New Secondary Schools for Richmond 4

(1001 Posts)
BayJay2 Fri 09-Nov-12 21:26:33

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 ....

muminlondon2 Wed 20-Mar-13 23:15:40

Just to correct an earlier comment, I thought the GEMS Milton Keynes school (mentioned here was also a boarding school (Webber, Bury Lawns until 2011 but it isn't according to the DfE . The 2012 census figures state it had capacity for 492 children aged 1-19, but 168 pupils.

This more recent article is also interesting.

ChrisSquire2 Sat 23-Mar-13 11:11:44

The Humanists have published an analysis of the religious character of the Free School proposals from 2011-13; and a press release.

Full breakdown:

329 not faith (134 successful)
111 ‘other Christian’ (19 successful)
80 Muslim (5 successful)
32 Church of England (15 successful)
27 Steiner (2 successful)
15 Plymouth Brethren (0 successful – including the "Focus Learning Trust" entry)
13 Sikh (7 successful)
12 Jewish (6 successful)
10 Christian Schools Trust (0 successful – including one that is also Accelerated Christian Education)
9 Accelerated Christian Education (0 successful – including the "Christian Education Europe Ltd" entry, and one that is also Christian Schools Trust)
8 Catholic (2 successful)
3 Maharishi (1 successful)
3 Hindu (2 successful)
2 Greek Orthodox (1 successful)
1 Satanist (0 successful)
1 Russian Orthodox (0 successful)
1 "Hindu/Buddhist/Ghandian" (0 successful – the first ever proposal for a Buddhist state school?)

The success rate of the Muslim bids is strikingly low, considering what a huge pent up demand there must be. There may be good reasons for rejecting them but it must seem very unfair to their promoters. Helping them to raise their game, frame bids that meet the DfE criteria and shine at interview would seem to be a more useful use of Jodie King?s and GEMS?s services than promoting a school in Teddington, which is overflowing with energetic articulate pushy parents quite capable to doing the business themselves.

muminlondon2 Sat 23-Mar-13 14:48:38

Chris, there weren't 80 different bids for Muslim schools, as many of those groups bid several times. A lot were existing private schools - and I identified about 75 Muslim private schools where pupils took GCSEs, mostly tiny schools averaging about 20 pupils per year (a lot of them had poor GCSE results and over half did not enter pupils for the full Ebacc range of subjects). Among the bids there were also many different denominations, e.g. Deobandi Hanafi, Sunni, Twelver Shia Islam, etc. which may be in competition with each other.

The schools that were approved were in the North West, the Midlands and London, representing the geographical areas where bids were made, and most are to be run by existing (successful) school groups which are already operating VA schools.

But without more contextual information on the business case, e.g. size of school, management, proposed curriculum, site, etc. I don't think you can draw conclusions about some religions being treated more favourably than others. By the same token you could say the DfE had it in for Montessori nurseries as there were about 20 different bids and only one approved. I imagine the Dfe would have needed to assess how popular and therefore economically viable the school would be, how likely it is to be well run, and how it might impact community cohesion within and between religious communities.

muminlondon2 Sat 23-Mar-13 15:01:36

p.s. news of another secondary free school bid (Reading) with GEMS involvement is here:

It seems to have been put forward in a rush by the local Conservative MP. I've noticed there is another free school approved in that area backed by CfBT.

muminlondon2 Sat 23-Mar-13 20:09:35

... But it wasn't successful

muminlondon2 Sat 23-Mar-13 23:19:52

The Conservative peer Lord Baker made some interesting comments about Muslim private and voluntary aided schools in the 2006 debate on faith schools (Lords amendment only) - see Hansard column 704.

ChrisSquire2 Fri 29-Mar-13 10:47:47

The RTT reports [p. 7]: Eucation leaflets a ?waste of money?: the Lib Dems have pointed out that the glossy leaflet from the borough’s Education Director ‘contains inaccuracies and little useful information about education. For the Tories, Cll Samuel has denounced this criticism as ’ . . a disreputable slur [on] a public servant of impeccable integrity’.

The cost is said to be only £7,400 including distribution: this seems much too low and I think is the print cost only.

BayJay2 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:28:17

Just posting this link for anyone interested in reading about the latest evolution of the Free School policy: here.

Happy Easter everyone!

muminlondon2 Sat 30-Mar-13 23:32:47

Statistics on secondary offer data were published last week. The BBC reported on it here.

Hammersmith and Fulham has the lowest rates of meeting parental preference in London (and third lowest anywhere) - 57%. 11.9% of residents were without an offer corresponding to preference; 28.7% of pupils offered places in in other LAs.

(North Tyneside in the North East has the highest satisfaction rate (99%) for first choice offers - 0.4% without an offer corresponding to preference. Exam results/Ofsted do not correlate, school autonomy similarly high, no issue with capacity - but big differences in admission policies of local schools ...)

Richmond, Hounslow and Kingston all saw a slight dip in applications in 2013 (2012 figures in brackets):

Richmond: 72.4% first preference met. 1,499 (1,537) applications, 249 (310) offered other LA, 97 (141) no offer corresponding to a preference.

Kingston: 69.1% first preference met. 1,439 (1,465) applications, 327 (338) offered other LA, 59 (45) no offer corresponding to a preference.

Hounslow: 73% first preference met. 2,456 (2,477) applications, 594 (599) offered other LA, 54 (111) no offer corresponding to a preference.

muminlondon2 Sun 31-Mar-13 09:44:21

I see more emphasis on meeting demand in the new free school criteria. But free schools alone are not meeting need - the London boroughs not able to provide any alternative offers are Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney, Westminster and Tower Hamlets.

H&F already has one free school - the other to be approved is a CofE boys school so may still not meet demand and/or may, like Sacred Heart, Oratory and Lady Margaret, select children from other boroughs on religious grounds. Fine for David Cameron and Nick Clegg's children but not other residents. Good to see more rigorous criteria for governance - but it really is insane not to give LAs a role in planning according to need in those boroughs that already have severe shortages.

muminlondon2 Mon 01-Apr-13 09:47:13

On school place planning, the National Audit Office has just criticised the DfE for its lack of transparency, clarity and understanding of costs and the impact of its school reforms.

- 256,000 new school places needed by 2014/15; 240,000 are primary places (37% in London).
- Only 8,800 of the 24,500 new free school places are in primary schools and most will not be operating at their full capacity by 2014/15.
- LAs have no powers to direct academies and free schools to expand to take more pupils.
- The 'significant omissions' from the DfE's costings include not making allowance for VAT in VA schools and assuming LAs would contribute 20% of the cost of new places when the actual contribution in 2012-13 was 34%.
- Richmond faces 'high' pressure on primary places along with half of London (less than 5% surplus capacity) but the other half faces 'severe' demand.

ChrisSquire2 Tue 02-Apr-13 00:27:23

The Mirror reports: Free schools files set to finally be released after freedom of information battle:

' . . Scores of [free] schools . . have opened in the last two years . . But the Department for Education has refused to release “impact assessments” on how other nearby schools are affected. It said the disclosure could inhibit “free and frank” advice or “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

Now the NUT has convinced the Information Commission that the DfE should release the documents in the public interest. The union hailed it as a victory for “openness and transparency” – and claimed it would raise questions involving millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

The NUT also revealed research showing that free schools are opening in areas where local state schools have a surplus of places . .

BayJay2 Tue 02-Apr-13 06:51:46

Chris, that NUT research doesn't show anything new or surprising. The free school policy was always intended to cater for more than just "basic need". The latest documentation that I linked to a few posts back defines need as a "combination of parental demand .... basic need for places, or low existing standards."

I suspect that if the NUT had extended their study to look at the average quality of the surplus school places, then the reasons for them remaining surplus would be clear.

Of course there's more than one way to deal with the quality issues, and the NUT obviously feel that opening alternative schools isn't the best way to do that. They might well be right, but its a bit disingenuous of them to not even acknowledge the problem.

muminlondon2 Tue 02-Apr-13 08:38:44

It's disingenuous of the DfE to say that 'The majority of open mainstream free schools are in areas with the greatest pressure on places' when the NAO says only 58% have opened in LAs where there is a shortage of places and not the primary places needed - and yet it's the only route for new schools unless LAs have a friendly diocese to work with. It remains to be seen whether they are better quality schools than ones or even if they meet parental demand and fill up. The problem is the targeting of resources and impact on surrounding schools - if they were struggling to attract students and teachers before in rural or deprived areas it may get harder.

BayJay2 Tue 02-Apr-13 09:27:00

"It's disingenuous of the DfE to say that 'The majority of open mainstream free schools are in areas with the greatest pressure on places' when the NAO says only 58% have opened in LAs where there is a shortage of places"

Well, if was being pedantic I'd say that 58% is a majority ... but yes, they're putting a positive spin on it. I think you can expect to see that percentage go up as the DfE respond to the NAO report in future decision-making. My high-level impression is that the early free-school rounds were about a) addressing quality issues and b) aiming for a free school in every LA to avoid them being painted as a middle-class London phenomenon. Subsequent rounds (including the current one) will be more about addressing the need for places.

"It remains to be seen whether they are better quality schools than ones or even if they meet parental demand and fill up. The problem is the targeting of resources and impact on surrounding schools - if they were struggling to attract students and teachers before in rural or deprived areas it may get harder."

I don't disagree with any of that.

muminlondon2 Wed 03-Apr-13 00:47:26

Not just a positive spin. I interpreted the NAO as meaning 58% of free schools were in areas of shortages but for a different phase of school, so overall a minority were meeting current shortages.

That's backed up by analysis stating the 100+ second wave free schools were established in only four areas of primary place shortage and three of the areas of secondary place shortages.

In relation to quality, only a minority were in the 20 areas listed by the New Schools Network as worst either for results or Ofsted. Beccles Free School was approved next to a 'good' existing school in an area of a big surplus places (which is why even the Conservative MP campaigned against it).

In Hammersmith and Fulham where West London Free School is, all schools are good or outstanding (though many are difficult to access). Between 2010 and 2013 applications have dipped by 0.5%, places have increased by 17.5% (WLFS accounts for half of them), and 9% more are staying within the borough - but the number of first preferences met has only increased by 1.2%. Surely the satisfaction rate should be 9% higher?

ChrisSquire2 Wed 03-Apr-13 00:49:11

The FT reports: Hospitals urged to help schools search:

Hospital managers are being urged to identify unused wards and outbuildings that could be used to house the coalition’s flagship free schools for as little as six months, in a sign of increasing urgency as ministers scramble to find new school places ahead of a looming capacity crunch . . NHS trusts are . . being pressed to tell education officials about any possible locations even if they do not consider them to be suitable.

. . Natalie Evans, director of the New Schools Network, a charity that helps groups wanting to set up free schools [said] that finding suitable sites had been the “biggest challenge” for those groups trying to set up a school: “The demand for free schools remains high – both in areas where there has been a boom in pupil numbers, or where parents are unhappy with the schools currently on offer – but the supply of suitable sites has struggled to keep pace, . .

Clinics, health centres, day centres, hospitals, ambulance stations and care facilities have all been considered for conversion into school, although the costs involved are significant. Bolingbroke Academy, a free school which opened in September in Wandsworth . . stirred significant controversy given the £13m spent on purchasing the hospital site and more than £12m further on building work to make it suitable for pupils . .

BayJay2 Wed 03-Apr-13 09:57:53

Hi muminlondon. I think the WLFS falls squarely into the 'parental demand' category rather than the 'basic need' category because its raison d'être was to provide something different to a traditional community school. It's admissions policy deliberately opens it up to families in a wider area than just Hammersmith & Fulham, and its certainly oversubscribed.

In general I think it would be a good thing for the free school approval process to become more transparent, including the impact assessments. Lack of openness causes controversy, even if the underlying decisions are reasonable.

Talking of controversy, the Maharishi school is making waves again.

muminlondon2 Wed 03-Apr-13 12:52:55

There could be just as much controversy if free schools are used to plug gaps in basic need provision as when they have created surplus places. They can't be directed to expand or take bulge classes, and having them open in inadequate premises with unqualified teachers is a risk and a turn-off. If they are too small they may put a strain on resources, if very large there may be questions about transparency and motives in how sponsors are selected and who approached whom first. Using decommissioned A&E units in hospitals will not go down well ... If parents are allocated alternative offers at a Maharishi school, Sikh or other school not of their religion, one with no outside space, or a head with no teaching experience at that level, there would be a rise in appeals to the LA (or whoever you appeal to).

The Maharishi story is appalling - it suggests they only have 4 pupils taking GCSE. Richmond had a lucky escape.

On another topic, RPA's sponsor AET has been told to halt expansion to focus on existing schools.

BayJay2 Wed 03-Apr-13 17:53:07

Well, yes, I guess there's lots of room for things to go wrong with Free schools, but hopefully lots of room for things to go right too. People will need to look at each one on its own merit, and hopefully won't tar them all with the same brush.

ChrisSquire2 Fri 05-Apr-13 10:29:04

The RTT reports:
School faith places anger campaigners p 11: St Stephen?s voluntary aided primary school has introduced 6 foundation places [out of 60] for the children of worshippers at local churches, primarily St Stephen?s which has a large congregation of young families. RISC objected.

BayJay2 Wed 10-Apr-13 11:46:21

For info, Richmond council have just published their annual report on School Standards, containing the validated Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 (GCSE) results for 2012 .... here.

ChrisSquire2 Thu 11-Apr-13 12:18:10

The Telegraph reports: Nine-in-10 of the Coalition's free schools 'oversubscribed' (Apr 11):

Up to 10 children are competing for each place at the Coalition’s flagship free schools amid intense competition for the most sought-after institutions, according to research . . The most popular school, West London Free School in Hammersmith, had 1,196 applications for just 120 places – leaving 10 pupils competing for every spare desk.

The DfE surveyed 63 free schools due to open at the start of the academic year. In all, 55 reported that they were oversubscribed and eight were under-subscribed.

muminlondon2 Thu 11-Apr-13 16:00:33

- 100% of schools oversubscribed in Richmond: more than three applicants for every place in the borough as a whole!
- Five children competing for every place at Orleans Park!
- Nearly 1,100 applications for Teddington!
- More than two applicants chasing every place at St Richard Reynold's in its first year!


'around 13 per cent of the schools officially had fewer applications than places – leaving them standing partially empty in September'

In comparison Richmond's schools are doing fantastically well ... Or are those statistics misleading?

muminlondon2 Thu 11-Apr-13 16:14:37

Same sort of article published in Telegraph same date last year - similar proportion reported being oversubscribed.

Then the BBC reported in October that a quarter of free schools were significantly undersubscribed (half or a third of places unfilled).

And the Telegraph still hasn't given first preferences for any of those examples.

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