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New free schools and academies prove hugely popular

Friday March 1, 2013

According to figures released today, West London Free School is the most popular school in Hammersmith & Fulham, with 1,179 applications for places this September, of which 296 were first preference applications.

The Catholic boys’ school, London Oratory, retains its popularity with 793 applications (293 first preferences,) with two academies, Burlington Danes and Hammersmith Academy receiving 778 and 714 applications respectively.

Sacred Heart Girls’ School received 314 first preference applications, more than any other school, and received 675 applications overall.

“These latest figures for applications to our schools show that our newest schools are proving extremely popular with local families and that our Schools of Choice strategy to expand the options for H&F parents, is working,” says Cllr Helen Binmore, Cabinet Member for children’s services. “Standards in all our schools are increasing dramatically and they continue to go from strength to strength. Our new free schools and academies have added new choices, without undermining other local schools. Instead they are encouraging families to opt for local state schools rather than choosing schools outside the borough or independent schools.”

The number of applications for secondary school places rose by 216 on last year, to 5,860. The proportion of students getting into their top choice school rose to 56.7% from 54.5% last year and the number securing a place in one of their top three choices rose to 81% from 78% last year.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council launched its Schools of Choice strategy in 2006 is response to high numbers of families either moving out of the borough when their children reached secondary school age or choosing schools in the private sector or in other boroughs. In 2006, only 38% of local children went to local state schools.

That number is now well over 60%, although the final figure for this year will not be known until families decide whether to take up the offers they have received.

Part of the strategy included encouraging free schools and new academies into the borough, a move that some critics suggested would exclude local people from less affluent backgrounds, or de-stabilse other schools.

"It is now clear that the significant extension in the range of options now available has been hugely popular with parents and has helped drive up school standards across the board,” adds Cllr Binmore. “The West London Free School came under particular attack in its early days, but it is now clear that it takes a large proportion of local families including many children from less affluent backgrounds and it is performing extremely well.”

» Send us your comments now

Of course Yvonne is right. And 'Schools of choice' was always a misnomer when about half the boroughs pupils can't join the school of their choosing. (80% nationally). Report good news by all means, but please credit residents with more intelligence in your presentation of evidence. The continuous superficial spin is very tedious. Residents deserve much better.
From Paul Fox on 09/03/2013 at 12:47
obviously the free school is going to get more applicants because it is mixed so 50% of children of the other sex are not excluded unlike oratory or scared heart. it is also non-denominational so hence it is open to anyone. so to say it is the most popular is not to give the full picture.
From Yvonne on 05/03/2013 at 23:01
Following on from what Ramble Ralf is saying I was one of the parents who recieved that awful letter, we live at the end of Hammersmith & Fulham and never will live within a mile of these schools.
Not enough investment is put into the existing state schools so parents would quite happily attend any of the schools within the Borough. In summary although we live in the borough we are treated as second class citizens, especially when I know of a child whose has been accepted by a Ham & Ful school but resides in Brent and no sibling of his attends any H&F school, Whereas I live in the Borough and have no school. It is a very distressing situation also I had the school in 1st place on my form and he had it as his 5th preference. Somthing just doesnt add up for me.
From No Justice on 05/03/2013 at 13:13
This is why I moved my son into an out of borough school at the begining of year 6, met the guidlines and happy we got our first choice.
From Rathur on 04/03/2013 at 20:31
Having just spent a distressing weekend with my sister, who received on Friday evening an email informing her that it has not been possible to secure her son a place in the schools that she applied for, I have to write in to let you know how awful the situation getting your child a place in a decent secondary school in Hammersmith.
It is obvious, judging from the application to place ratio, that some schools are seen as being much more desirable to others. Some of these schools bar students on religious grounds, whilst others are so oversubscribed as to make it almost impossible to have a chance to gain admittance.
In this instance she is a church going Roman Catholic who happens to live under a mile from two of the schools. Sometimes I wonder whether the outgoing Pope would have been able to satisfy the insanely high entry requirements for the Catholic schools.
I welcome the West London Free School for being a step in the right direction. A non religious school that offers, what appears to be, a first rate education that could compete with the likes of Latymer. We need to see more like these. It depresses me to see how school catchment appear to be divided on racial lines
From Ramble Ralf on 04/03/2013 at 16:01

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