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Help! In a dilemma about whether to accept place at Wwest London Free school Primary - new free school

(85 Posts)
Firstgold Sun 21-Apr-13 21:45:15

We're struggling to decide whether to take up a place offered at West London FS Primary for DS this September or whether to scrimp and save and just about afford private school.

Concerns are the obvious ones - brand new school (albeit with close links to the West London Free School secondary); unknown quantity in the young headmistress (who isn't meeting any parents until they accept the offer of a place); teaching staff still in the process of being recruited etc etc. We can't even visit the school as it currently houses the secondary and they don't want visitors; DS would be one of 60 reception children and his year group would always be the top of the school (no one to look up to etc as it is filling up year by year from reception each September).

So it would be a big leap of faith. But it could be brilliant and help us save for private secondary school which we'd ideally like to do.

If we go the private route and see how WLFSP works out, and apply for DD in a couple of years, suspect we wouldn't get a place due to sibling policy and probably ever decreasing catchment area...

freetrait Sun 21-Apr-13 22:02:02

No other option? I take it you didn't apply for any other state primaries? I think I would take the place, then if it's no good swap to private/other school after a term or something.

christinarossetti Sun 21-Apr-13 22:10:37

I would be very wary of a school with a head that refused to meet prospective parents, especially a brand new one.

So arrogant.

Firstgold Sun 21-Apr-13 22:25:38

We did apply for other state schools but this is the one we got into.

DS happy at current nursery (which is nursery which leads automatically to the private prep school).

One minute I feel really positive and the next, I feel nervous as hell about an untested school where I can't meet anyone (although can speak on the phone to the head which I don't think is as god as face to face). If we pull out of the private school now, think we might have burnt our bridges as it is oversubscribed freetrait. If money were no object, we would keep D S where he is I think.

christinarossetti Sun 21-Apr-13 22:37:30

Sounds like it rides on whether you can afford 2 children in private school?

darl2283 Mon 22-Apr-13 09:10:37

Seems strange that the Head will not meet new parents until they accept their places. As a headteacher with a vast experience of setting up new schools one of the first thing I do is to hold meetings with prospective parents to 'sell' myself as a school leader and my vision for the school as well as answer their questions and respond to concerns.
This is a great opportunity for your family to be part of a new school community. Your child will not suffer from being the oldest in the school in fact it is a benefit as they get much earlier chances to take on roles and responsibilities that are usually reserved for the older children. In my experience they are always a very special year group and they feel this too which has a positive impact their self confidence.
Obviously I have no idea how the head will want to play it but I think it is important to work in partnership with parents, listen to and try and act on their feedback when it is possible and appropriate so that they can have a say in some of the important decisions along the way. It is a hugely exciting to be part of a new set up. I would urge you to go for it.

Firstgold Mon 22-Apr-13 09:44:44

Thanks for your v helpful post. Really interesting to hear that you think it is a positive for the first class to be top dog. There will be 60 children (2 forms) starting in September.

I think my biggest fear is the leap into the unknown - not having met the teachers recruited or the headmistress and the school being unproven (although WLFS provides something of a blueprint). It also takes our son a while to warm up in a new environment although he is pretty self-sufficient, likes learning etc. - could he be overlooked in a big class where they're putting in place new systems, writing the curriculum etc.?

On the other hand, the private school is tried and tested and good - happy, dynamic, good commitment to sport (a miracle for a London school) but expensive....and potentially would put us as a family under a lot of pressure, rule out trying for a third child etc.

Interestingly, we've had v strong gut instinct about the schools we've visited - ruling out certain private and state schools. Here, with WLFSP, I think it is fear of the unknown holding us back

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 22-Apr-13 09:50:31

I think the fact she won't meet you should tell you a lot about the leadership and the school! I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole, tbh.

darl2283 Mon 22-Apr-13 10:01:50

Glad I was of help FirstGold.
Your child will get LOADS of attention - probably more than in the vast majority of schools in the country. Don't forget he will effectively be in a school of only 60 children for his first year!
They must have a Governing body or Free School equivalent. Can you not contact whoever is the Chair and let them know how very, very important it is for prospective parents to meet the headteacher? They might be able to use their influence. Just a thought.

mrsshackleton Mon 22-Apr-13 10:14:20

It's a no brainer to accept imo. So much is riding on the success of the wlfs, it won't be allowed to fail. You can move to private at any time, save the money and enjoy.

Theas18 Mon 22-Apr-13 10:32:54

Accept the place. See it. Change to private when/if you want.

Agree it's " no brainer" as Mrsshakleton said. This school wont be allowed to fail.

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 10:37:24

Is this the school where the Head doesn't actually have a teaching qualification?

Firstgold Mon 22-Apr-13 10:42:50

I don't know MajaBiene - how would I find out?

notfluffy Mon 22-Apr-13 10:52:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrsshackleton Mon 22-Apr-13 11:04:42

And if "just about" affording private is an issue, I'd def hold out - I have one dc at private, one at state. The fees go up exponentially, it's scary.

ReallyTired Mon 22-Apr-13 22:17:11

What an awful position to be in. If a headteacher will not meet a prospective pupil how will they behave if your child had a problem in the school.

Are you on continuing interest waiting lists for other state primaries? You can always accept the place and go on to the waiting lists for a school you want.

Firstgold Tue 23-Apr-13 09:46:08

I felt so positive about it all yesterday..but then got an email back overnight from the headmistress saying she wouldn't meet and we needed to work out where our son will settle best, be happiest etc. The problem is (stating the obvious) we know VERY LITTLE INDEED about the WLFSP - no idea about the teachers she's recruited (there is nothing on the website), can't visit the school premises, can't meet her..

Private would be a HUGE stretch but at least it is a known quantity..

Getting cold feet.

Firstgold Tue 23-Apr-13 09:46:58

So how are we meant to judge where our son will be happiest if we don't know anything about WLFSP??

Weegiemum Tue 23-Apr-13 09:58:49

As a teacher, I'd not trust a school you couldn't visit and not get a meeting with the head. Given that at he moment there are no pupil issues for her to deal with (thought here will be a vast array of admin involved in the launch), she should at least have time for a meeting with interested parents.

Our dd1 (our eldest) had to move school in primary 2 (due to a house move of a couple of hundred miles). We visited at the end of term in the summer when the school was very busy with events, assemblies, trips, but were given a full hour by the head and deputy, including (not possible for you, of course) a chance to meet the teacher and pupils in her class for the following year, a tour and lots of biscuits! All before we decided to take the place (though due to the specialist status of the school we were pretty sure). Ds and dd2 now both go to he same school, dd1 is in S1 in their secondary dept, and still best of friends with the 3 girls allocated to her on that visit! It's a state school but with a specialist language provision.

I'd be very wary if I were you!

nlondondad Tue 23-Apr-13 10:19:21

Having seen Toby Young's performance on the BBC London News last night, I would say avoid any primary school he had a significant role in. He was saying that nurseries were allowing too much play and not providing "sufficiently structured instruction" ...(!)

christinarossetti Tue 23-Apr-13 10:48:56

The head 'won't meet' prospective parents?


How arrogant and un-child-centred.

Wow, this is a difficult decision if your only other option is 'stretching' to private.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 23-Apr-13 10:52:03

I was shown round three primary schools on ordinary working days just on spec when dd1 was 4.... the head must be either stupid or arrogant if she won't even meet you, and it does suggest a certain lack of empathy with the needs and values of the parents of new starters!

People keep saying 'if it's shit you can just go private later', but it's not really as simple as that, is it?

freetrait Tue 23-Apr-13 12:07:31

I think you have valid concerns and I would be tempted to e mail her again and push her. At least ask for her "mission statement" or something so you can get an idea of her attitude.

Perhaps she can't meet you just due to numbers of parents wanting this, although you'd think she could set up one or two meetings in say the hall at the Secondary school to talk to prospective parents. If she were professional then she should be able to talk about the school as far as she knows, even if there are gaps (I expect there are huge gaps at the moment and this is another reason for not wanting to meet, if everything was organised why not tell everyone?).

I agree, difficult to accept a place at unknown quantity, but perhaps demand is such that she is in this position.

Itspardonnotwhat Tue 23-Apr-13 14:29:22

Not the same school but we're considering a new primary currently being built which will be run by a local secondary academy. The current head will be head of both the schools. They've held two meetings for parents considering sending children to the primary school plus she personally answers emails promptly. I have reservations about sending my child to a brand new school - which is largely based around the fear of the unknown - but I can't fault the communication from the secondary school. I'm also clutching on to the fact, as other posters have said, that new schools such as these will not be allowed to fail.

So whilst we can't visit the school yet, we have met the head and there are plans for parents to meet the class teachers once they are appointed. I don't think I could even consider it if we hadn't had a meeting with the head. I find it bizarre that they are putting you in such a position, you can't be the only parent put off by the position she is taking?!?

derektheladyhamster Tue 23-Apr-13 14:34:25

Can you accept the place, meet the teachers/head and then withdraw before term starts if you don't like it and send your ds to the private school? Not something I would usually advise, but the situation seems quite strange

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