Anyone's DC heading to the West London Free School in September?(24 Posts)
My DD is heading to the West London Free School Secondary in September. We live round the corner and so is our local school. Anyone out there got DC going and how they feeling about it? I have over the years heard some worrying reports on it but when we went round it felt like things were improving and the pupils and teachers we met seemed great. I'm feeling as I'm sure is normal quite worried about the transition for my DD and wanted to see if anyone else heading there and feeling good and positive about it?!!
I co-founded the school and am currently the CEO of the charitable trust that it sits within, alongside three other schools. I think it's good enough for my own children, which isn't always the case with governors and staff at other schools. My daughter is currently in Year 8 and my son will be going into Year 7 in September. The Headteacher, Hywel Jones, is excellent and so too is the Chair of Governors, Ian Hunter. Indeed, the staff and governors as a whole are very good -- the Vice-Chair of the Governing Body is Simon Hix, Professor of Government at the LSE. As you probably picked up on your look around, the Music and Art Departments are both very strong, as is the Sports Department. Our Girls and boys hockey teams routinely make it to the final stages of regional and national competitions -- usually the only state school to do so -- and anyone who saw our production of Sweeney Todd at the Bush Theatre last summer can attest to the strength of the Music Department. Some of our choristers recently took part in evensong at Westminster Abbey. My daughter has a good group of friends, all of whom live close by, and they're all just back from the school ski trip in Austria. There were no accidents. The school was ranked Good by Ofsted on its most recent visit and we're hoping to get Outstanding next time we're inspected. (The West London Free School Primary was ranked Outsranding when it was inspected last May.) that will partly depend on how our Year 11s do in their GCSEs, a big test for us. I'm confident they'll do well. The school has had a few teething problems, as most new schools do, but now that the 600 pupils are all under one roof in Palingswick House -- a handsome, fully modernised Victorian building opposite Ravenscourt Park -- it's really settled down and is rapidly becoming the school I and the other co-founders (mainly parents and teachers) envisioned. I like to think it's now a true comprehensive in the way comprehensives were originally defined by Harokd Wilson -- a grammar school for all. I hope your DD will be very happy there, as I hope mine will be, too.
Well if that was the real Toby Young, I would at least feel heartened by a personal reply.
What else is the man who earns a neat salary from his own school going to say? He's hardly going to refer to past head teachers who left abruptly and without explanation, or how they had to bring in an external head to sort it out is he?
You might want to read this comment about how Toby Young got himself into the position he now holds and maybe do a search of the excellent Zelo Street blog for Young's name.
I looked at Zelo street blog - it's very spiteful!
FrankieCH Seriously your posting something that implies Free Schools were started just so Toby Young could start a white supremacist school for his friends in West London. There is something wrong with you.
Thanks all. I think it's a pity it seems to have turned into a personal thing about Toby Young. I really just wanted to hear about the actual school and if people's DC are happy and thriving there?!
I would find the staff turnover rate there extremely worrying.
Perhaps you should look at the staff turnover at Holland Park, that supposedly Outstanding school. It is such a hellish place to work that teachers leave in their droves the moment they can find another job.
I don't think the fact that there may be high staff turnover somewhere else provides any comfort in relation to the turnover rates at WL.
A high turnover isn't necessarily extremely worrying- state schools that demand more of their teachers (and Holland Park has eg extra classes on Saturday for pupils falling behind) are always likely to have a higher turnover. As someone whose kids will not be going there and who has no connections with the school, I am surprised at all the criticism of WLFS. As a new school it was always going to have teething problems but IMO it has the potential and governing body to become a truly excellent school in an area where there is not a huge amount of state choice.
The thing is, it isn't a new school really, is it? I could understand it in the first couple of years, but the problems have been rather persistent. And it's only a few months since they encountered a little difficulty with failing to comply with their funding conditions - www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/10/flagship-west-london-free-school-didnt-comply-with-academies-financial-rules-says-auditor
IMO a school that is only 5 years old is still new, with no children having gone straight through the school to A levels/the Sixth Form only opening this year. Taking the Holland Park example, the current headmaster was parachuted in as a "superhead" in 2001 and it took over 10 years and a £90 million new building before some local MC parents would consider it for their children. The difficulties in opening a wholly new school shouldn't IMO be underestimated and as said I have noticed that WLFS has an incredible board of Governors (including former heads of department from the likes of Westminster). So what if a couple of administrative errors have been made by new staff in complying with funding conditions?
I have a child at the West London Free School primary and my sister has a child at the secondary.
My sister is very happy with the secondary and she is pleased that they chose it over other local schools where some of her child's primary friends are not as happy or doing as well as my sister's child (I'm being deliberately gender ambiguous to protect identities).
My sister's child is quite musical and the music department has really nurtured that talent. The child has a great group of local friends and academically he/she is doing well. A couple of years ago my sister was concerned about staff turnover but they concluded that the new Head had to get rid of some poor quality teaching staff recruited by the previous Head who was not good. The current Head is very good and things have really settled down. Staff Turnover is slower than it was and the teachers my niece/nephew has contact with all seem lovely and engaging.
On MN, every thread about the West London Free schools immediately descends into a bun fight over Toby Young and his politics. I worried about the political nature of the schools before we chose the primary but while the press and MN focus on his influence you really feel like it's the Heads that lead the way within the schools themselves and they do not see it as a political project at all.
We are very happy with the primary too.
I hope your daughter enjoys her time at the school.
I won't comment on any of the politics involved, but as an ex-teacher I would agree that schools can be treated as 'new' until several cohorts have gone all the way through. I taught in two 'new' schools, one of which was about five and the other about eight years old at the time I joined.
Both suffered from the effects of:
Dominating/charismatic individual HT
Lack of distributed leadership
Tendencies to re-invent the wheel /waste time due to everyone finding their way together
Change and upheaval as the school develops
On the flip side, I think that early cohorts can often have a very unique experience with lots of individual attention.
To put it in context almost all the top private boys secondary schools are between 500 -1000 years old and the top girls private schools (SPGS, Wycombe Abbey etc) are about 100 years old. I doubt very much that there are any private or state schools founded in the last 20 years which are near the top of any league tables, but would not be surprised if in say 20 years time WLFS is an exception and near the top of any list of comprehensive schools.
I was thinking more in the context of the large number of free schools and academies which have come into being within the last year or two. I don't thing private schools are really a valid comparator - after all, some very long-standing private schools are really quite poor, whilst there are some excellent state schools.
I agree that there are some very poor long-standing private schools many of which get worse A level results than comprehensives (let alone grammar schools). However I still think it is many years before you can tell how a school is performing since you need to see a reasonable track record of GCSE/A level results i.e. depending on the cohort size you normally need to see the GCSE/A level results performance over at least 3-5 years to see how the school is initially faring. Looking at the results of the aforementioned Holland Park for example, there is a marked improvement in every category over the last 7 years though there is occasionally the odd year where performance slips in one category See eg www.hollandparkschool.co.uk/academic/key-stage-5-results.
We know a family with 2 children at the primary, and another with one there. Both families are very happy with it. I have been to the school with them for one or two events.
The cohort does skew white, compared to the local population (quite significantly so, which is part of the reason why we would not consider it for our children) and it is very West London middle class, which can be a plus or a minus depending on your outlook.
Toby Young is -how can I put this- a man who divides opinion (and everything else) but he is not going to be teaching your child.
MyfavouriteClinton - I don't think the West London Free School primary is as "white middle class" as several other local state primaries. John Betts, St Peters, St Stephens are all whiter and richer IMO.
True, John Betts in particular is startling, given its catchment area. But it is a great deal less representative of the area than our childrens' current school and other local secondaries.
Finally some data and overall it is good news!! the West London Free School, has posted its first set of GCSE results this year and they are good. 76% of pupils got 5A*–C.
The school did very well at the top end, with 37% of all GCSEs being marked A* or A. That figure should put the Wlfs in the top 50 non-selective state schools in England, based on last year’s data. the pupils performed particularly well in Maths, Science, Art, Music and Religious Education. In Music and Art, for instance, 100 per cent got 5A*–C, as did those pupils who took Biology, Chemistry and Physics as separate subjects. In Maths, 85% got 5A*–C, while in English Literature it was 78%.
Both my children go to the secondary and are very happy there. I too am happy with the school and teaching, my kids are thriving there.
Honestly, it shouldn't be judged unless you've visited it.
My DD is also at the secondary and is really happy there. I am also very impressed with the school with incredibly dedicated teachers who are very responsive and engaged. I agree go and have a look - school choices are very individual and it won't suit everyone but it is a serious school and I don't recognize any of the criticism levied at it!
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