the outstanding primaries that surround it. When I moved to Sheen in 1986 my neighbours had sent their children to Shene School because it still had people's confidence and they had done well there, including going to Oxbridge. There was no other explanation for it's downward slide but mismanagement. Parents in Sheen send their children long distances and to private schools because they have felt they had no choice, they differ not at all from the parents who send their children to Teddington and Orleans except in so much as they don't have the choice of an outstanding comp.
My village primary also had stinky outdoor loos! and about half an acre of knee grazing tarmac with some hopscotch marked out on it, encased by what felt like 100 foot drystone walls that regularly claimed victims with broken bones and heads where they smashed into them! If the playground wasn't dangerous enough the Headmaster was a great lover of corporal punishment too.
I did say 'to a large extent' but that may not be comprehensive enough. Near Sheen/Barnes there are now at least Marshgate, Kew Riverside, expansions at Barnes and Holy Trinity and a shared regular bulge class at Sheen Mount/Vineyard/Marshgate and the Catholic schools and perhaps from 2014 a permanent extra class at Vineyard. So that has nearly doubled provision in 12 years. School expansions are not popular and very disruptive so they have to be developed carefully. Thomson House will at least provide a respite from that.
At secondary there's a tipping point where poor results and behaviour drive those with more options away and I don't judge anyone for having avoided Shene secondary in the past.
One additional factor which has affected the ability of LAs to provide primary school places is the legal limitation on class sizes since 2001.
Thomson House may be attractive to some parents because they promise smaller classes, 24 per class (not far off the 22 per class at Harrodian) - so their total capacity is 48. I've wondered how free schools can achieve smaller classes with the same funding per head as other state schools. I was told by a friend of mine who had been teaching in the reception of a private primary (prep? or is that age pre-prep?) that although there was only about 22 in the class there was only one classroom assistant between two classes rather than one per class, so the child-adult ratio was actually larger. And they didn't get as many parent vounteers as in her own children's state primary and less SEN coordination so she had less time for one-to-one support.
This DfE research states at 4.2 that 'Class size is the third most common reason for parents to choose to send their child to an independent school'. While primary class sizes even limited to 30 children in the UK are relatively high, it doesn't affect the UK's comparatively high maths and science scores by end of KS2. And class sizes at secondary level are on the low end of the international scale. I wonder if teaching assistants, volunteers and the size of groups within classes are taken into account in these comparisons? The paper quotes research that concludes 'raising attainment in schools is better achieved through other interventions than class size reduction ... increasing teacher effectiveness represents greater value for money.
Anyway, to link back to school buildings, the way a school is laid out is important - shared areas, quiet rooms, rooms with flexible seating, craft and play areas as well as big halls.
"I've wondered how free schools can achieve smaller classes with the same funding per head as other state schools"
Each one will do it in its own way and you'd need to see the detailed budget in each individual proposal (not currently published, or available via FOI) to see how funds are allocated. That lack of info has led to criticism of Free School policy, and the resulting speculation has given rise to some (probably) unfair innuendo against individual free schools. However on the upside, the individual budgets are closely scrutinized by the DfE, and (crucially) by the Audit Commission, to make sure they give value for money.
I wasn't implying that free schools get more funding per pupil than other schools - but that they may employ fewer classroom assistants or use their budgets in a different way. It's a question for parents to ask when they are considering or offered a place at the school.
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