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West London Free Primary school - what's happening?

(38 Posts)
TallPumpkinSpiceLatte Fri 23-Oct-15 23:22:55

From what I can tell, at the moment there is no functional head, no deputy head, no leadership team.

Anyone out there know what's going on? I thought it was supposed to be a flagship free primary school...the only familiar face around seems to be is Toby Young.

Julessn Sat 24-Oct-15 09:05:38

Lots of ads for the school in the TES and Guardian recently: headteacher, deputy etc. I note from the school staff list that de Silva is still listed as exec head. But three of the five teaching staff are from Australia and New Zealand, so very unlikely to be on permanent contracts.
Not the kind of insecure environment I'd want for my rising five year old.

TallPumpkinSpiceLatte Sat 24-Oct-15 09:39:59

It's all very worrying. Da Silva announced her resignation during Summer Term 2015, the old Deputy Head was seen off in Autumn 2014. The head was supposed to be departing this term in November, but went on 'sick leave' a few weeks ago.

At the moment the school seems like a ship without sails.

We have put our DD on the waiting list for other local schools in the area but everywhere seems full up
:-(

Julessn Sat 24-Oct-15 17:17:59

Oh dear. Toby Young has kept that quiet. I always wondered why he appointed such an inexperienced head as da Silva when she had no CV to speak of. I do hope you find a new school soon.

VocationalGoat Mon 26-Oct-15 22:12:00

Watching this thread.... we are thinking of moving DD to the WLFS primary from her current one. DS is at the WLFS secondary.
All I can say is, if they do with the primary what they've done with the secondary, then there's hope.
The current head at the secondary is superb. It's as if the secondary has finally gotten its act together and is beginning to become the school people envisioned.
I had serious doubts and disappointments the past couple of years. But the current head is very experienced and just brilliant in my book. He's a complete shift from the heads that have come and gone. I hope to heavens the current secondary head stays!
I hope this is the plan with the primary as well... a bit of house cleaning and choosing of more suitbale, experienced, passionate candidates for these roles.
Tell me more about the primary school, for those of you who have kids there. I'd be curious to know what it's like at the moment.

nlondondad Tue 27-Oct-15 11:07:15

Some coverage of WILFS on the Local Schools Network here:-

www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/10/flagship-west-london-free-school-didnt-comply-with-academies-financial-rules-says-auditor/

Which seems to confirm that there have been some recent problems with the administration.

Julessn Tue 27-Oct-15 14:46:24

I'm interested in what your thinking might be in disrupting your child's primary education to send them to a school with temporary staff and no head? If it's to guarantee passage into the secondary school I can see why you might do it. Otherwise ?

VocationalGoat Tue 27-Oct-15 17:39:04

Julessn I didn't know about the changes until I saw this thread and posted. My thoughts on moving our DD to the WLFS primary are motivated by other concerns and our DS is a WLFS secondary student and I happen to have a lot if faith in WLFS secondary. Admittedly I know very little about the primary school. I am learning about its current status. Maybe a new leadership team will be the making of the primary school. Who knows.

VocationalGoat Tue 27-Oct-15 17:45:04

On the other hand there is the saying "Start as you mean to go on" which I hope won't apply to the primary school. WLFS secondary is just getting its sea legs on now. I wouldn't want DD to experience the early instability her brother did at WLFS. And I feel badly for the parents who took a leap of faith in a now rudderless primary school. They need to invest in quality people if they intend to deliver on their promise.

sanam2010 Tue 27-Oct-15 22:06:53

a friend's kids are at the primary and love it, they are very happy. There are a lot of people on mumsnet who hate Toby Young and the whole idea of free schools, so you get a lot of negativity about WLFS and anything related from people who don't actually have children at the school.

TallPumpkinSpiceLatte Wed 28-Oct-15 23:35:41

I have been happy with the educational achievements of my DD in the past year, but my god does the school seem an unhappy place.
We're on the waiting lists for John Betts, Larmenier and Brackenbury at the moment.
The secondary seems like it's finally starting to come together, but the dilemma is do we sacrifice the Primary years to be in a chaotic educational environment in order to gain access to the secondary?? (let's face it, most of the parents have applied for the Primary to get into the secondary)

nlondondad Thu 29-Oct-15 15:42:30

@sanam2010

"so you get a lot of negativity about WLFS and anything related from people who don't actually have children at the school."

Actually I dont think the tone of this thread particularly negative, most respondents commenting have children at the school or are thinking or sending children there. And reasonably nuanced views expressed.

GruntledOne Sat 31-Oct-15 13:26:50

There has been a pretty horrendous history of staff turnover at the secondary school and I wouldn't have any faith that their problems are behind them. I really wouldn't risk it.

hoppityhop Sun 15-Nov-15 21:36:08

We're in our second year at the school and we're still really happy. Our child still loves the school and the teachers we've dealt with have all been excellent.

We're watching the Head Teacher situation but not worried enough that we'd consider changing schools. At the Governors forum last week it was announced that they've hired two deputy heads and have an interim Head 'on loan' for the remainder of the 2015/2016 year. We'll keep an eye on things but had no second thoughts about registering our 2nd to start in September 2016.

A previous posted said "but my god does the school seem an unhappy place". That's their opinion and I disagree with it. Plenty of parents that I know also seem pretty happy.

ameliesfabulousdestiny1 Mon 23-Nov-15 11:53:26

Does anyone have an update on this, or a rough timeline for when it might get resolved? We are considering ECFSP (or its even newer sister, KPA). We visited the former and really liked it, and done our research as much as we could, but there isn't a lot of information out there - so any views from current or former parents would be much appreciated.

VocationalGoat Wed 25-Nov-15 10:27:36

GruntledOne you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs. I think all relatively new schools have growing pains and people either need to allow for that or just don't go there. Our son is in his third year at the secondary school and loves it. He didn't like it when there was an enormous staff turnover. That was hard. But that was a brief periof of housecleaning and the secondary school is now very stable and stellar in its approach towards learning. The teachers that left were replaced with twice as many teachers, all incredibly well educated and trained. The head teacher is very impressive, very steady, very strong. I am totally impressed with the restructuring of the staff. It was worth the brief instability that came with that massive turnover. Upsetting as it was, it got rid of the weaker links and made room for dedicated, driven, experienced teachers. Is my son happy there every day? No. Am I always delighted with the way in which things are dealt with? Sometimes no, but often I am very pleased. It's school. It's never perfect. But overall, it's an excellent school. It's living up to what Toby Young said it would deliver.

NaughtySoph Fri 04-Dec-15 16:41:11

My DD1 goes to WLFSP - and I'm mixed. I had high hopes, thought de Silva was great, knew there would be learning / growing pains but was totally on board with our new school with its solid educational aspirations, a traditional classical liberal education, engagement with the local area and supportive community. Now, frankly i feel i was sold a pup - and I'm gutted.

The icing on the cake was de Silva leaving - although i don't blame her at all, having got two premises up and running for one school (the theme is no building is ready on time) , got the brand new school an outstanding Ofsted report, and coped with having the Earls Court Primary thrown at her, there was still palpably little support for her from the exec team and the governors. She handed in her notice in May/June, and was leaving at the end of xmas term.

As parents, towards the end of Nov- almost 6 months later - we were told that we would fortunately get a temporary exec head to run across the now 'Free School Primaries' (it seems to have moved from educational establishment to rapidly growing 'brand') and we were lucky to get him from Notting Hill's Foxes school.

We were so lucky that if we wanted to ask any questions we could meet him ...... as long as we could rearrange our work schedules as he could only do 6pm the following day. Brilliant. This is pretty standard from senior board / governors - and despite pointing out how unfair this is on parents, they leave you with no doubt as to who has the power in this uneasy relationship.

Then i took a closer look at how the schools are run and there is a revolving door of teachers, across the secondary and the primary. The headteachers leave and take the fall - but there is a strong whiff of a pervasive negative culture of blame and pressure, which seems to come directly from the top/board/governors and continues down - they're also nowhere to be seen when it's difficulr. It appears to be consistent across both schools which are on different sites, so cannot be laid at the feet of one person.

Out of all the moans and complaints this is the one i feel most strongly about, the culture that these Free Schools have created, i'm sure, will have an inverse effect on pupil's passion for learning. The teaching may be fine but i doubt many of the staff will stay, it's a shame as the premise was brilliant, and i so wanted it to work. It feels like a empire building greed has overtaken an admirable ambition.

I think there will be a number of free places in Yr3 next year.

Julessn Sat 05-Dec-15 12:12:56

Thank you so much for sharing those insights. I hope the problems are resolved very soon and that Paul Cotter can bring some stability to what is a difficult transitional period for everyone - if he stays long enough to be able to do anything concrete that is.

TallPumpkinSpiceLatte Sun 03-Jan-16 19:18:26

I, too, now have some hope for WLFP after the announcement of the new (temp) head and his new SLT team. But having once been bitten, we are still remaining on the wait lists of a number of other local schools.
We will not miss Da Silva. She should have left at the end of last Summer term, not string it out until Christmas with loads of spurious sounding leave, leaving everyone in the lurch. Good riddance.

VocationalGoat Fri 08-Jan-16 11:51:38

All points are valid, especially those coming from parents with kids at the Free School.
Naive question here, but an important one: How are your kids there? Are they still happy, despite the structural instability?
Also, I what I don't understand is the following: It's a two form entry, is this correct?
Bear with me for sounding thick but if it's two form entry, how is that going to work with Earl's Court? If you have two WLFSP reception classes, so 60 kids, is the same site accommodating 30/60 kids from ECFPS as well as WLFSP kids?
Or is the double intake one set of 30 WLFSP kids and one set of 30 ECFSP kids?

hoppityhop Fri 08-Jan-16 13:07:10

VocationalGoat

"How are your kids there? Are they still happy, despite the structural instability?" - Yes. It hasn't affected mine. They've had the same teacher and as far as day-to-day stuff goes, they're oblivious*. Can only speak for me on that front.

"It's a two form entry, is this correct?" - Yes...kind of. It's 2 form for WLFSP. ECFSP is 1 form i believe... so each year 60 WLFSP kids join and 30 ECFSP - 90 in total.

New Temporary Head and deputy (both I think) are in place and see them on the gate in the morning now so will be able to comment more on impact of changes in a month or so.

* Honestly the change of a Teachers Assistant is more noticeable to the kids. Mine had a lovely TA who was commuting from Milton Keynes(!) but eventually took a job closer to home which is more a function of London costs. Though I believe that finding good Teachers and TA's is a challenge for many London schools. (any one else with other opinions/experiences on that?)

mumof2kid Sun 10-Jan-16 23:19:14

I'm sorry NaughtySoph but I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you. Miss de Silva didn't have the experience to run one school let alone two. She was an assistant head before she joined the school with no real leadership experience. Have you ever wondered why there was little support for her from the governors/execs? You only have to look at how much happier the staff are since she left to realise that something wasn't right on the inside.

New leadership team now in place. Immediate improvements include the recruitment of specialist sports teachers and a music teacher to teach all classes.

I have a child at the school and I think she is receiving a great education taught by wonderful teachers. I actually believe the teachers will be more likely to stay now that de Silva has gone.......IMO.

VocationalGoat Tue 12-Jan-16 22:01:25

Hoppityhop thanks so much for answering my questions and for your insight.

So, I for one am impressed with the school. We are really happy with the secondary school. DS is happy there. It went through a similar shake-up and it's settled beautifully- the head is brilliant. Long may he stay!
We are considering moving our DD to the primary school (she is 5 and in year 1).

My concern about the primary school though is the 90 pupil intake. Should I be worried? How is this being accommodated? How long will ECFSP share a site with WLFS? What kind of impact does the 90 kid intake have on the children, if any?

Julessn Tue 12-Jan-16 22:12:52

They're site sharing until 2020. So it's not two schools. It's one.

VocationalGoat Tue 12-Jan-16 22:26:23

90 kids per year over a period of 4 years could be problematic... or am I overreacting?

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