Richmond Borough Schools Chat 5

(1000 Posts)
BayJay2 Fri 11-Oct-13 19:52:28

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.

muminlondon2 Wed 30-Oct-13 20:45:23

Was going to add a bit more about GEMS as I've found out it has sold more than half of the 13 UK schools it acquired 9-10 years ago. Nearly all were prep schools and it has generally acquired rather than started from scratch. A few links below:

2003: Acquired first 3 schools: Sherborne House, Bury Lawn (now named Webber Independent) and Sherfield School

2004: Bought 10 more schools from Nord Anglia for £11.9 million, bringing total to 13. ‘hopes to manage around 200 schools in the UK within the next five years’

2005: Aims to have ‘5,000 schools on a global basis in 15 years' time' (from nearly 60). Nearly sponsored two state academies. But pulls out due to bad publicity over Bury Lawn.

See also profile of chairman’. ‘It takes seven to 10 years before you make any money [in a school].’

2007: Sells Kingswood College to developers.

2009: Reported to be interested in acquiring one of 25 schools (no evidence this happened).

2010: Chief Executive quits after 7 weeks

2011: Sells two schools for £2 million. ‘We're looking to buy more schools… we want to buy 20 in the UK.’

2013: Sells five schools in Yorkshire and Lancashire to Alpha Schools for £2.5 million.

muminlondon2 Wed 30-Oct-13 22:01:24

RTT reports on provisional GCSE results:

Richmond pupils prove their brightness once again

Heathclif Thu 31-Oct-13 12:21:20

dirtyflorrs I have lived in the borough for 25 years and have never heard even a murmur that the waiting lists are managed in anything but a transparent and fair way according to the criteria, and believe me, given the pressure on places and the nature of the mother's mafia, any hint of corruption would get exposed. The problem is that with the popular schools people do move to the doorstep to get in, we were No 1 on the waiting list of one of the outstanding schools for the entire seven of my DDs primary school years. It is frustrating, but all you could do is move closer yourself sad . We did however 3 weeks into term get offered a place at a further away but equally popular school, they had gone down the waiting list but no one wanted to disturb their child where they had settled so it can happen......

Heathclif Thu 31-Oct-13 12:25:57

mum I am watching the developments in relation to GEMS with interest and hmm . Of course the mysterious appearance of their website and the apparent holding of a meeting no one knew about would not have anything to do with the Conservatives coming under fire on school place provision in the run up to the election.

bayjay I thought an application for a free school had to show evidence of parental demand? There are some rather staged posts on their Facebook site showing support but they are from the time of their last application.

It is all rather odd.

muminlondon2 Thu 31-Oct-13 12:45:15

I don't know, they've made the same claim for Kingston and I'm not convinced the Lib Dems there would have actively 'identified them as a partner'. They seem to have a history of hyperbole and a record of senior chiefs coming and going, with schools offloaded if they can't run them cheaply enough. I'd be very nervous if I had children in one of their remaining schools.

Another story in Education Investor from (delete your cookies if you can't see it) says February 2012 says:

'GEMS currently runs 10 schools in the UK, but it acquired these schools from other operators, rather than creating them from scratch. It now plans to open six new schools over the next two years ... The group plans to open the first of the new schools, in Hounslow, west London, this September. '

It would be funny if it wasn't so serious IYSWIM.

BayJay2 Thu 31-Oct-13 13:35:51

Heathcliff, to answer your question, unless the rules have changed they would need to have a significant proportion of their first and second cohort signed up to support the school vision, to the extent that they would make it their first choice.

However, maybe the rules have changed and its only necessary to show there's a need for places generally, and perhaps support from the LA. You'd need to check the most recent guidance notes for 2015 applicants to check the latest rules.

muminlondon2 Thu 31-Oct-13 16:47:55

No doubt about GEMS' motives in this:

2005 Sunney Varkey quote:

'Sunny Varkey, the chairman of Gems, predicted that ministers would eventually relax the restrictions on private companies running state schools for a profit. ... Under the plans, businesses will have to set up their own charitable trusts to back the new schools.

"I personally think it's asking me to be dishonest," Mr Varkey said. "I don't want to make a trust for the sake of making money."'

The trust it set up is now headed by Sir Peter Birkett, who resigned from the Barnfield Federation, now under investigation by the DfE.

muminlondon2 Thu 31-Oct-13 23:30:29

DfE FAQs say:

'you do need to show is demand from parents and the local community for the specific school that you want to set up, rather than – not just a demand for any new school' [sic]

No gap in the market as far as outstanding schools in Richmond are concerned.

ChrisSquire2 Fri 01-Nov-13 10:00:19

The RTT has No comparison when it comes to providing new school places (p. 24), a letter from Cllr Hodgson, Cabinet member for schools, comparing the Tories’ achievements since 2010 with that of the previous Liberal Democrat administration.

muminlondon2 Sat 02-Nov-13 00:51:41

You can't compare pre-Gove with what's happening now because councils can't set up new community schools. Paul Hodgins is probably right to suggest that while the LibDems set the ball rolling with primary expansions (although some were rotating bulge classes), the Conservatives implemented them and added a few more (see timeline).

Richmond is in demand because the schools are good and in terms of need is in a slightly better position than Wandsworth, Sutton, Croydon, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow - have a look at this map.

ChrisSquire2 Thu 07-Nov-13 10:47:49

Parents invited to find out about exciting new secondary school for the borough is a council press release:

Prospective parents of an exciting new secondary school on the Richmond College site in Twickenham will soon be invited to pledge their support for proposals . . Proposals for the school must be signed off by the Department of Education (DfE). If approved, the school will be a five form entry (150 pupils per year), non-selective, co-educational, non-faith secondary school. Sixth form provision will provided via Richmond College.

. . As part of the borough’s application to the DfE, parents are invited to register their support for the school, indicating that if open it would be a credible choice for their children’s’ secondary education. A new website will be launched on November 12 outlining more information regarding the partnership and plans for the school. It will include a short survey for residents to register their interest. In addition, two information events have been organised for interested residents to find out more :

14 November or 27 November at Richmond upon Thames College, Egerton Road, Twickenham from 7pm – 8.30pm.

BayJay2 Thu 07-Nov-13 15:08:25

I just got an email launching the following, which might interest some of you. I haven't had the chance to look at it in detail myself yet:

"We are pleased to inform you that the London Schools Atlas has been launched today by the Greater London Authority. This is an interactive online map providing detailed information about London schools, their attendance patterns and future demand for places from 2012-2017. The London Schools Atlas will cover primary and secondary provision, including free schools and academies, and can be accessed here."

muminlondon2 Thu 07-Nov-13 18:26:27

The story in the Guardian may be related to the same data release. While the interactive map of primary place shortages down to ward level shows a couple of pressure points in our borough (Mortlake is the worst), the priority areas in terms of most severe shortages are to be found in neighbouring Kingston, Wandsworth and Hounslow, as well as Merton and Croydon, Hillingdon, Greenwich and east London.

I think there should be some kind of emergency legislation to allow councils to set up LA schools under these circumstances.

ChrisSquire2 Thu 07-Nov-13 19:01:48

Here is a link to the data tables for the Guardian story; it loads and refreshes very quickly and may be downloaded.

DonsDrapers Thu 07-Nov-13 20:22:47

As a prospective primary parent I found it interesting but not that useful in helping me research decisions for the admissions process. The maps of course, do not allow for consideration of the sibling / faith effect wrt distance. I think I am right in assuming that the data covers all ages of the children attending primary schools and not just recent reception year, so it is not highlighting how virtually impossible it is to actually be admitted to some schools and the shrinking catchments?

If I get the time, I may calculate the % of the RuT boroughs that end up in private schools, there must be a link with the availability of places in some of the black holes. That would be interesting

I emailed them asking this so I will see if they respond with anything helpful.

muminlondon2 Thu 07-Nov-13 22:32:42

DonsDrapers if you're interested in the numbers going private, also look at this report about admissions. Some schools (rated outstanding) generate extremely high levels of demand, yet there are parents who would still turn down first preference offers in favour of private schools.

But this is also one of the wealthiest boroughs in London with the most educated population so parents are choosy. Any new school at primary or secondary level would have to prove they have a good track record - not only are they competing against some of the highest achieving state schools in London (and the country) but also against the most competitive selective schools in the private sector.

ChrisSquire2 Fri 08-Nov-13 11:50:29

The RTT has (p. 26) a letter from me Population set to grow:

The Council’s 2010 ‘10-year strategy . . for primary school places’ says ‘each expansion typically takes around three years from inception to completion.’. This implies that the borough’s Conservatives, in office from 2002-2006 and since 2010, can only claim credit for the new places that opened in 2005 - 2008 and in 2013, a grand total of just two forms of entry: Collis Primary in in 2006 and Heathfield in 2013. The other 19 that have been created since 2000 are thanks to successive Liberal Democrat administrations.

Looking to the future, this so-called 10-year strategy in fact only runs to this year, as if that was all that was needed, even though it does acknowledge that ‘The increase in births between 2001 and 2007 (25%) was sustained almost at the same level in 2008 and 2009 and looks set to continue’ and that if demand is ‘exacerbated’ - a strange word to use about our children - an extra 9 classes of entry may be needed by 2019/2020 - on;ly 6 years from now.

The population of London passed 8.3m in April, will exceed 9 million by 2020 and 10 million by 2030 (a 25 % increase in 20 years) unless some way of choking off the growth is found. We must expect this borough’s population to continue to grow, like it or not: where are we going to put the extra class rooms we will need?’
The Guardian story cited by muminLondon2: London's school-age population expected to jump 100,000 by 2017 cites a GLA intelligence unit forecast for Richmond borough which says there will be 1959 more children aged 4-110 and attending a state funded school at mid-2017, 4 years from now, a 15 % increase from the date of the forecast, mid-2012.

Assuming a linear increase from mid-2012 makes the annual increase each year 131, which we may round up to 135 = 4.5 forms of entry extra each year for five years, increasing the capacity of the system by 22.5 forms at mid-2017.

ChrisSquire2 Fri 08-Nov-13 15:39:56

The final sentence above should read ‘increasing the demand on the system’ by 22.5 forms by mid-2017’.

I calculate that the increase in annual demand will be 4.5 forms of entry/year for Kingston and 9 forms of entry/year for Hounslow.

muminlondon2 Fri 08-Nov-13 19:10:05

'a grand total of just two forms of entry: Collis Primary in in 2006 and Heathfield in 2013.'

Would the LibDems have counted St RR, Thomson House or St Mary's Hampton? If not, I would like to know how the LibDems would have expanded places after the Academies Act.

The London maps do have percentages of children attending state schools if you look under 'extra info'. For primary it ranges from 94% in Heathfield to 41% in Barnes. Two extremes, but both wards have 'good' or better schools and in neither are there shortages.

ChrisSquire2 Sat 09-Nov-13 11:47:40

muminlondon2: It was I who was doing the counting, of the 21 forms of entry listed on the council consultation page Primary school expansions (January 2013) only.

A Lib Dem council would have used the Clifden Road site for a non-selective, co-educational, non-faith secondary school (i.e. for the purpose for which it was bought in 1925), which would have been a free school. Thomson House and St Mary's Hampton would have had the same help from the council (I do not know what this was) and would have gone ahead the same.
The RTT has Haymarket to present plans for education and enterprise partnership:

. . The development would include . . a new secondary free school to open in September 2017 . . For the free school to go ahead, the proposals must . . gain the support of parents, who are invited to register their interest. If approved, the school would be a five-form of entry non-selective, co-educational, non-faith secondary school with sixth form provision at Richmond College.

muminlondon2 Sat 09-Nov-13 12:06:32

DonsDrapers 'If I get the time, I may calculate the % of the RuT boroughs that end up in private schools, there must be a link with the availability of places in some of the black holes.'

I don't think at primary level the percentage on its own proves there are black holes, so much as the number of nearby private schools and ability to pay. There are lots of prep schools in Kew and Barnes and only 64% and 41% respectively at state primaries. It may mean there is less pressure on the state schools in those wards. Some people will always choose private school - or will only accept first preference (although 6 did turn down first preference offers at Queen's, for example).

You can create your own map of independent schools, too, although primary and secondary are not separated. Go to:

- select Richmond as local authority from the list
- select 'Independent schools' and 'Open', click 'search'
- click 'view on map'
- on the 'layers tab' to the right you can tick 'wards' and uncheck the OS map to see the borough perspective.

Useful also for checking numbers of private school pupils according to age and gender, under school census data.

muminlondon2 Sat 09-Nov-13 12:23:07

Chris: 'A Lib Dem council would have used the Clifden Road site for a non-selective, co-educational, non-faith secondary school'

With hindsight we know only free schools and VA schools are allowed. Kingston had some more coordination in North Kingston but years of planning and high profile support for their bid from MPs and parents alike. For Richmond there was no consensus.

So then would the LibDems have paid £8.5 million for Clifden before knowing what group might step forward to claim it for their free school? In Islington the council made a decision to rebuild a school and redevelop the old site for housing but a free school connected to a venture capital firm was approved and have claimed it anyway. For all we know IES or GEMS could have made a bid for that site not the Turing House group, or it could have been a CofE free school. The council would have spent the money without being in control of the situation. It's clear TA and HA still have places but that would not have concerned IES, for example.

But the RC school is still LA maintained and there was a strong lobby in favour - would the LibDems have been brave enough to ignore it?

BayJay2 Sat 09-Nov-13 12:56:40

"would the LibDems have been brave enough to ignore it?"

It's all speculation, but my bet would be that, after a bit of lobbying from RISC and local debate, the Lib Dems would have insisted on a Catholic Free School proposal rather than a VA school. Essentially, that is the position they eventually took anyway, so its a reasonably safe bet. Of course that would have led to a stand off with the Diocese of Westminster, so its hard to say what would have happened next. Local Catholic parents might have launched their own Catholic free school bid without the support of the Diocese as they have done in other areas. Or they might not have done.

muminlondon2 Sat 09-Nov-13 13:32:49

There are quite a few unknowns unknowns in that hypothesis. I had my own reservations about the Catholic school being a priority (although with hindsight, again, my understanding of the implications of the Academies Act clearly lagged behind the main stakeholders including Lord True). But I would bet that if a VA school only filled up to 80% of capacity in its first year, a different model of Catholic school would have had considerably less support from Catholic parents and without the proven capacity of the Catholic Education Service as a 'sponsor' plus the LA, since it is one of only two 'maintained schools' left in the borough.

It's an advantage for Turing House that RET has started to establish an Ofsted rated 'good' track record elsewhere but that is not true of other sponsors. Parents do not like risk and why would they? Very few free schools have opened with even more than 50% places filled.

muminlondon2 Sat 09-Nov-13 13:40:54

The council hasn't had consistent success or miracle powers of foresight in backing academy sponsors, either, given some control over the process - although there was no track record to assess at the time:

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