Local Talk

Richmond Borough Schools Chat 5

(894 Posts)
BayJay2 Fri 11-Oct-13 19:52:28

Welcome! This is the latest in a series of threads about Richmond schools, which was first triggered by the council's publication of its Education White Paper in February 2011.

Please do join in the chat. There’s a bunch of us who’ve been following the thread for a long time, and we sometimes get a bit forensic, but new contributions are always welcome, and if it’s something that’s been covered before we can always direct you to that part of the thread.

We generally talk about local education policy, the impact of national policy, the performance of the borough’s schools, and admissions-related issues. We began by talking about Secondaries, but tend to talk a lot about primaries too, so the title of the thread has evolved this time to take that into account.

If you have a few hours to spare and want to catch up on 2 years of local education history, then below are the links to the old threads. We have to keep starting new threads because each only hold 1000 posts. The first two threads run in parallel, as one was started on the national Mumsnet site, and another on the local one:

1a) New Secondaries for Richmond Borough?: Mumsnet Secondary Education (Feb 2011 ? Nov 2011)
1b) New Secondary schools for Richmond!: Mumsnet Local (Feb 2011 ? Nov 2011)

2. New Secondary Schools for Richmond 2: Mumsnet Local (Nov 2011 ? May 2012)

3. New Secondary Schools for Richmond 3: Mumsnet Local (May 2012 ? Nov 2012)

4. New Secondary Schools for Richmond 4: Mumsnet Local (Nov 2012 ? Oct 2013)

5. This thread: Richmond Borough Schools Chat 5: Mumsnet Local (Oct 2013 - ????)

Finally, to find out how to add links, as well as smilies and emphasis, see these Mumsnet guidelines.

ChrisSquire2 Fri 18-Oct-13 09:59:03

The RTT has 2 letters (p. 33): Learning to get along from David Klein and Opening up faith schools from Gaurav Mathur responding to the letter from the anonymous Catholic atheist defending faith schools last week; and a news item Tories: no crisis in school places, Paul Hodgins dismissing Steven Knight’s claim that the council is not planning for the 4 extra classes that will be needed next year (see ChrisSquire2 Tue 15-Oct-13 11:28:36).

ChrisSquire2 Fri 18-Oct-13 16:00:07

The RTT online has Is Richmond ready for primary place boom? which has Cllr Hodgins’ response to the Lib Dems’ forecast 4-class shortfall of reception places:

The Lib Dems are doing one of the few things they are good at and conveniently ignoring the mess they left and misleading people. We put in place a 10-year plan. During our term the equivalent of nine new two-form entry primary schools will have been added. We have secured 90 additional places for next year and we are in discussions with other schools about future expansions. We are supporting additional free school applications for the borough, which the Lib Dems have opposed.

The article ends: Pupils starting reception in September 2014 were born in 2010, during which year the borough had the biggest baby boom in 24 years, with 2,992 newborns registered.

The ONS Birth Summary Tables - England and Wales report: 2011 2905; and 2012: 2916

muminlondon2 Sun 20-Oct-13 00:02:27

One more thing that restricts what the council can do is that the targeted basic need programme is only for good or outstanding schools. There are only two not in this category but they've recently had approval to be expanded anyway. But East Sheen and Sheen Mount are among the few community schools that are still two forms of entry and in areas of need. I wonder if pressure on them will increase for permanent expansion or that has been ruled out for lack of space?

muminlondon2 Sun 20-Oct-13 11:40:32

Just read the letters in the RTT. Gaurav Mather says 'It is about time the council used their influence and appointed governors to get local faith schools to open up their admissions.' And I read the piece where Stephen Knight criticises the council for not planning ahead.

I am so sick of the political point scoring despite having voted LibDem in the past. TBH that includes RISC despite the fact I agree with some of their arguments.

The landscape under the coalition government is radically different as the council's only option is to expand, not to open its own schools. This is not always easy as residents often object to expansion or new schools for understandable reasons, and the LibDems were not successful in all attempts to expand the most popular schools, probably more successful in schools they would not have been allowed to expand under the new rules. If Gaurav Mathur and RISC is right, then Cllrs Knight and Eady have been extraordinarily ineffective as governors at St Mary's and St Peter's in getting admission policy concessions in return for investment to expand. Or it might be the case they cannot on their own influence the whole governing body.

Which is it?

Heathclif Sun 20-Oct-13 12:18:02

mum I understand that with the exception of Scott Naylor who actively sought greater exclusivity at St Stephens, those Councillors from both parties who are on governing bodies have tried to achieve greater inclusivity. They are up against powerful lobbies within the churches though. The Anglican diocese have actually said that CofE schools should be more inclusive of the local community but I gather that in many cases the governing bodies argue that by allocating the places to different parishes it stops them having very small exclusive catchments. Obviously implicit in this is they fill up pews and coffers, and gain advantage for parishioners hmm

I tend to agree with you on the political points scoring. I have yet to see any substance to suggest the Libdems will do anything differently to either the Conservatives or what they have done before. Parents will continue to be left without school places or places too far away for them to access.

RISC though is non political and campaigning only on the issue of inclusivity which would at least mean pupils wouldn't be excluded from their local school on the basis of the faith of their parents. They have given the governing bodies of faith schools the evidence of the impact of faith selection and suggested concrete steps they can take to improve the situation.

muminlondon2 Sun 20-Oct-13 12:33:49

I would like to have seen more action on this before. There obviously was a lot of overlap between the interests of RISC in campaigning against an exclusively Catholic school and the interests of Turing House in getting a prime site. Despite the fact I always saw the need for a new community school, particularly one that addressed the Waldegrave imbalance, I'm a little unsettled to see RET had local connections from the start (well, the headteacher anyway) and I'm not sure at what point they became involved in the steering group (there's formal association and there's informal association).

There are lots of groups pushing competing agendas but no real accountability. I'm feeling very frustrated with politics.

BayJay2 Sun 20-Oct-13 14:07:17

"I'm a little unsettled to see RET had local connections from the start (well, the headteacher anyway) and I'm not sure at what point they became involved in the steering group (there's formal association and there's informal association). "

I don't understand what's concerning you muminlondon. The Headteacher grew up in Richmond, and start his teaching career here. His career then developed outside of Richmond, and he became an adviser for RET. The parents on the Turing House Steering Group contacted RET (and other potential sponsors) at an early stage and decided to form a partnership with RET in Jan 2012 shortly before putting in the first free school proposal in Feb 2012.

BayJay2 Sun 20-Oct-13 14:55:58

"at an early stage... "

16th Jan 2012, to be precise. Just looked out the original email contact, which begins ...

"Dear Sir/Madam,
We are a group of parents and educationalists, who have set up a steering group to define our vision for a new 11-18 Secondary School to be located in the south-western portion of the London Borough of Richmond. We are aware of your company's track record in supporting the Bristol Free School, and would very much like to discuss our proposals with you, to see if you might be interested in working with us. ...."

The first meeting with the RET advisers, including CMc, was a few days after that.

muminlondon2 Sun 20-Oct-13 20:03:02

So it was a coincidence that Colin Mackinlay knew the area? Or you selected RET because you thought that local knowledge would be useful?

BayJay2 Sun 20-Oct-13 20:53:22

Yes it was a coincidence that he knew the area. He lives in Sutton, and the RET office is in Leatherhead.

We contacted RET, because of their work on the Bristol Free school, which was the obvious (and at that time only) model for the kind of free school we wanted (inclusive, mainstream, etc). They had worked closely with the parents there to turn their vision into reality, and we talked to those parents, as well as the parents they were working with in Hove. We contacted other potential sponsors too, but they all seemed to be either "one size fits all" operators, or piecemeal consultants. We hit it off with RET from the start, because their partnership model gave us the freedom to shape the school vision, as well as the expertise to deliver it.

BayJay2 Sun 20-Oct-13 20:55:23

"Or you selected RET because you thought that local knowledge would be useful?"

We had enough local knowledge on the steering group already. We didn't need any more, but it's a "nice to have".

LProsser Sun 20-Oct-13 21:15:11

Mum in London The Tories are constantly criticising the Lib Dems saying they inherited a mess and Lib Dems didn't plan so I suppose it's not surprising that Lib Dems hit back all the time saying the Tories are not doing enough. I agree that neither side has covered itself with glory, and the point about building in the 5% margin that would (perhaps) allow children to go to a local school instead of some children being sent miles to primary school is one that neither party seems to accept. I can't see what RISC or Turing House have done wrong however. I am impressed by how calm and consistent their spokespeople have been.

In relation to SMSP, my understanding from parents there at the time was that the expansion to 3 forms was not at all welcome as the site is not really very big. I'd imagine that it was something that the school had to accept rather than it being something that Cllrs. Knight and Eady helped to arrange because the school wanted it. I've visited a lot of the primaries in the Borough over the years and Sheen Mount has fairly large grounds compared to many others, including SMSP, so I can't see why it can't expand to 3 forms by doing a rebuild if the money is available - I seem to remember that it had a number of single storey outlying classrooms dotted about. I've never visited East Sheen so not sure about its expansion potential.

muminlondon2 Sun 20-Oct-13 22:52:39

Thanks BayJay, I feel a little reassured. I'm concerned about many aspects of the free school programme as well as the lack of financial transparency of academy chains in general - as well as the fact that some allow even less autonomy than many LAs (Kunskapsskolan is a very distinctive brand from its vision to its website and range of school trips, for example) . But RET as a sponsor ticks important boxes in terms of trained and experienced teachers, and the aspirations of the school are very sound. I didn't want it to be the case that they targeted the area and tried to drum up the demand accordingly, as I saw with IES/GEMS.

LProsser Sheen Mount has already had considerable building work and has to take bulge classes every two years or something. Whereas Marshgate had to compromise on space from the start. Even with community schools, it's up to Sheen Mount's governing body to decide whether to expand but it makes perfect sense for them to do so.

BayJay2 Mon 21-Oct-13 09:01:28

"I feel a little reassured..."

Well muminlondon, next time you feel a conspiracy theory hatching, get in touch. You'll find we're pretty fast at responding to queries.

LProsser Mon 21-Oct-13 09:48:11

I think so far LB Richmond has been lucky to get 3 free schools (or 2 primary free schools and a hopefully-opening-in-September 2014 secondary free school) that have been responses to local circumstances, rather than outside organisations helicoptering in such as IES/GEMS appears to be, and which appear to agree with the idea that teachers should be qualified and that the important bits of the national curriculum should be followed. The stories from around the country about bad free schools are very worrying though. It's not as if everyone sending their child to a free school has actually made a choice to do so knowing the full facts.

BayJay2 Mon 21-Oct-13 10:08:41

"I think so far LB Richmond has been lucky to get 3 free schools (or 2 primary free schools and a hopefully-opening-in-September 2014 secondary free school) that have been responses to local circumstances, rather than outside organisations helicoptering in ..."

More than just luck. I think in the case of both Turing House and St. Mary's Hampton local people felt they needed to act to prevent outside organisations helicoptering in. The Maharishi experience certainly put the wind up a few people, and it was fairly obvious through local policies and population-trend circumstances that Richmond was "open" to more free school bids.

muminlondon2 Mon 21-Oct-13 19:04:55

The problem is, BayJay, that no other member of a free school group is open to answering questions on Mumsnet - and perhaps you wouldn't even be doing it yourself if you hadn't been highlighting the council's position on academies, the Catholic school debate and contributing some well reasoned arguments yourself.

No one from Thomson House has explained the headmistress/principal switch, for example. Parents of children at Al-Madinah school apparently had doubts even before the Ofsted visit and 60 had asked Derby council if they could move schools. Derby council was not responsible for the fiasco at that school yet will end up picking up the pieces in terms of re-allocating places. The DfE is directly accountable yet for months didn't even answer FOI requests from politicians and newspapers let alone queries from worried mothers.

Schools attached to chains will have more support and back-up but they are still less transparent and accountable than community schools. I completely agree with Tristram Hunt and the late convert Nick Clegg that this is a dangerous ideological experiment. Turing House could have been set up as a Labour's new idea of a parent-proposed academy - or even an older model of a parent-proposed community school like Elm Green in Lambeth. But the Maharishi school or IES/GEMS definitely could not have been.

BayJay2 Mon 21-Oct-13 19:35:59

"no other member of a free school group is open to answering questions on Mumsnet"

That's not really surprising! If you want to ask about Thomson House's headship switch, why don't you email them? It would seem a more obvious thing to do than posting speculation on Mumsnet.

"Turing House could have been set up as a Labour's new idea of a parent-proposed academy"

RET have been referring to their schools as parent-proposed academies from the start. That's exactly what they are.

muminlondon2 Tue 22-Oct-13 00:13:53

If the school had been a community school I would have contacted the LA to find out. I don't think I have posted speculation apart from just posing questions. I will try to avoid expressing opinions in future.

BayJay2 Tue 22-Oct-13 06:06:35

"I don't think I have posted speculation apart from just posing questions. I will try to avoid expressing opinions in future."

That's true, that one was a question rather than speculation, but I don't suppose the school are monitoring Mumsnet, so it's not unreasonable that you haven't had an answer.

Please do continue to express opinions! smile

swgl Thu 24-Oct-13 10:55:41

Hi, does anyone know why Waldegrave has a priority area B - for admissions catchment area - and it doesn't go solely on distance? Are there any discussions to remove that? I find it really odd, it's not a selective school so why a priority area B that's far away? Just moved to Teddington and exploring options for secondary for the future. Teddington school looks alright, entry to Tiffin Girls seems highly competitive, so the only other choice for us would be Waldegrave, but looks like it's not really a choice because of this priority area B. Not sure what chances we'll have for Turing School given that there's no set locationn yet. Thanks!

ChrisSquire2 Thu 24-Oct-13 12:02:37

The Waldegrave catchment areas are described on pp. 19-20 of Consultation on School Admission Arrangements for 2013/14 entry which says:

. . 4. Girls living within the halves (priority area A and priority area B) of a rectangular catchment area – see Figure 1 on page 20. Under this criterion 85% of the places will be given to priority area A and 15% to priority area B . . The shape of the priority areas for Waldegrave was originally determined by the link primary school furthest away in each direction in 1998 (i.e. North – John Betts, Hammersmith; South – St John’s School, Kingston; East – St Faith’s School; Wandsworth and West – Forge Lane, Hounslow). These points were used as a basis for the boundary of the priority areas. Waldegrave is therefore not the central point of the priority areas. A detailed map of the two areas may be viewed in the reception area of Children’s Services and Culture, on the first floor of Regal House, London Road, Twickenham . .

The areas make the minimum rectangle that covers the borough. The 85-15 split may derive from the numbers from each link school in 1998.

BayJay2 Thu 24-Oct-13 12:32:39

swgl - just to add to Chris's explanation, I think it's not considered ripe for review because as a girls school Waldegrave is seen as a "regional resource", rather than just serving a localised area.

It's always been a bit controversial (I think parents in Hampton have challenged it in the past, but I don't know the full details).

swgl Thu 24-Oct-13 13:22:18

Thanks both. I don't get the 'regional' aspect, as it only gives chances to two priority areas, it's not the entire borough.

I find it odd that somebody who lives 4 miles away is given priority over someone who lives 2 miles away - just because of some old link-based system that hasn't been changed after the links have dissapeared.

Anyway I'm probably frustrated that we're 2 miles away and looks like Waldegrave won't be an option so really it will be Teddington School for us, and possibly Turing House. My daughter seems clever but it's too early to know if we can aim for a grammar school. Independent schools are out of reach, financially speaking.

BayJay2 Thu 24-Oct-13 13:52:12

"I don't get the 'regional' aspect..."

No, it's not obvious, I agree. But at the moment it serves both sides of the Borough (Middlesex and Surrey).

Whichever way it was to change there would be winners and losers, and a big fuss, so presumably the easiest default is to keep it as it is.

Here is an old RTT report from 2002 about the challenge from Hampton. However, I don't think anything changed as a result of it.

For what it's worth, many people would consider you very lucky to live within the Teddington School catchment area.

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