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West London free school

(58 Posts)
Tw1nmummy Tue 25-Sep-12 11:08:47

Really interested in feedback from anyone with a child there.......not interested in any moans about free schools or Toby young - just want to know what you think if you have a child there.

Thank you

DiaryofaHollandParkParent Thu 26-Sep-13 06:14:42

Re the last point, a school in a neighbouring borough had class sizes of 27 for several years and successfully defended it at appeal saying the building was purpose built to accommodate that number blah blah. They have now moved to 30 per class - they needed the extra funding...

Ragusa Thu 26-Sep-13 09:57:18

Ah well, IIRC would be one of the few grounds they could make a case on - insufficient physical space. However, lots of free schools are not in purpose-built spaces, but are instead in portacabins, on temporary sites, or are in recycled buildings.

It will be interesting to see what happens with free schools and class sizes.

doorkeeper Thu 26-Sep-13 11:29:42

My kid isn't there, but one thing a friend whose son is there told me really struck me: the pressure on parents to set up a "voluntary" monthly payment to the school of £35/month. (My friend wasn't complaining - she was expressing her distress and shame to me that she couldn't afford that much.) I've got no problem with schools roping parents in to help with fundraising, and indeed I think involving parents is an actively good idea, but this isn't that, and is IMO a fundraising step too far. Combine that with the huge cost of the uniform, and I think the much-vaunted diversity of the place will soon disappear, as lower-income parents self-select not to apply for places.

Elibean Thu 26-Sep-13 14:22:50

Oops, said 'streaming' when I meant 'setting'.

I don't think we're going to look at this school after all. Very unlikely to get in, and just doesn't sound the right place for my dd1 - though absolutely does for some other kids, different personalities smile

Elibean Thu 26-Sep-13 14:24:46

Re parental contributions: I do agree. Asking for/expecting or even loudly 'suggesting' regular specific amounts is not on, IMO.

I'm delighted that our primary PTA has decided to make standing order info available for parents who want to support the school that way, rather than asking for or expecting money. There are other ways to support the school (time, for example, or even baking a cake) and although it seems fairly common for schools to ask for regular contributions these days, I think its extremely divisive.

Goldenspots Thu 14-Nov-13 19:50:19

Friends son was going to apply for a job there, put off by the following:
in the two and a half years the school has been open the staff turnover has been:

1 Headmaster has left - no one knows why.
1 Director of Studies has left
1 Head of English has left
1 Head of languages has left ( and the 2nd is about to leave, see website)
1 Head of Classics has left
1 Head of Physics has left
1 Head of Divinity has left
1 Maths teacher has left

Quite high staff turnover for a small new school. Sometimes something to be worried about sometimes not.

Decisiontimesoon Sun 17-Nov-13 16:48:16

That seems an incredible number of department heads for a school which is in it's 3rd year - what is going on there.

dippingbackin Sat 23-Nov-13 21:19:15

I was offered a job at WLFS when it first opened and turned it down due to the sheer lack of organisation and planning. The position was as a Head of Department and was eventually given to a teacher who had 2 years experience (at the time I had 8 years teaching experience). I happened to be looking in the TES and saw a job advert that indicated she had left after a year.

Goldenspots' list of teachers that have left is highly indicative of a school that is not in a 'good place'. Teacher turnover is higher in London than elsewhere but it is rare for that to be at the Head of Department level.

I am also intrigued to know why the much lauded Headteacher that was in place when it opened has left. I have tried, with no luck, to find out - even resorted to tweeting one of the founders about it but had no response.

Would be really interested to hear from a parent who has a child in Year 8 as to why he left or if no reason was given.

Smile4Life Tue 26-Nov-13 22:13:31

Interesting thread. I agonised over WLFS and Holland Park, for my DS, for entry next year, and at the last minute changed my order of preference from one to the other, when my son was placed on the short list for music aptitude. School size was another big influence, even though the Ofsted report suggested room for improvements, which I found a little disconcerting... In all honesty, I still lack certainty as to what would be the best choice and am happy to leave it to Fate for now.

With regard to the Head leaving: at the open evening I attended, I made a point of asking the new Head why he had left, pointing out that many prospective parents found this a little worrying. He replied that the old Head was now involved in commandeering the ship that is responsible for floating all the schools: the organisation that is the West London Free Schools (as they are planning to open even more schools in the near future), as opposed to just the secondary school. It sounds like he is still very much involved.

Hope this helps.

timetoplaysanta Wed 27-Nov-13 09:17:37

dippingbackin - as someone who tries to keep an open mind on things, your anecdote suggests that the turnover could well be a story of:
1. Highly employable experienced teachers were originally nervous about joining the school (which was experimental, controversial and in a state of pre-opening fluster at the time)
2. The school was forced to employ less experienced teachers instead
3. They replaced them as soon as they could with more experienced teachers; perhaps the inexperienced teachers realised they weren't making the grade and moved on of their own accord, or perhaps they were "let go". Either way I wouldn't expect the school to comment publicly.

I don't know if that's the truth, but it's just as likely as the implied conclusion that "they all left because they hated working there".

Anomis Sun 26-Oct-14 12:28:20

I am about to choose my preferences for secondary school. I have visited Holland Park, West London Free School, Chelsea Academy, Ashcroft, Fulham Boys School, Ark Putney.
So far my choices are 1-Holland Park, 2-West London Free School, 3- Chelsea Academy, 4-Fulham Boys. Are there any parents who have children at Holland Park, West London Free School or Chelsea Academy who can give me some up to date feedback on their experience of the schools?
Many of the posts on here are old and I would like a more recent opinion. Thanks in advance, any contribution will be much appreciated!
Also if anyone is at the WLFS how are you finding the fact that there are no technical or vocational subjects? I like the sound of a classical education and my son's passion and forte is writing and English.

gerrard15 Mon 27-Apr-15 15:23:49

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

cmanson123 Thu 21-May-15 22:02:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

showersinger Fri 22-May-15 15:03:38

You seem to have inside info. Are you a teacher or a parent?

showersinger Fri 22-May-15 22:25:43

Pity you withdrew your post. Things need to be said and nicknames are here to give you the freedom and courage to do so.

Icimoi Sat 23-May-15 21:03:42

The staff turnover at WLFS continues to be extremely disquieting. It had three headteachers within three years and the rate of attrition of senior staff appears also to be well above average. This is interesting, and the finances look very interesting to say the least.

TwigletPiglets Sun 24-May-15 17:19:16

WLFS uses Teach First teachers too which is fairly different to it's ethos of being a grammar school like and competing with private schools, suggesting its wish to attract private school clientele.
Teach Firsters are usually deployed to state schools in challenging circumstances where they are struggling to recruit, or if they do successfully recruit, struggling to retain. To me this really emphasises how much WLFS is struggling as their aims/setup suggested it should be a school of choice to work out, even for those in the private sector, especially with it's location.
All very odd.

MomOfx3 Sun 28-Feb-16 04:37:43

Hi, hope to reopen this thread. We are a new family to West London. My oldest son has been admitted at WLFS's Sixth Form and I would love to hear from parents with students also planning to attend autumn 2016 with the inaugural class.

If you are willing to share:
- is your student already at WLFS for year 11? and why are they staying at WLFS?
- if your student is coming from a different secondary, how did you pick WLFS?
- if you were at WLFS but planning a different 6th Form, why?

Lastly, my son doesn't know anyone in London yet (he's moving in June). Would you be willing to message me privately to talk about what socializing is like and suggestions for ways my son can meet other teenagers over the summer before school starts?

Thanks for any thoughtful replies.

Soulsearcher4848 Sun 28-Feb-16 09:05:51

I would also really like to hear any views as there is a chance we will be get a place for year 7 for my DD. We live close by but not guaranteed because of siblings policy etc. Anyway I hear that some parents very happy but still stories of lots of staff turnover and problems with disruptive older children and school not having the experience to deal with it. I would be so grateful for any updated feedback since the new headteacher started and the move into new building. Thank you!

Blueberry14 Mon 07-Mar-16 10:24:36


We have a daughter in year 8. We are really happy with WLFS. Before applying we had some concerns, and put HP as first choice, bec of the Art. However, I am so pleased that she got into WLFS, suits her better, and wouldn't change it now.

The school really stretches her to achieve more, and constructive feedback on homework to help improve (lots of homework though.. but she's progressed so much).

Small classes, there are still some disruptive kids but not a big prob, and probably no different from other schools. DD wants to do well and is reserved, so may not have got much attention in a big huge school.

Great hard working teachers (teacher turnover not a problem). I really liked to the teachers I met, seemed enthusiastic and keen on subject.

New building on King Street, much better for kids and teacher, and organising after school clubs. Although, starting year 7 in cambridge grove was a blessing for my daughter bec she started off in small school building and could find her way around easily without the older kids.

Music- she has got more into music than ever expected, and in lots of musi group activities meeting new people from different year group and having fun. DD not sporty at all, and it's a very sporty school. So I'm glad she's got into the music.

Our younger son is still in primary and will enjoy the sports a lot more, esp since they seem to be doing football now.

We were really impressed with Sweeney Todd performance last year (my DD not in it), seemed like lots of talented kids, and felt like a performing arts school. Teachers and school takes it quite seriously (it was at Bush theatre), with amazing results. We were very surprised about how great the kids acted and sung.

Art- Before joining, we were a bit concerned that she wasn't going to do much practical art, and it was all going to be theoretical. But she's got a very active Art teacher, who's great, and they do practical art, as well as study Art history (includ female artists), and it's excellent. I wish I had art history when I was at school.

IT- this seems to be improving. She doesn't do this, but I think they will be in future. She was invited to a coding club run by Imperial which is a great initiative. It's a nationwide challenge for schools to keep up to date with Tech. It's so important for future, so I really hope she has more exposure to this.

They don't do Design and Tech, but I'm not bothered about that. Was very cynical previously about her having to study Latin and classics (I never did), but DD loves it, genuinely finds it interesting and likes her teacher.

Socially. She's made fantastic new friends as well as kept friends from primary school. We're delighted about this.

Great headteacher, who has made positive strategic changes, as well as dealing with individual needs. Husband and I like him. It's not an easy job, and there must be challenges that come along with the management of the WLFS school brand. Approachable,engaged, enthusisatic and making changes which seem to work, logical and not just following same old secondary school pattern.

I think WLFS undeservedly gets a bad rep. It's not going to suit all kids though. It's quite strict, and they do expect a lot from kids academically to strive. DD got into private schools (we reluctantly got her to do the 11+ to give us other options) and we chose WLFS. There are people from different backgrounds and races, which is great and important to us. The PSA are active, and school approachable with questions, and challenges.

We were on the waiting list for WLFS even though we live locally. It was worth the painful wait and agonizing for months. We didn't hear until May, but have no regrets, and made the right choice for her. My DS is very different but I think it will suit him too.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Blueberry14 Mon 07-Mar-16 10:33:57

Oh... and on the 6th form. I hope she's stays. I think they are putting so much effort on the 6th form, to get it right, with experienced advisors supporting the structure. I know people who were at WLFS and looked around all the other 6th forms options to consider moving child, and still decided that WLFS was the best. Hard to tell without some A level results but I think it looks promising, and would want my DD to stay.

MomOfx3 Mon 07-Mar-16 14:44:12

Thanks Blueberry14 Mum - appreciate your thoughtful input and sharing with my husband; I have a Year 5 son, too, so am interested to hear about your DD's experience as she went though WLFS secondary in Y7 and Y8. Will likely have my Y5 son go to WLFS, too, with hopes of sibling preference having his bro in Sixth Form this autumn- the school seem willing to take this into account for waitlist purposes, at least for a few more years.

I'll try to remember to post a note here again in a year or so about my older son's Y12 experience in 6th form as I'm pretty sure he'll go to WLFS in the fall, and maybe that will be of interest to other parents later.

In the meanwhile, would still love to hear from anyone else with a child who plans to start Sixth Form at WLFS this fall (2016). I may also contact the school to see if there's a parent rep (PTA?) who can help with being put in touch with other starting families more directly.

Blueberry14 Mon 07-Mar-16 23:06:23

The PTA are pretty active and hold lots of events, so should be able to help. The week long induction for year 7 was excellent, so I would have thought the same would be for 6th form, but I don't know for sure.
Good luck.

Blueberry14 Tue 08-Mar-16 00:01:35

Year 7 - great year, but obviously a bit apprehensive on what a new school is like for a child.

After school clubs helped to get to know other kids with similar interest. Lots of engaged parents, organising social events, and also well attended PSA and Parent governor meetings.

DD didn't have any change of teachers mid year, which was good. We haven't seen high turnover of staff issue. DD doesn't complain about it.

School getting a lot more experienced teachers in , and some of DD's favourite teachers left so she didn't have them in year 8 ... but she might not have got them anyway. Her form teacher particular good and supportive. Lots of teacher/parent meeting. Useful school reports to update you on childs progress of each subject. Lots of tests, and homework. Bit of a shock from primary school - where one teacher covers all subjects. DD was ready for deeper learning of subjects.

I particularly like the recent change that in the absence of sick teacher who not in class... a senior teacher would cover the class, rather than a temp supply teacher who usually can't control or teach the class, and it's a waste of time for kids and their learning. DD much prefers it.

School is quite open and upfront about what is expected of kids, and rules, but even so, parent and kid don't know how they are going to feel until they get there. It's worked well for my DD and what we want from a school. She's progressed, grown in confidence and independence so much...we're delighted. She's had an excellent year 7 and 8 socially and academically.

Adamajudeh Tue 08-Mar-16 17:28:52

I totally agree with wlmum123. THe school is like a "free world" rather than a wel managed and organised school. my ds is attending his 2 year in that school and I must pull him out as soon as possible. In addition, the teachers' mood and enthusiasm is just appalling!! Stay away from free schools!!

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