Views sought on free school

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Views sought on ‘free’ school

Friday November 5, 2010

Parents, teachers and community groups in Hammersmith & Fulham are being asked what they think about plans to open a secondary ‘free’ school in the borough.

Journalist and author Toby Young is one of a group of people behind the West London Free School, one of 16 groups in the UK that have government approval to set up new parent-sponsored state schools.

“Our aim is to create the kind of school we’d like our children to go to: one that is non-fee paying and non-selective, but that offers the kind of rigorous academic education that is normally associated with selective schools or high-performing faith schools,” he says.

“The idea is to make this sort of education available to parents of children from a wide variety of backgrounds, not just those who happen to be of a particular faith or who can afford to go private.”

The government’s new rules on free schools have been welcomed by groups like Toby’s, enabling them to fulfill their ambitions to get directly involved in running their children’s school and opening up new choices for parents struggling to find places in the state system. They plan  to admit children in September 2011, starting with120 pupils in Year 7.

But free schools have proved controversial. Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, and former teacher at St Edmunds School in Fulham, said free schools will create chaos at local level. “Groups setting up their own schools irrespective of local planning needs would be a retrograde step that will lead to planning gridlock and social division”.

Toby Young’s reply is that his school will benefit the borough providing the extra places needed by a growing school-age population and offering an alternative for the large numbers of local children who currently go to school outside the borough or to private schools.

“We believe the West London School will prove popular with both parents and children in Hammersmith & Fulham, offering a choice that many of them don’t have at present.

“In addition to academic rigour, the school will be characterised by high expectations, strong discipline and a competitive atmosphere.”

He describes his vision for a ‘classical liberal education’ in a consultation document being sent to local parents and available on the internet at (opens new window).

The school plans to specialise in music and  children will be expected to study Latin at least until the age of 14 and to sit at least eight academic GCSEs or IGCSEs. Competitive sport will be a big part of school life.

However, he rejects criticism that this curriculum and ethos excludes everyone outside his middle-class peer group.

“We are committed to ensuring the school’s intake reflects the ethnic and social diversity of the local area. One of the reasons social mobility has ground to a halt over the last 25 years is because, on the whole, children from low income families don't have access to first class education and this is an attempt to do something about that."

The West London Free School has the backing of H&F Council who are actively helping in the search for a suitable site for the new school in the borough. Leader of the Council, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh says; “We will do everything we can to support parents wanting to set up free schools. The West London Free School would be very welcome in H&F. It will extend the choices open to local families, help us cater for the growing local population and support our aspiration to encourage more families to choose local state schools rather than going private.”

Other free schools in the borough

There are currently two other groups with government backing to develop free schools in the borough. These are Ark Conway primary in White City and the Rivendale Free School, planned for Shepherds Bush. Both would be for primary age children.

ARK Academies, which already runs Burlington Danes Academy in Du Cane Road, is working with the North Hammersmith Parent Group to set up the Ark Conway Primary Academy on the former Wormholt library site in White City.

Rivendale Free School would be in Shepherd's Bush, but a suitable site has yet to be found. It would have no religious ethos and the group behind it hope that it will offer an alternative to the area's faith schools for children of non-faith or multi-faith backgrounds.

In addition to these three free school proposals, a parents' group has also approached the council and the London Diocesan Board to discuss the possibility of setting up a Church of England boys' secondary school. They intend to seek the views of local parents in order to gauge the level of interest in the proposal.

Read more on free schools»

» Send us your comments now

I agree with the posters who feel aggrieved that the School will not be in Ealing. That is where there is a need. The people of Ealing must feel let down by this. I can't understand why the campaigners did not fight to have it there, which is where they wanted it in the first place. Under the admissions policy as it stands, only a tiny fraction of Ealing residents will get places.
From Ealing mother on 17/02/2011 at 11:24
I don't think the name Morris Meister means a great deal to the vast majority of people in this country. He was an American philanthropist, with an interest in education, who, in 1938, founded a secondary school in Bronx, in New York City, one of the five most deprived districts of USA. But it wasn't to be yet another bog-standard school: Morris Meister believed that if a school puts bright students together, it would kindle ill defined, but valuable learning processes. Yes, good, stimulating, teachers were necessary, but more important was the homogeneity and quality of the student population. The school seems to have proved him right: Bronx Science School, as it is known today, owes its historic status to the fact that seven future Nobel-prize-winning physicists went through its doors - more than any other high school in the world and more than most countries have ever achieved. Moreover, according to the Bronx laureates, their physics learning took place mainly outside the classroom. Isn't this outlook that is so much needed in this country?
From George Ross on 10/02/2011 at 18:02
|I think its great that they are opening a school like this does it really matter if there are fee paying schools close by what makes our children so different to theirs some people like to create problems instead of looking at children getting a good education that are less fortunate then others
From daniela on 09/02/2011 at 19:03
We understand concerns about the logistical problems, particularly those of parents with children at the nearby fee-paying schools. Palingswick House was used as a school until as recently as 1984 when it happily co-existed with neighbouring schools. If it is returned to school use, it will only ever house 600 children and will grow by one year group per year over a five-year period, giving the neighbouring schools time to adjust. The children are more likely to live locally and therefore able to get there more easily. We will have a "no drop off" policy and encourage all the children to either walk to school or use public transport. In addition, our school day will start at 8.20am and end at 5pm, so our children will arrive before and leave after children at either of the neighbouring schools. We're confident that if Palingswick House is used as a school once again it will not cause undue disruption.
From Toby Young on 09/02/2011 at 11:05
I live next to the proposed, planned, not needed, school, living in an area surrounded by schools! its Feb 2011 And I have just been told about this ! by word of mouth, not even the decency to consult the very people who such a school will make there lives misery ! How Thoughtless cunning and and underhand You should be in politics or banking! Totally opposed SAVE THE MEDICAL CENTRE ! WHAT IS REALLY NEEDED IN THE AREA !!
From Steve on 07/02/2011 at 13:42
As a Maths teacher who has worked in several local secondary schools, I can only welcome this inititave. The dergulation of education provision is long overdue. The idea that "fairness" is a commodity that can only be guaranteed by central, or indeed, local government has been the curse of the education system for far too long. The current system is expensive, wasteful and of more benefit to the teachers than the students. Good luck to all the free schools.
From Hamish on 01/02/2011 at 18:29
Middle class parents attempting to get the rest of us to subsidise their childrens a privileged education. There are lots and lots of schools in West London, if they are failing this should be addressed, rather than creaming of disproportionate resources for a privileged group of insiders. Not only is each child at Toby's school received a far higher state subsidy than other local children, they are doing so at a time when many of the really vulnerable in west London are being poleaxed by Mr Young's friends ideological crusade. In my opinion anyone who sends their children to this place should be ashamed
From Tom on 28/01/2011 at 09:42
WELL DONe!! TOBY and the team, I think it is a fantastic idea. This will give a great choice as theWLFS will be an opportunity for children to enjoy music choice and latin. Latin has being underestimated. Finally, Toby is stepping in to make the diffference. I think one day everybody will be rushing to the school to regiater and there wont be places. The WLFS is a fantastic idea. For years religious and faiths schools have being suppported by the governemnt so now it is good to support the WLFS. WELL DONE
From RUKI on 17/12/2010 at 22:41
It is free school, supposedly run by parents but the content has already been decided? Someone wants to reflect his/her wishes on this free school.
In the end the history will prove if it is worth it. Why can we not improve our existing schools and set up new schools as required? I am not against free schools, if truly the wishes of the locals (parents + students) are respected. But not if it is already decided, just bring your child and we will make him/her to achieve 5-10 A or A* (no, no)
From Sahra on 14/12/2010 at 15:22
Marvellous to read such a diverse debate over what is essentially a new project, new ideas based on traditional ideals, and a choice that parents can still make regarding our children's schooling. If we don't support and watch how this one works, how can education in this country ever improve if there are no new schools and leaders to learn from? Bring on Free Schools if they represent attainment, new challenges, energy, creativity, places for all and above all, a hugely needed secondary school in a borough that loses it's teenagers year after year to schools elsewhere. This brings other difficulties such as family communication, early travel and homework late in the evening with no time for chilling out. I believe and hope sincerely that this new school will set an example of integrating finer aspects of learning such as Latin and music across the whole spectrum of educational and life learning in each year group since the benefits of both are far, far more then subject based.
From Emma on 22/11/2010 at 22:56
For many years we have had nothing but complaints from parents that there are not enough schools in the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham that are not religious or private so have to look outside of the Borough for a decent school for our children to attend and might I add spend hours travelling to and from. Now that we are in the fortunate position of a school on our doorstep ready to provide our children with the type of education that you would not see unless you are in the fortunate position to pay for, surprises and shocks me to see any opposition whatsoever. What Toby Young and his team are doing is providing our children the opportunity to attend a non-selective school with a well rounded education. For those of you who are totally against it don't apply. There are many who will. Well done Toby and team, you are doing a marvellous job.
From Susi on 20/11/2010 at 19:29
I fully support the idea of this new school, it's a welcome breath of fresh air, fresh thinking, and long overdue. I feel cheated by faith schools which take tax payers' money but stipulate what faith you should have, else you don't get in. It's ludicrous, unfair and unbelievable in this day and age. I don't believe in any particular faith, but I do believe in giving my children the best possible start. I love the school's ethos, I like the drive & enthusiasm behind the founders and I like how they've done some solid research in to what makes a good school great, regardless of what faith, class or area the pupils are from.
From Clare Craven on 19/11/2010 at 14:41
Think of it like this, a school open to all, not selective on sex or religion and with an ethos shared and driven by the parents of the children attending. Its not about an ability to pay - it's about creating a school where pupils from a diverse background come together and are taught well and feel a sense of pride towards their school. Spot the bad in that. Don't get hung up on the reference to latin and the classics and allow it to somehow dictate a prejudice, if you have one. Think of it as an opportunity for all, get involved, don't shoot it down unnecessarily. The model is proven in the Nordics, sure it has its critics as do all institutions. Lets not do tomorrow what we did yesterday, because I've got news for you - it hasn't worked. Bring on fresh ideas and get behind them, we owe it to our kids.
From Craig Sparrow on 18/11/2010 at 23:20
Research the facts and don't be blinded by the promise of sparkly new schools that may not be all we would wish them to be. The English Free school system is based on the Swedish Model of Education and The US Charter School system, both of which have proved to be educationally flawed and socially divisive. Sweden has had to reintroduce more central government control after some 'free schools' were found to have cut costs by having no hot lunch facilities or libraries. Standards in Sweden have also fallen year on year. Free Schools were also shown to provide far less provision for children with Special Educational Needs. 'There is much to learn from the success stories as well as the charter school failures' President Van Roekel ( US National Education Association, 2009) Roekael cites inadequate accountability, marked differences in pay and experience of staff, a lack of research into comparative data and a clear concern that charter school policies could result in '...resegregation of US students in terms of race, ethnicity, or family income level.' NEA,2009. Look into companies like Kunskapsskolan and Ark - who will really be educating our children?
From lucyinldn on 18/11/2010 at 16:21
At last! A collective of individuals who despite not necessarily being 'educationalists' in the traditional sense have demonstrated a common sense approach to education and true inclusion. To all of you negative and blinkered individuals who have posted on here: Just for once, dare to imagine: why not pay children the compliment of assuming that irrespective of background they too will be able to access a more rigorous curriculum and that they 'can' rather than 'can't'!. I am a Faculty Head in a large FE College and I see an inordinate amount of young people at sixteen accessing the education at the College because this allegedly wonderful Comprehensive system has systematically failed them, has written them off, and delivered a clear message that they 'Can't' and probably never 'will'.

I wish the West London Free School every conceivable success!
From Dave M on 18/11/2010 at 09:43
Religion in schools is divisive because it relies on selection. Why should I have to pay my tax to prop up an (in)voluntary aided school that my kids can't attend because we don't go to church? All religion should be dropped from state education and everyone who doesn't want, or cannot afford, private places should send their children to the nearest school. It seems Toby Young is halfway there but why can't the state stop propping up religious segregation and discrimination?
From BigCon on 17/11/2010 at 12:12
I have a child in year 4 at the moment and will be looking at secondary schools next year - therefore, bring on more choices! Whilst I agree that a child should have a childhood, etc. I am all for challenging a child and giving them all the best opportunities academically - in a happy but discipline environment. All the best to Toby and his team!
From Mai on 16/11/2010 at 21:06
Speaking as a mum from Ealing, those families of Hammersmith and Fulham who will be lucky enough to broaden their choice of secondary education thanks to Toby Young and the team's proposal for a free school should be ever so grateful. Here in Ealing there are many parents who are bitterly disappointed that the opportunity for this school has now been lost in our borough. At present we are all suddenly attending church or saving our pennies to try and fund decent co-educational schooling and grammar school entrance exam tutoring. This is wrong; every child should be entitled to the education they deserve within their local area, without feeling they have to procure it by alternative means. Hopefully this free school will be a huge success and spur on other parents to do the same.
From mum from ealing on 16/11/2010 at 20:16
Why do so many parents in H&F end up fighting for places at Lady Margaret's or the Oratory? Why do so many feel forced to scrimp, save & remortgage to pay for secondary education? And how many have moved out of the Borough to find a state-sponsored solution elsewhere? We've got some great primaries, but clearly, current state provision doesn't meet everyone's needs, expectations or aspirations for their children - and there doesn't seem to be much sign of change coming unless it's prompted by the free schools. As a tax-paying parent of 3, I welcome H&F's moves to help to fill the gaps.
From MT on 16/11/2010 at 16:12
This is a brilliant initiative which will stop academic rigour being the preserve of the children of the rich. Latin is not only for the bright, in public schools it has always been taught to the children of the rich, even those who were not academic. If parents dont want their children to learn Latin, they can choose from a vast number of schools that do not teach Latin. Change is often worrying, especially for those embedded in the current system, but no one can think that our present system is good enough. Improving existing schools is not simple, the last fourteen years have seen state school funding increased vastly. The expenditure per pupil is now as much as in many private schools, but results fall short of those achieved by the private sector for the same money. Improvement requires more than just money, and free schools seem to offer one of the ways we may be able to extend the sort of education which is now only available in the fee paying sector. We also need to sack bad teachers. A teacher has a job for life as long as they dont sleep with a pupil. A poor teacher can cause harm to thousands over decades.

From James Dunlop on 16/11/2010 at 14:10
I am in favour of greater choice. While I am happy enough with the curriculum at primary school, I would like the possibility of a more academic curriculum at secondary and the prospect of greater discipline. I disagree with those who argue that a school with such high aims will attract only the white middle classes. I travel to Kingston for work and get on a train that many Tiffin boys are on. A non-fee paying school with high academic standards seems, in this case, to attract a predominantly Asian mix.
From sarah on 16/11/2010 at 11:43
The Free School is a breath of fresh air. As a black parent I believe this would open the doors for black children whereby the parents can play a significant role in guiding their children through the education system. Bravo, to Toby Young and his team for introducing Latin.
From Valerie John on 15/11/2010 at 19:24
The Free School is a breath of fresh air. As a black parent I believe this would open the doors for black children whereby the parents can play a significant role in guiding their children through the education system. Bravo, to Toby Young and his team for introducing Latin.
From Valerie John on 15/11/2010 at 19:20
Well done Toby and good luck with your project ! Wish you can make it. I strongly support all your ideas and in particular your accent on rigorous classical academic and competitive education. As for Latin, once you master it you can figure out lots of things by yourself. As for IT, useful tool. That is all.
From joanna kajoch on 15/11/2010 at 17:49
What is wrong with aiming high and why should Latin be classified as an elitist subject? Let those who seek to condemn this new project use their energies constructively to safeguard against profiteering. In time they may become supporters!
From AJ on 15/11/2010 at 14:03
I am astounded that there should be so much opposition to the Free School initiative. As the parent of a gifted and hardworking child, I am overjoyed at the prospect of her being given the opportunity to attend a non-selective secondary school at which only the best will do. All praise to Toby Young and parents like him who are attempting to provide, what will be for many children, positive life-changing educational experiences. Surely that is what every right minded parent would like for their child. The question those who object to freeschools need to ask themselves is whether their opposition is based on ignorance of the true objectives of Free Schools, or merely on the fact that they are so used to the culture of failure which currently pervades our education system that aspiring to excellence is too much of a challenge for them.
From Fiona on 15/11/2010 at 13:13
I think that they are a fantastic idea and well done to the leadership team for being proactive and exploring new avenues to raise education standards in the area.
From Alex Kane on 15/11/2010 at 09:18
ATL want to expose the uncomfortable truth behind the policy of promoting academies and free schools. It is a privateers' charter to make millions and billions out of the money which should be spent entirely on schools. The reality behind this cosy confection involves the spectre of filthy lucre. Parents or teachers misguided enough to set up a free school will soon find out that running a school needs a lot more than knowing pupils' names and an alternative vision of education. It needs a knowledge of employment law, health and safety and the admissions code. And private companies are waiting in the wings to provide these services. ATL has produced a directory listing the major organisations which want to get involved in managing state schools - England's schools: not open for business. We need to oppose these free schools wherever they rear their heads. They are part of the plan to privatise the whole of state education.
From Jean Roberts on 15/11/2010 at 01:55
Some current education provision is great. Some is woeful. Attempts over the last decade or more to change have not always been succesful. The state has not always known what is best and why (in areas of low quality local provision) should a good education only be for those who can afford it? The State is not always right and I believe the free school initiaive is a great way of empowering local communities (including teachers and education professionals, as well as Parents and faith groups) to campaign for an alternative. No one should underestimate the passion this subject creates, and how many people will be willing to come forward and help reinvegorate education provision - where a proven case for a new school is evidenced - to challenge a system that has have failed parents and children for too long.
From Alex on 14/11/2010 at 23:42
I am a bit puzzled to see so many negative comments. Those who attended previous public consultations and hustings could hear well balanced and mixed opinions. Positive to FS from parents disillusioned with present strait jacket but also hostile to FS and to Toby Young, mainly from people connected to educational system. Can anyone let me know,roughly, how much WLFS will cost, or what percentage of West London educational budget WLFS would represent? Can anyone enlighten me what sort of havoc this one Free High School with it's 120 pupils can inflict on us? I can only suspect that the ideological enemies of solid classical education free for all fear it's success and want to kill the bird in it's nest.
From Wojtek Alberti on 14/11/2010 at 22:44
Offering parents and their children choice in education can only be a good thing . The idea of having a new school with a return to the better aspects of a more traditional rounded education can only be a good thing ie competitive sport and music as well as a focus on academics is a great idea. And having a strong team of motivated and well qualified people involved who can bring some fresh thinking to bear on the issues involved in educating children today is great and seems exactly what the big society is all about.
From Paul kenny on 14/11/2010 at 13:41
Janee attacks the stated commitment towards providing an education non-selectively for children from a wide variety of backgrounds as contradicted by the school's intention that all children will be expected to sit at least eight academic GCSEs. Her attitude underpins the need for Free schools with higher expectations of state educated children. The poverty experienced by many children in this country is appalling, but exacerbated by the poverty of their parents' and school's expectations of their abilities. Seventy five children in state education in the whole country got 3 A* grades at A level last year: this was about one third of the number who did so at Eton alone! Can you then honestly maintain that the academic abilities of many state educated kids are stretched or that they are provided with reasonable opportunities to succeed? Many state schools do not even offer children the opportunity to sit Physics, Chemistry and Biology as discreet subjects, which effectively prevents a state educated child from becoming a doctor. If the current results reflect the best that can be achieved by the current system then bring in the new.
From Edmund Eldergill on 14/11/2010 at 12:31
Many reactions are knee-jerk and fail to look at the facts. 1)There is a lack of choice for boys secondary education. We also have an outstanding Christian faith girls' school in the Borough - why not the same for our boys. 2)My wife visited a state school referred to in an earlier comment. To say it is outstanding is ludicrous. The pupil behaviour, language & manners were appalling. 3)Because of pupil behaviours & other reasons, over 60% of children don't go to a local secondary school - they go to schools outside LBHF or go private. The current system is not creating genuinely comprehensive schools where pupils from all backgrounds attend. I want to see the massive gap in education between private and state education closed. As a parent, it's not good enough to hear 'lets wait for existing schools to improve', we'll be waiting for another 40 years till they get to a standard we parents want. I and loads of other parents are dissatisfied by what's on offer for our taxpayers money. We believe in new ideas and new ways of doing things - it's called progress. Our children's education is too precious to be kicked around by flawed ideology.
From A Father in Fulham on 13/11/2010 at 23:10
I support this parent group who are taking advantage of a government policy to offer us a better choice of school in this area. Why not? They are obviously working extremely hard and it is a national policy which will not take money for other local schools as far as I understand it. I commend their efforts. As long as they are not taking money from existing schools surely all they are doing is adding to the offering. If you do not like it, then simply do not send your children there but it is not for dissenters to prevent others of us from benefitting from their work. The personal attacks on the parents in the Free School group are completely unfair and it has to be a non-selective school. I hope that parents will judge it on its merits and not sink to criticise these parents who are working in their own time to help children in our community. I hope that they succeed.
From Nathalie on 13/11/2010 at 19:02
I think it is a great idea to provide a choice for children and the West london Free School will be the one for children for different background and not exactly the middle class. I believe that people are given the chance to toby and I believe everybody should support the school. It seems to me that people are more worried that the West London Free School could become a very successful school. Nobody thought that Lord Sugar could become the man he is now. So give the West London Free School a break by supporting them and not damaging them. At the end of the day the children are all ours and the aim is to bring up children in the best way we can and if the West London Free School will fit children so let's support them to make it happen. If the other school want to conpete they should compete along with the West London Free School and not against them. So Toby keep believing on the school
From meli on 13/11/2010 at 17:15
I wholeheartedly support the ideas of Toby Young and Free Schools. As parents who have just gone through the process of trying to find a decent state school for their child, attended the various open evenings, researched for endless hours on the net, read countless ofsted reports, etc., I feel that there is a major gap between the state schools and some of the excellent church (which are way over-subscribed) and private schools. This is the gap that we see schools like Toby Young's Free school trying to bridge. It is natural to feel nervous about change and like anything starting new will have a few teething problems, but with the right intentions, determination and support will end up providing the kind of school that a lot of parents will be clamoring for. We must encourage projects like these. I for one am certainly completely for this project and truly hope that the school will be ready for Sept 2011 intake for year 7. I was lucky to have gotten a University education and realise the value of this. We know that our children need the same opportunity for further education and feel that they really won't get it by attending most of the regular state schools in H&F. Good luck Toby.
From Jay on 13/11/2010 at 11:39
I totally support the Free School and believe that all children should have access to this type of education regardless of their parents' religion or social background or ability to pay. Good luck, I wish you every success.
From charlotte on 13/11/2010 at 10:36
At last a state school with a strong academic focus that will not exclude any child on the basis its parents' religion. Much needed, much wanted. A good education is a right of all children, not just those who are able to pay, or of a certain religion. An earlier comment seems to suggest that children who are of a certain background would not be able to study Latin or sit 8 GCSE's, that's a huge and insulting assumption. Thankfully someone has not written off these children so easily, go Toby, I wish you all the success in the world.
From charlotte on 13/11/2010 at 10:22
The above critics all fail to address a key point: the current crop of state schools in H&F is too heavily - almost exclusively, in fact - focused on the vocational and behaviour-modifying aspects of education. Important as these are, shouldn't children be equally entitled to a proper wide-scope education that doesn't just view them as cogs for future jobs? (Pink Floyd''s "The Wall" coming to mind.) After all, people have rights, not just companies. So well done, West London Free School, and good luck!
From Marko on 13/11/2010 at 00:40
I find the comments so far self-contradictory. Auriel dismisses compulsory Latin as one person`s prejudice; why is it not prejudice to deny children a classical education? Janee implies as illiberal an academic focus as it excludes certain backgrounds; why does she assume that poor children cannot be academic? How can it be fair that a child is taken from his home to be educated with the parent`s money in a way that the parent cannot control, fobbed off with debased exam results? The London Free School deserves that name because it lifts the shackles of a compulsory education philosophy which has surely amply discredited itself by pulling everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Has half a century`s comprehensive education, curriculum centrally dictated, increased Britain`s prestige in the world, rendered society more harmonious, improved relations between the races or the genders? Compared to 1960, in how many industries do we lead the world, how are our crime rate, our proportion of broken homes? Is our culture more genteel, our music more elegant?
From Richard Kaye on 12/11/2010 at 23:26
The west london free school is the type of secondary school parents have been crying out for, for years. A school that brings all the advantages of a private education to the masses. A school that offers a chance of an Oxbridge future for all our children. I welcome this school wholeheartedly & look forward to sendig my own child there in the future.
From ntaali on 12/11/2010 at 22:02
I see the Anti-Academies Alliance are here in force. Anyway. I've worked in any number of London comprehensives in my teaching career, and only political dogma could explain the views of the above. The comprehensive system attempts to fit one size to a vast array of different children, and there is NO choice of schools or curricula for parents who want something different to the standard model. Why should all parents have to subscribe to the values and ethos of the comp system? Why shouldn't the state provide some choice. As I understand it from the consultation document, this school will be run like any other: by its head and SLT, with input from the governors. It's just an academy: that's all it is. So what's the problem? I think the defenders of the status quo are running scared because they're about to be shown up. A classical liberal arts education, funded by the state? Bring it on! This project has my full support.
From StuffTheStatusQuo on 12/11/2010 at 21:19
I must take issue with all of the comments posted so far. I was Grammar school educated in the late '60s and '70s. By virtue of this education I, a working class boy, became middle class and am very glad I did. My school had many working-class pupils who gained the ability to better themselves thanks to their schooling. I think the Comprehensive "ideal" was founded on the bogus idea that Grammar schools were havens of middle-class privilege and that abolishing them would somehow make society more egalitarian. The problem has never been one of middle class privilege, but rather of the inverted snobbery of failed working class culture decrying educational achievement; a failure that sadly persists to this day. The history of state education in the UK for the past 40 years shows no growth of egalitarianism: indeed, social mobility has reduced since the '60s. I fail to see how future educational outcomes can be different under the current system. I therefore applaud Toby Young's attempt to establish a Free School and have put my daughter's name down for it even though she is not particularly academic, and I very much hope she attends it, or one very like it.
From Paul on 12/11/2010 at 21:09
We wholeheartedly agree with the idea of a new school in the borough. Especially one that has high expectations from the students and promises to teach in a way that is only available in private schools at the moment. We do agree as well with the idea of discipline as a foundation stone of education, and the fact of being a mixed sex school is also very attractive. Go ahead with the idea. There are lots of parents out here who support the first free school in Fulham.
From mum on 12/11/2010 at 20:52
I do begin to wonder just how many of the negative commentators on here are those with the most to lose by the opening of a 'free school' in H & F? As a parent of a child with very limited choice of secondary schools locally, I for one welcome the proposal wholeheartedly. A school created and run by parents...shock horror...parents being able to have a say and an input into their children's education? What next! The reason so many children are forced to 'go private' is the lack of any real choice in the State sector. As for the proposal to teach Latin...where exactly do people think that the English language was derived from? If you are personally happy with the choices available at present, then good for you, your needs are being met. There are others, myself included, who want more choice and not less. You should wish us well and allow us, as responsible parents, to try and achieve the very best for our children. Finally, those who are concerned about poor teaching standards should really spend a day or two observing at the local comp...poor teaching, poor standards!
From markbutler on 12/11/2010 at 20:47
I applaud the people behind the Free School project, who instead of complaining about the High School 'choices' they have, are trying to do something constructive to change the status quo. We live in Ealing where they originally tried to open and parents here discuss the limited High School options we have endlessly! It is easy to see why they felt we needed another school here. In reality we have only 2 local High Schools that we would have any chance of getting our daughter into irrespective of whether we like these schools or not because of where we live. The 2 other local schools we'd prefer are so oversubscribed that we'd have to live very near to get her a place and the ridiculously steep criteria for your child being able to attend a local Church of England School borders on the ridiculous. I do have a problem with any sort of school or institution being backed by private companies which to me feels like a privatization sort of setup - but I can absolutely see why the Free School founders feel the community they serve needs more options. To the extent that they've been prepared to spend their own time trying to make it happen. Well done them.
From Tracey on 12/11/2010 at 20:15
I feel that having the opportunity for more secondary school choice in the Borough is a good thing. Working in secondary schools I have seen first hand both good and bad practise both in 'selective' and 'comprehensive' schools. Having a vision based on tradition is not necessarily selective, if modern inclusive strategies and good pastoral care are prioritised. I wish Toby and the team all the best.
From Jess on 12/11/2010 at 19:17
Dangerous? You're kidding. Ask yourselves why we Brits yearn to decapitate tall poppies rather than applaud high expectations? Are Music, Latin and good grammar only and forever to be the preserve of the aspirational white middle classes? In the old days the majority of school kids took a minimum of 7 (sometimes 8) O Levels so why do we expect so much less of this generation? Are fee-paying schools the only ones to be allowed to set the bar high, and what does that say for widening out the opportunities in society? (speaking of which, there are already several CofE schools in the borough Do we really want more segregation?) I get the feeling all this erzats 'political correctness' is born of a fear of loss of control and lack of faith in our kids to aim higher. Go down that route and we might all just as well insist that our children all conform to the lowest common denominator so no one is left feeling awkward? The proposed Free School, by aiming for the highest possible standards, dares to be different, because it cares about achievement. Stop being so apathetic, whingeing and fearsome. This is just the example we need.
From Kamilla on 12/11/2010 at 18:56
As a parent of two primary school children currently at Primary in LBHF I can only see the West London Free School as a positive. Surely increasing parental choice in the borough must be a good thing, particularly as so many parents are currently sending their children outside the borough. In addition the Free School is offering something different to what is currently available. I understand the concerns about funding for existing schools but I have not seen anything to support that the WLFS will divert funds away from other LA schools. I also fail to understand why people seem to object to the study of Latin and see that as somehow only relevant for middle class children. As the basis of many modern languages and modern literature it will surely be an enriching opportunity for all children whatever their background. I most certainly welcome a new school which will increase choices for local parents.
From Bridget on 12/11/2010 at 18:39
The West London Free School will be the best thing in education to happen to kids in this area, how can it not be a positive thing for our kids future?
From sh on 12/11/2010 at 17:48
The principle behind the 'free' school concept was one that I initially backed, however after looking at it in further detail, I believe it is a sham. The schools are supposed to be run as charities, and have our children's best interests at heart, yet they can appoint external commercial operators who WILL be working for profit to actually run the school! I have a few questions that perhaps someone could answer? 1. Who will decide the level of pay that people such as Toby Young will draw from these schools, in their capacities as Governors/Board Members/ETC, or are they all doing this for FREE? 2. Who will also ensure that the 'free schools' are genuinely inclusive and open to all, when many are going to have specialisms which they will use to allocate a number of places? Imagine a school chooses Latin as it's specialism, would that be considered inclusive? 3. If this experiment goes wrong, can anyone please explain who will be held accountable? Not only for the waste of taxpayer money, but also for the damage done to the children that have attended such schools?
From charles on 12/11/2010 at 17:48
Free schools are a great idea. Having one older child gone through the old system , and another set for secondary in two years time I fully support Toby Youngs vision of how a school should be. Good on him for giving it a go.. I have already put my child's name down for his school.
From J law on 12/11/2010 at 17:42
I agree that H&F does have some good secondary schools - but the best are for pupils of a Christian faith and for girls. As a non-Christian father of a year 6 boy, I'd like more good schools available for my son - and for all pupils (which this non-selective, non-denominational school will be able to serve), including those in neighbouring boroughs who can travel to it. I like the proposed focus on Latin, on music and on high attainment - and there's nothing middle-class about any of those things. More choice is something most of us welcome in every aspect of our lives, because it helps meet a wide range of needs and it motivates providers to deliver high quality: I don't see why education is any different. Far from dismissing the project as amateurish (and I don't think anything that has a world-class project management firm and the former head of the London Oratory School assocated with it can be called amateurish), I think we should be thanking Toby Young and others for putting their time and effort into improving what's on offer for the rest of us. I hope this project succeeds, and I hope H&F gives it full backing.
From greg wilkinson on 12/11/2010 at 17:36
It is a wonderful effort and I fully support Toby Young and his dedicated team. Let us strive for academic excellence for all!
From Nicola on 12/11/2010 at 17:33
I think that it is a fantastic idea and that the leadership team should be applauded for taking the initiative and trying to actually do something to improve the standards of education being offered in the area. The level of negativity in the majority of comments left to date smacks of a concerted campaign by vested interests set on maintaining an ineffectual status quo. We must not be afraid to try out new solutions.
From Alex Kane on 12/11/2010 at 17:26
I live in Hounslow close to the H&F border and I fully support Toby Young's proposed school. There is expected to be a shortfall of secondary school places in the borough by 2015. I support all initiatives to ease this pressure and provide quality education. Toby Young's proposed free school is likely to be very popular and oversubscribed.
From Valerie on 12/11/2010 at 17:21
How can so many people criticize one person trying to improve the lives of children? If more people were forward thinking then maybe we wouldn't be in the situation that we are in. People should look at the schools that the free school will be based on and then think again. To the man who said free was an oxymoron maybe the free is used in the sense of free of constructions, open minded and organic. Maybe he is the reason we need new schools?
From Rebeccapattni on 12/11/2010 at 17:01
I very much support the ethos of this school, the ambition of the curriculum and the thoughtful approach behind it. My own children have gone through the French Lycee system and this has some of the positive aspects of the French National Education - emphasis on Latin, the classics, discipline, languages - with additional positives such as music. My one disappointment is that is looks like being in Hammersmith and Fulham rather than Ealing due to the blinkered view of Ealing Council(as usual).
From alison h-b on 12/11/2010 at 16:51
I think any attempt to broaden choice within the free sector should be applauded. 8 academic GSCE's should be the minimum standard any self respecting school sets itself. Disappointed he has moved from the Ealing Acton area though, as I think the case for choice is much greater there, than in H&F judging by the above.
From CharlieM on 12/11/2010 at 16:34
Surely, if funding is withdrawn from schools for the future but it is going to be provided to support free schools, then we should capitalise on what is available and do the best we can with it? If a free school will offer opportunities to those willing to learn, then how can it be a bad thing?!
From EalingMuM on 12/11/2010 at 16:28
I think a FREE school is needed in this borough. Now there is not so much school to choose from in the h&f borough. It is a brilliant idea! I'm exited about it and once it has a place, I would love to go to see it and I'm sure that every school must have a head teacher and other staff, so what if it hasn't got it now because it is still in progress,s o bring it on. Looking forward to seeing the building and meeting the staff!
From lenka on 12/11/2010 at 16:20
I studied Latin, French and Spanish among other subjects on a scholarship at a grammar school many years ago. What exactly is wrong with kids from varied backgounds studying Latin and other international languages? An academic curriculum where children from all backgrounds can excel, learn some basic grammar and foreign languages seems like a good idea to me and something lacking in the current system.
From paul on 12/11/2010 at 16:11
Strange that no one has mentioned how unfair the current system is in allocating places to secondary schools based on the distance someone lives from the school. If the current system isn't making ghettos I don't know what is. This Free School will allocate places based on a lottery, something that will bring far better fairness to the current system that anyone who has commented below is offering.
From toughgranite on 12/11/2010 at 16:07
Free Schools will help nobody and will diminish the choice for the children of poorer families. This has been proved to be the case in Sweden. They will only add to the divisions in society which will increase unemployment and with that crime.
From Sutton NUT on 12/11/2010 at 13:08
I support somprehensive education and local authority control and am against free schools
From auriel downs on 10/11/2010 at 19:53
The ''free school'' notion is bogus - how are schools currently not free? Would Michael Gove prevent them from being creative or adapting to meet their student's needs? Their promotion is not thought out and will fail to aid, but could well succeed in hindering, progress for those who have most to gain from improvement in education provision. The nonsense of this particular venture was underlined by the ridiculous proposal to make Latin compulsory - a notion arising from one person's prejudices rather than a well thought out strategy. From the same person came the idea that 'kids today don't need IT education - they know it all already'. And education will be entrusted to this sort of strategic thinking? The national project will not work (big, very big, doubts have emerged about Swedish ''free'' schools and US charter schools) but much good work and important provision could be at serious risk and eventually we as a community will have to rebuild. Don't waste precious resources on this nonsense!
From John Rigby on 10/11/2010 at 15:52
It is clear from the views expressed on their web site that the people behind this proposed free school have not thought deeply or researched properly. The schools in Hammersmith and Fulham are much better than in many other boroughs, but are going to suffer from the cancellation of Building Schools for the Future. Investing in the existing schools would be much more sensible.
From T. Allan on 10/11/2010 at 14:59
The idea of something being ''Free'' is an oxymoron. The monies will be taken from surrounding schools budgets at a time when this will have a detrimental effect to local schools. If parents want to send children to faith schools and/or selective schools then of course this is their right. But to imply that a ''Free'' school would reflect anything other than middle class ethics is ''pie in the sky''. All children have the right to a good education in a good local school. an education that is free from political dogma and interferance. If we want to improve the education for all our children then the answer is simple - reduce class size, increase funding and let those people who are best suited to the job, ie Educational Graduates, and lets not forget teachers are university graduates, do their job.
From Elysa on 10/11/2010 at 11:00
There are already three outstanding institutions in LBHF and we are constantly being told we are in times of austerity yet the suggestion is to spend a load of money, which of course would be diverted from existing schools, to pay for a "free school"? Nonsensical profligacy.
From Ian Barnwell on 10/11/2010 at 07:48
A Church of England school is a must in Fulham. I know loads of parents sending their kids to private schools out of the borough because of the lack of a secondary C of E school in Fulham. This must happen soon.
From keith burgess on 08/11/2010 at 08:08
The ida of free school's is pie in the sky. There is no evidence that standards would with more liklihood of standards dropping because unqualified teachers would be more likely to be in front of classes. If the government wants to make schools more accessible to all then existing schools should be given more choice of what they offer and teachers should be allowed to teach in the way they have been trained, without constant change and harrassment from the government.
From kate daly on 07/11/2010 at 17:39
How will these schools actually work? I have seen no convincing detail just a vague wish list. Of course it can sound good in theory but the only way that a free school could work is with money being pumped in by the government. Why don't they just improve all the other schools and make them as good as the one Toby Young describes? The other question that Free Schools raise is where will the money come from? We are being told that there has to be cuts in government spending so why are they prepared to spend money in this way? I believe the answer is that Free Schools are one part of the assault on Local Authorities. Free Schools are not pro education they are anti Local Authority. Academies are another part of the same assault. Schools outside of the LA will have different pay and conditions to the national ones applied to the remaining state schools -worse I suspect or payment by results.
From steve white on 07/11/2010 at 13:52
If these schools are to provide extra places where there are not shortages, they will not only create vacancies, and therefore budget deficits in the existing schools, but as the finances - including capital costs - will be top sliced from the schools' budget, it means less available. Then there is the question of sites and buildings. If there is no government funding as a result of scrapping BSF, they will have either inferior schools, or would rely on private funding. With PFI, which is not efficient, the local community has to pay back. If the private company is expecting a return on their capital then inevitably they will keep annual expenditure on services downto make a profit, or even balance. In any event, private companies, particularly banks are not investing at the moment - you might have noticed. This will inevitably lead to selection as special needs will be very costly. This is a formula that will lead to selection and offload the problems on to other local schools who will be even less funded than before.
From Ray on 07/11/2010 at 12:57
I wholeheartedly object to the plans for this and other 'Free' schools in H&F. There is no financial commitment from central government for additional funds for these schools. This is clear from articles in the Financial Times of the 30 October. Therefore any start-up capital funding and on-going running costs will be diverted from the pot of money coming into your borough to fund the current schools. The governance of 'Free' schools is still unclear but they are unlikely to be accountable to local parents and students and residents. Lastly, this particular school is unsited, without a specified head teacher or principal, no known budget and no known facilities for such subjects as PE, sport, drama and general recreation. H&F council should retain its comprehensive schools and not be espousing such dangerously experimental, amateur and unknown quantities as 'Free' schools.
From nick grant on 07/11/2010 at 12:51
Significantly some of the sponsors of the old style academies are scenting the opening for more power. Until the Academies Act 2010, they were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and could, therefore, claim success, even where there was failure. What puzzles me is the complete lack of logic in the current process. Cameron talks about Big Society, yet opposition to "free" schools is ignored. Gove talks about empowering teachers but mocks the teachers unions, who for the first time are united on an issue. Toby Young claims to want to establish a non-selective school for students from a wide variety of backgrounds. How does that fit with: "All the children will be expected to study Latin and sit at least eight academic GCSEs or International GCSEs."
From Janee on 07/11/2010 at 10:48


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