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What do you think to Free Schools.

(22 Posts)
kittya Mon 03-Jan-11 17:56:54

I read an article today that most parents arent interested in sending their child to one. Would you be happy to if your child was one of the first pupils in a new school? Im only asking as a friend is thinking about sending her son to one as the secondary schools in her area havent got a great reputation. Trouble is, its never been done before and is due to open in September. Any thoughts or experience?

confidence Tue 04-Jan-11 21:55:12

It would depend very much on the specifics of the school. Part of the whole ethos of free schools is that they are less centralised and regulated, so this makes it difficult to generalise about what they might be like.

I'm against them in principle, because I think schools need access to LEA-based support, particularly for SEN etc. Also centralised methods of regulating and measuring performance, for all their faults, do nonetheless mean that at least problems get known about and dealt with. I also hate the scope they offer for religious nutjobs and extremists of other kinds to twist the curriculum around their own vested interests. I'm opposed to all faith-based "education" and I think this can only make it worse.

Having said all that, if one opened near me that had a mission statement that happened to correspond better to my values about education than the established alternatives, and I could see good reason to trust the people involved to deliver on it, I'd consider sending my kids there.

kittya Wed 05-Jan-11 10:00:16

This one hasnt even got a head master yet. Would you send your child to a brand new school, whether it was a free school or not? Its a difficult one.

confidence Wed 05-Jan-11 19:41:08

But surely whoever is setting it up must have a reason for wanting to do so, rather than just using the schools that already exist. The question is whether that reason speaks to something you also feel that should be done differently, or whether it's just some idiocy that you're better off out of.

You need to find out what it is about.

If there's really so little information available that you can't, then I'd forget about it, personally. It's a tall order running a school, and I suspect a lot of people with big ideas are going to be surprised just how difficult it is (and probably screw over a lot of kids in the process).

kittya Thu 06-Jan-11 00:27:52

There is a web page basically saying that they believe all children should go to university and that the will be working towards that from day one. They will also be working a longer school day than the norm (like that's going to go down well!) from what I've read it will be on the grounds of the local catholic school, which is one of the better senior schools in the town, and will use their facilities. That headmaster is very enthusiastic about the idea and, to be fair to him, he has done wonders for the catholic school. Yet, this free school is going to be none religious and has no staff officially. I like the thought of kids from normal backgrounds getting the chance to go to uni but, I can't help wondering whether it will be all the private primary children who will apply. I don't know what to think!

squeezedatbothends Thu 06-Jan-11 09:23:10

The problem with that ideology is that the government are slashing funding to Universities, increasing tuition fees and making it harder and harder to get in. Partly this is ideological - the more people go, the less value the qualification has and so you end up with the situation where, like today, you have to have a degree to get a job which a 16 year old would have done twenty years ago. All this with £30,000+ of debt. All schools have a mission policy to 'aim high' and achieve the best you can. These are just words, but what is this school's method? A levels have just changed dramatically - it is going to be much harder to get high grades by rote learning - creative thinking, general knowledge and application are going to be much more important. My son has just been offered a place a Oxford. He went to a very average comprehensive school and is at a state Sixth Form College. They weren't really interested in his education - they wanted to dig into his mind. Two days of gruelling but stimulating interviews - unseen texts, unexpected questions. The ones who succeed are the ones who can be flexible, responsive and thoughtful - not those who have their heads crammed with facts and more facts in longer and longer school days. You need to find out what the teaching and learning policy is. High quality, creative, imaginative, passionate teachers get kids into universities. Make sure their staff are good before you commit. I suspect a lot of teachers are not going to be keen to work in a free school. Incidentally, check out if any of your local schools have applied to be academies - they are free from regulation and NC too - could be a good alternative?

kittya Thu 06-Jan-11 09:28:45

sadly, the academy that opened under the last government is dire and nobody wants to go there. The town itself has a not very good reputation when it comes to senior schools, except the catholic shool.

prh47bridge Thu 06-Jan-11 11:16:44

Confidence - The position with regard to SEN (and, indeed, LA support generally) is not that simple. The press and others have tended to oversimplify the level of independence these schools have - not surprisingly as it is quite complex.

Academies and free schools receive extra funding for those services which are no longer provided by their LA. However, some services are still provided by the LA and therefore the LA retains that funding. Looking specifically at SEN...

Funding for SEN assessments and related matters remains with the LA. Academies and free schools do not have to pay for assessments.

Many LAs already delegate the funding for SEN support to individual schools in line with the previous government's policy. Where funding is delegated schools already have to buy the SEN support services they need from the LA or elsewhere, regardless of whether they are LA-controlled schools or academies/free schools. However, academies/free schools will have to buy the SEN support services they need regardless of where they are located. LA-controlled schools in areas where the LA has not delegated the funding do not have to do this.

The LA remains responsible for ensuring that SEN statements are delivered and retains funding for this.

Free schools and academies receive additioal funding for the responsibilities they take over from the LA. LAs are free to offer the relevant services to free schools and academies.

nlondondad Mon 10-Jan-11 16:41:26

Writing from an inner London Borough I suspect that the impact of free schools will be very small here.

The problem is finding a site for the school.

AMumInScotland Mon 10-Jan-11 16:50:19

I'd be a bit worried about the idea of "all children should go to university", unless I had a child who was already dead set on a career that needed university. What are they going to do to help a child who is not that academic, but great at practical subjects like woodwork or cookery, or art or music? Those children should be helped to find the right course or apprenticeship, not pushed to get academic qualifications at all cost.

If your firend's son is quite academic (as far as they can tell at his age) then it may be fine, but it's not a philosophy that would have me happy to send a child there.

kittya Tue 11-Jan-11 20:14:06

Although they havent said it, I imagine there will be some kind of entrance test. I appreciate that all children should get the opportunity to go to an academic school but my gut feeling is that it will be those that have gone to private primary that are going to be applying. I could be wrong.

lalalonglegs Tue 11-Jan-11 21:23:57

Can free schools set entrance exams shock?

Avocadoes Tue 11-Jan-11 21:28:52

Free schools aren't allowed to set entrance tests or to select academically.

kittya Tue 11-Jan-11 21:29:49

Im not sure but if they bleat on about ensuring everyone in the school goes to university surely there will be somekind of test of interview at the beginning? these are the questions that need answering.

prh47bridge Tue 11-Jan-11 21:57:06

There definitely won't be a test or interview at the beginning. That would be illegal.

Personally I think that ensuring everyone in the school goes to university is an unachievable goal. But if they mean it, good on them for trying.

lalalonglegs Tue 11-Jan-11 22:21:46

Oh, if that's what's behind your suspicions, then yes, it's an aspiration: "Every child deserves the chance to go to university" type thing. I don't think it's a guarantee that they'll get them all there.

kittya Tue 11-Jan-11 22:30:44

"It will be a very demanding school. There will be compulsory homework and youngsters will be following a very demanding academic curriculum.

"We will expect them to go to university and will instil that from day one."

The school is expected to be open for 100 year seven pupils from September

that was from the press release so, how will they decide the 100 do you reckon?

prh47bridge Wed 12-Jan-11 00:51:45

They will have to use admission criteria which comply with the Admissions Code just like any other school. They don't have to be the same admission criteria as are used for LA schools in the area but they must be legal. That means they aren't allowed to use interviews at all, nor are they allowed to use tests to get the brightest children.

Just to correct my last post slightly, they can use tests if they want to use "fair banding" but that is about making sure they get a balanced intake covering all abilities. They cannot just select the brightest children.

lalalonglegs Wed 12-Jan-11 10:08:35

They want to establish themselves as academically ambitious but I think it's unlikely that they can be academic selective. I suppose, at the most, they hope that by making their ambitions clear from the off, the parents of academically able pupils or those who are ambitious for their children to go to university, will choose that school and it will become self-selecting.

prh47bridge Wed 12-Jan-11 10:50:30

It is not just unlikely that they can be academically selective, it is impossible for them to be selective legally. Existing selective schools can remain selective but new schools are not allowed to select on academic ability.

lalalonglegs Wed 12-Jan-11 10:53:15

Yes, you're right - apologies.

AMumInScotland Wed 12-Jan-11 11:56:38

Their press release sound more like a warning/encouragement to parents really - "There will be lots of homework and we'll expect them to work hard. We'll be expecting you to support us in that, so if you send your child here you can't complain about it. Think if this matches your ideas about education before deciding to apply."

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