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West London Free School - up-to-date info?

(46 Posts)
LetLoveWin Wed 21-Jun-17 16:36:42

I'll be applying for secondary schools for my DS this October and am wondering what the current consensus is on this school?!

It has been alternately raved about and demonised on threads, but they are all rather old now, so am wondering how things are going now it has moved to its permanent home at Palingswick House.

I understand it has had issues with staff turnover and pupil absenteeism, yet is still the most oversubscribed school in the borough (10 applicants per place!), so guess it is doing something right? All thoughts/insider knowledge welcome!

FrankieCH Thu 22-Jun-17 09:01:19

Lots of official stats now about this school.
Very high persistent absence.
Very low number of kids with English as a second language.
Very high reported take up of FSM - but no way of knowing why. I'd be wary of that figure being accurate.
Only average Progress 8 - meaning kids make average progress through their time in the school.
Disadvantaged kids progress less well than the national average.
Last year's GCSE results were hailed as fantastic by Toby Young but they weren't - 76% got five A*-C. For his so-called comprehensive grammar this is hardly stellar.
Its Ofsted was merely good, not outstanding.
There are better schools!
Useful links here:

Floggingmolly Thu 22-Jun-17 09:06:33

The over subscription owes a lot to the lack of alternatives in the locality, tbh, rather than it being particularly sought after in it's own right.

LetLoveWin Thu 22-Jun-17 10:07:58

Thank you both, that's very helpful. We live in the area and there do seem to be other options, such as Fulham Cross (Outstanding) for girls, Fulham Boys (very new, but seems to be doing well) for boys, Lady Margaret's (CofE, but takes non-faith - Outstanding) for girls, as well as all of the (Outstanding) Catholic schools. So it seems unlikely that ALL of the oversubscription is down to lack of options... hard to tell from the outside though!

Are there any current parents who could let me know how the school seems right now? Are your children enjoying it? Do they like the compulsory 2x clubs system? Are they participating in many school trips? How is bullying managed? Has the absenteeism been dealt with and why do you think it occurred in the first place? Is the discipline still rigid? etc!

LetLoveWin Thu 22-Jun-17 11:06:14

Oh, and Holland Park! That seems to be the most similar school option nearby (non-faith, mixed, highly ambitious state school) - again, it has its fans and its detractors, guess no school is the right fit for all.

Really keen to hear from anyone who knows what the WLFS is like right now smile

Relax4444 Fri 23-Jun-17 23:06:43

Hi there I am a parent of a child at WLFS and my experience is very different from some
Of the stuff you read on here about the school by people who do not know it from the inside. My child is very happy there, the teaching is predominantly really good- a few patches of not so good when a teacher leaves and there is a bit of a gap. It's no stricter than other schools attended by friends children in the area and I think they have really got on top of low level disruption. There are after school clubs but only 2 a week have to be attended so it's not a long day every day. the kids seem really great and it's an extremely mixed school and not at all the white middle class school which is often described as. The music is amazing and inspiring and available for anyone who wants to participate. So far so good for us.

LetLoveWin Sat 24-Jun-17 09:08:20

Oh, thank you so much for this detailed account, exactly what I was looking for! It's great to hear from a parent who knows the school well. I'm glad your child is happy at the school.

Relax4444 Sat 24-Jun-17 10:14:12

The school has had loads of negative feedback, much of it based on people not liking Toby Young. I am not his best fan either but he does not run the school - the headteacher does! He seems switched on and I don't feel like the school is complacent in areas it could better in. The impact of cuts will hit the school as much as any other London school and this is a worry for me as if you can't resource the best teacher because you can't afford them then standards fall. Sport isn't amazing but the art and music are really great. There are high expectation and certainly in my child's year 7 he kids want to do well and it's not considered uncool to want to do well. It's not perfect but I am not sure any schools in this area are and I feel they are always striving to make the less good bits better..

LetLoveWin Mon 26-Jun-17 08:20:49

Thank you for this, I agree that headteachers surely have the greatest influence. I'm surprised to hear you say the sport is weak, as I thought this was one of the school's strengths - looking at its online calendar, the sports teams seem to have fixtures every other day. Do you mean its not varied? Could you also tell me about the grounds at Pallingswick House, as I've heard there isn't much outside space, so perhaps this impacts on the sport, if the kids have to travel to other areas to do it all the time?
Thanks so much smile

dinkystinky Mon 26-Jun-17 14:56:24

People I know with children there have chosen to send their younger children there also - which shows it must be working well in their eyes

LetLoveWin Mon 26-Jun-17 16:28:33

That sounds great, thank you! Does anyone know about the outside space at the school?

Wsix Mon 26-Jun-17 21:56:40

I have two children there and we are very happy with it. The standards of behaviour are very high, there really is no disruption in the classroom, the teaching is good and the results last year were good.

This thread surprises me. Why is one poster questioning the free school meals stats? They reflect the local area, the school can't lie about them, they are reported by the local authority.

Also the results were pretty good compared to other local comprehensives.

I get that people dislike Toby Young. I share the that feeling, but no need to rubbish a good school run by a hard working head and great teachers just because you hate the former CEO.

Wsix Mon 26-Jun-17 21:58:35

With reference to outside space: there isn't much. There is no denying that. Inside the school the building feels clean and nice and well kept. But the outside space is really limited. They leave the site for most sports. But that is the same for Hammersmith Academy. If you live in W6 and you aren't religious then you aren't going to get into a school with lovely space:

Relax4444 Mon 26-Jun-17 23:00:53

Yes sport happens at other venues- they have a number of mini buses and they go to grounds in chiswick which are very good. I think there could be improvement in the after school sports clubs but if you are good at sport yes there are lots of fixtures.. So really not bad- I just know that they want to improve it. There is a great activities week programme too. All in all we are very happy with it and I have a sense it gets better all the time and the teachers are without doubt very committed. Some of the myths about if only being for middle class kids are totally wrong snd I too think it's biZzare to challenge the stats. There is also a wide range of ability and in fact the last ofsted showed that low and middle ability kids make as much progress as high ability. I would go and see it and talk to the kids showing you round and have a look at the facilities. Many private schools in London use local sports grounds too.. I think those who rubbish a school based on not liking the ex CEO or its philosophy should remember that this is very offensive to the children and parents who are actually at the school who are enjoying what it is offering.

LetLoveWin Tue 27-Jun-17 09:57:44

Thank you for these very helpful replies! I have been most confused about this school...

On the one hand, it has the best (secular state school) exam results in the borough and a Good (with Outstanding pastoral care) rating from Ofsted, one of the only state schools to have an orchestra, and appears strong in art & sport as well. I understand it is the most oversubscribed state school in London.

On the other hand, the internet is filled with negative reviews! Main concerns seem to be high staff turnover, poor discipline (even to the point of bullying), poor communication & disorganisation.

So it's very hard to get an accurate picture with such differing accounts! This is why it's great to hear all these views from people who know the school better than I do. We will definitely be attending the Open Day and hope to see if it will be a good fit for my kids then.

Please do chip in if you have anything to add, would love to hear more!

Wsix Tue 27-Jun-17 11:43:07

Where have you seen reports of bad behaviour? I honestly think that discipline is its main strength. Order in the classroom is extraordinary, kids are respectful to one another and to staff. It's very different from other local schools we visited in that respect.

Toby Young has built a reputation as a hate figure. His expertise is how to lose friends and alienate people (that the title of his first book!). He is active on the internet with his blog and twitter. So a lot of the hate towards him is expressed on the internet. I guess that's why you see negativity about the school. But he is barely involved anymore. He sits on the Board but that's it. And despite being such a divide figure he deserves credit for working for many years for no pay to etablish the school and the three associated primaries.

Locally I just don't hear any negativity. My year 7 moved from a local primary where most kids put WLFS as first choice and those that didn't get in were very disappointed. My child went with a cohort of 12 from the primary school and they have all settled very nicely and are happy.

prh47bridge Tue 27-Jun-17 12:36:43

Very high reported take up of FSM - but no way of knowing why. I'd be wary of that figure being accurate.

I wouldn't be wary of that figure at all. The LA knows the figure. It is not something that schools can manipulate. And the take up of FSM is actually very low for the area with 38.5% of pupils eligible for FSM within the last 6 years. For most secondary schools in the borough the figure is over 60%.

Only average Progress 8

The school's Progress 8 score puts it in the "Average" band but it is better than the national average. The school's score is 0.19 whereas the figure for all state-funded schools is -0.03.

76% got five A*-C. For his so-called comprehensive grammar this is hardly stellar

To give some context, the figure was actually 77% compared to a national figure of 63%. The figure for all schools in the borough was 70.1%. Within the borough only Lady Margaret, London Oratory and Sacred Heart managed better figures.

Whether they are the best school or not depends on how you measure success.

I don't know the school at all - I live hundreds of miles away. I agree with FrankieCH regarding the other figures she posted.

MercuryMadness Tue 27-Jun-17 13:37:55

I think Young is a divisive and unpleasant right wing agitator who has managed to get things changed. A nicer, more polite person might never have made the headway he has.

But there will always be he reputations problem of having him so closely aligned in the public perception with the school

FrankieCH Tue 27-Jun-17 15:24:42

People have also removed their children. In one case, all three kids were taken out because the place was about as far from the publicity as you can imagine.

LetLoveWin Tue 27-Jun-17 16:58:53

Thanks Wsix - the 'bad behaviour' reports I've seen are old Mumsnet posts, so it's great to have some balance on here, especially as you sound as though you know the school well.

I agree with you prh47bridge that the A*-C results are impressive - the highest in the borough for a secular state school.

The school does sound as though it has a very particular ethos that probably wouldn't suit all - but I'm hoping it will be right for my two!

BubblesBuddy Tue 27-Jun-17 17:17:03

Does it not have a certain amount of selection by aptitudes which will skew results favourably? Usually musical children are pretty bright for example.

Also London schools perform better than schools nationally so progress is not stellar for London. How it compares with Rotherham or Oldham is not relevant. The only way you can decide if this school is for you is to look around. Stats vary so much but I think their selection policies tend to reduce numbers of FSM children so more end up in neighbouring schools. Few FSM children have music lessons for example. If your child is musical it could be a good fit, a budding cross country runner, maybe not!

Wsix Tue 27-Jun-17 17:48:23

Progress is not stellar but it's best in the Borough for a non religious school.

It selects 10% on musical aptitude. Supposedly the aptitude test can see past music tuition for raw talent. Who knows. I know FSM kids get free music tuition whether or not they passed the aptitude test. My child sat the arts aptitude test at Holland Park, at the open eve before the test the teacher told us what th test would be. I felt they identified us as professional middle class and gave us info to help us prepare our child with an unfair advantage. That may be unfair though, maybe they told others. We didn't get into Holland Park anyway!

My eldest is in y9 and several kids have transferred into that year from Chiswick. Their parents say that the behaviour at Chiswick was a problem and that it's totally different at WLFS.

LetLoveWin Wed 28-Jun-17 08:35:05

It's reassuring to hear the behaviour/discipline is still good at WLFS!

Re the selection process, so many schools now seem to have this for around 10% of intake, whether via art or music or sport, even languages. Funnily enough I took an in-school music aptitude test (teacher playing chords on the piano out of sight, we had to write down how many notes they were playing!) - I passed, which meant I was given free lessons on a musical instrument of my choice throughout my schooling, which was amazing as we could never have afforded it otherwise. I felt even at the time it was quite arbitrary though, I'm definitely not especially musical and a classmate who was (played 3 instruments privately at home) failed the test and so her parents had to keep paying - luckily they could afford it. I still love being able to play an instrument and wish the same for my kids, hence my attraction to this school smile

coffeecup16 Fri 03-Nov-17 22:34:28

My son is there now and I am worried sick. It’s chaotic, badly organised and the grip on disruptive behaviour isn’t tight. I don’t know what to do

LetLoveWin Tue 07-Nov-17 06:53:59

I'm sorry to hear this. My DD started in September and I have to say that we have had almost the opposite experience!

Discipline seems water-tight:

There is zero tolerance on what the headteacher referred to as 'low-level disruption' in class so all students get to focus in every lesson.

If a child comes to school without having completed their homework then they get a same-day detention, in which they do complete it, so no child ever skips a homework.

Organisation and communication are meticulous, with weekly updates and emails for every detention or house point awarded and an online calendar of events. This is really key, given the vast amounts of info they need to keep on top of - as a specialist music school there are many musical events related to the choir, bands or orchestra and it is also very strong in sports with constant fixtures against other schools. Plus all the usual extra-curricular activities, school trips and parent events.

Perhaps you could contact the school and explain exactly what worries you so they can try to help in that area.

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