Richmond Borough Schools Chat 5(1000 Posts)
Welcome! This is the latest in a series of threads about Richmond schools, which was first triggered by the council's publication of its Education White Paper in February 2011.
Please do join in the chat. There’s a bunch of us who’ve been following the thread for a long time, and we sometimes get a bit forensic, but new contributions are always welcome, and if it’s something that’s been covered before we can always direct you to that part of the thread.
We generally talk about local education policy, the impact of national policy, the performance of the borough’s schools, and admissions-related issues. We began by talking about Secondaries, but tend to talk a lot about primaries too, so the title of the thread has evolved this time to take that into account.
If you have a few hours to spare and want to catch up on 2 years of local education history, then below are the links to the old threads. We have to keep starting new threads because each only hold 1000 posts. The first two threads run in parallel, as one was started on the national Mumsnet site, and another on the local one:
1a) New Secondaries for Richmond Borough?: Mumsnet Secondary Education (Feb 2011 – Nov 2011)
1b) New Secondary schools for Richmond!: Mumsnet Local (Feb 2011 – Nov 2011)
2. New Secondary Schools for Richmond 2: Mumsnet Local (Nov 2011 – May 2012)
3. New Secondary Schools for Richmond 3: Mumsnet Local (May 2012 – Nov 2012)
4. New Secondary Schools for Richmond 4: Mumsnet Local (Nov 2012 – Oct 2013)
5. This thread: Richmond Borough Schools Chat 5: Mumsnet Local (Oct 2013 - ????)
Finally, to find out how to add links, as well as smilies and emphasis, see these Mumsnet guidelines.
just marking place MiL, no comment to make as yet
Doesn't anyone know what happened to the 'headmistress' of Thomson House? One moment she's recruiting teachers, the next she is airbrushed out of the prospectus and list of teaching staff and a new principal is announced. The original head may have left for personal reasons, may have been sacked, whatever, but the school's PR is rubbish if it can't even give a simple account (see e.g. Pimlico Primary).
The Pimlico letter was addressed to parents, and then picked up by national media from their website, and blown up into a big story (which must have been pretty distressing for the original Head). The Thomson House parent newsletters are in a private area of their website, so if there's an equivalent letter you won't be able to see it. Perhaps they're simply trying to strike a balance between "good PR" and protecting individuals from destructive media attention.
p.s. It's worth pointing out that a couple of our local maintained primaries have recently changed Heads without any big announcement beyond their parent community too, so there's no particular breach of protocol in a free school doing the same.
The RTT has Nelson Primary School consultation, Twickenham, begins:
. . Consultation has begun over proposals for Nelson Primary School to become an academy and to join the Waldegrave Trust . . A consultation document has been distributed to parents . . Responses can be made online on either school’s website or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BayJay, I'm sure the head of Pimlico Primary was distressed but that was an important story as she appointed without classroom teaching experience, completed training (although was being trained) or headship experience, by the DfE minister who approves the funding agreements for free schools including Thomson House.
Thomson House has misjudged the PR though, because at first sight I thought there were two heads (called different things). It's confusing.
"by the DfE minister who approves the funding agreements for free schools including Thomson House"
It would have been the previous minister. I've heard that the approval of headships is one of the things Lord Nash has tightened up on since taking over office. As I've said before, the free school policy and procedures do seem to evolve in response to the intense public scrutiny they're (rightly) given.
Maybe John Nash just writes the letters to confirm funding arrangements then! Or knows him personally since he addressed him by his first name?
And maybe despite having founded Futures the appointment was made by the chair of governors, his wife Caroline Nash. Perhaps they don't talk business at home.
He became minister for schools in January, so would have signed funding agreements for this year's openers. I'd missed his association with Pimlico, so I stand corrected there! In that case possibly the tightening of procedures has been the result of cumulative experience, rather than just that of his predecessor.
He may have a local connection and in fact may have met local prep school heads through Alpha Plus, the business he sold in 2007 after five years for four times the original price. This company set up a chain of prep schools including The Falcons in Richmond and Chiswick (now one school sharing a head).
From the article below it looks like Alpha Plus was to be Pimlico's sponsor but he sold the company and set up the Futures Charity. I think that was around the time the rules were changed so that sponsors no longer needed to contribute money to academies.
The other coincidence is that the head of RPA used to work at Pimlico school but that was before it became an academy!
Some other background about John Nash and Futures - why Pimlico Primary is such a big media story:
1. Futures beat private schools Westminster School and Haberdashers Aske for this bid. The only secondary school in Nash's Alpha Plus group was Portland Place (2012 academic results well below all Richmond's academies). It was also controversial because he was a Tory donor but had made money from government outsourcing contracts.
2. The Pimlico Academy bid was decided by Westminster's Conservative Council in 2007. Academy status had been opposed by 96% of stakeholders polled. and despite a poor Ofsted, that year the school had produced its best ever GCSE results, in an iconic but neglected building - even Richard Rogers voiced opposition to demolition of the building.
3. The school went on to be judged Outstanding in 2010, although the headteacher left this summer.
4. Alpha Plus (which still owns The Falcons) in August 2006 had a £27.6m turnover. It was, however, making a £797,000 loss with loans of £33.8m. It was bought by John Nash's company for £26 million in 2002 and sold in 2007 for 5.5 times the original investment to a property investment group. While the schools made only a small profit, the property was valued at £131 million.
5. John Nash was predicted in 2007 to become influential if the Conservatives won the 2010 and perhaps made a 'government adviser' . He was appointed to the DfE board in 2011 and promoted to Schools Minister in January this year.
6. His wife Caroline, also a Tory donor, is chair of governors at Pimlico Primary. She also founded The Curriculum Centre which includes David Cameron's ex-Director of Policy among its advisers.
A Lib Dem press statement today says that birth data that has been available since 2011 shows that September 2014’s reception class intake is likely to be around 114 pupils higher than this September’s intake, the equivalent of almost four extra reception classes. However, with less than six months to go before places are due to be allocated, on 16th April, no extra places have been announced.
An official report to the October 9 Finance and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee reported that:
‘ . . 4.6.1 Education: Additional primary places are expected to be needed in the Teddington, Sheen, Kew and possibly Twickenham areas. However the level of requirement is partly dependent on further Free School applications through the DfE. It should be noted that the Council has added a further £61.3m to the capital programme for school places since 2011/12 and the service is regularly looking into the options for further schemes in order to meet the increasing demand on the borough’s schools . . ‘
Yet no plans have been announced.
I have been partly following this thread (have a child due to start Reception in 2014 and another in a few years time). We are in Kew/Richmond and only really know this part of the borough.
A couple of weeks ago we visited Queens primary. We were told that is expected to be rebuilt as it is a very old building. The site is enormous. A question was asked as to whether it would be expected to expand with a potential rebuild and the answer was 'not necessarily' as capacity in Kew was large enough !? By this I presume this means that the comparatively unpopular Darrel school is undersubscribed. With such a high increase in birth rates I see no reason why this school could not be expanded successfully and it would also be nice to have non-faith places secured at this school too, as this year at the initial stages of offers there was only 1 'community' pupil admitted excluding siblings and faith.
I raised this question with someone at the council and was advised to write to my local councillor which I will do. I think it is very relevant to this discussion and also the faith issues campaign.
if Darrell in undersubscribed, makes no sense to increase Queens...
Holy Trinity got more applications than Queen's this year (see Appendix 1). So did Kew Riverside. I don't think they've ever taken a bulge class.
Yes all local schools are popular and there are only a few 'empty' spaces at Darrel, not enough to meet demand in future years I imagine.
It seems like such a missed opportunity to be rebuilding a school as it is in dire need of it but not future proof it's capacity at the same time.
I have also heard that Marshgate which used to take bulge classes on alternate years is only planned every 3 now so there will be less opportunities for sheen/kew pupils there too.
Thomson house catchment has catchment of 664m so that's firmly just reaching Mortlake and a bit of Sheen I imagine.
"if Darrell in undersubscribed, makes no sense to increase Queens..."
Actually Darell isn't under-subscribed. The Admissions Report shows that it got 88 applications overall for its 43 places, and was slightly over-subscribed on a combination of first and second preferences.
As we know that many families across the borough didn't get any of their 6 preferences, even if some of the people who got Darell offers turned them down because they were later offered a higher preference, or decided to go private/move house (and the report shows that 27 families did turn down their offer) their places would have been allocated to others. It's not certain whether there were any surplus places on September 1st, as the report doesn't say that explicitly. It does say the borough had one on-time applicant still without a place at the start of term, implying all places were full at that point, and presumably there were quite a few late applicants waiting for places too.
Darell received a Good Ofsted report in December and was described as rapidly improving, so there's no reason to believe its popularity won't increase further in coming years. There might be a case for delaying expansion of Queens in the meantime, but the shortage of primary places across London overall means that councils don't really have the luxury of letting opportunities for expansion slip through their fingers.
The report referenced by Chris says clearly that additional places are needed in Kew as well as other locations so I suppose that must be based on actual statistics about population? Amazed to learn that the Council is borrowing so much money - £86.7million and rising. Lucky we don't have the Tea Party here to bring it all to a standstill! The Council is not making its own life easy by consulting on developing/changing the use of many sites around the borough including new residential developments such as the 250 homes at Teddington Studios needed to fund the redevelopment of Egerton Road to provide a Haymarket HQ building, secondary school etc. I haven't spotted any sites earmarked for new schools yet but they are long documents. Comments by 12th November: www.richmond.gov.uk/home/environment/planning/planningpolicy/local_development_framework/site_allocations_dpd.htm
Good point DonsDrapers about the Marshgate bulge class and the pressure is clearly coming from the North Sheen end. Even with added capacity at Vineyard, I can't see how it is sustainable for Marshgate and Sheen Mount to be offering bulge classes every two or three years. Would like to see Queen's offer to change its admissions policy in return for funding, however.
Another Ofsted shock, this time Knollmead primary school in Kingston whose Ofsted rating has dropped from 'Good' to 'Inadequate'. Yet there was still praise for all years from nursery to Y3 and the SEN unit, it has met the floor target and there is a new head (the old one retired) and new governors, so it's a very harsh rating.
As it's not quite in special measures, Kingston council is already disputing the need for it to become an academy. But uncertainty was bad for Roke primary in Croydon which lost the battle against forced academisation under same rating.
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