Labour MP attacks Bolingbroke Free School and shows real spirit in disagreeing with the Labour front bench

Francis Gilbert's picture
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Lisa Nandy's attack on Bolingbroke Free School is worth watching because she shows what's wrong with the free schools policy: it's chronically unfair.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj4QrbYI4vw
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Tracy Hannigan's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 06:12

Lisa Nandy was very inspiring indeed!

Kate Johnston's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 11:25

I have been following this site for a while but this is my first posting. I am a parent in Battersea, South London and have been following the Bolingbroke Academy campaign with interest. I am perplexed as to why the Bolingbroke Academy is being given such a hard time. As far as I can see, Bolingbroke Academy will be one of the few true comprehensives in Wandsworth. The closest secondary school to the site is Chestnut Grove which out of 150 places allocates 60 to specialist aptitutude - a very high proportion of places I'm sure you'll agree (and which incidentally has just been granted academy status). Of the other 9 secondary schools in the borough, 3 allocate up to 33% on academic selection (and of these, one is the only community school left in the borough), 3 offer other specialist aptitude and 2 are VA faith schools. There are only 2 secondary schools in the borough which are truly non-selective and these are both foundation schools and use distance from school as the basis for places. If Bolingbroke Academy had used distance as a basis for allocating places, it really would have become a school for the priveleged few who could afford to live in the surrounding streets. The selection criteria which have been agreed upon will ensure that children from a much more broader spectrum will attend the school. I know there was a furore about the exclusion of Falconbrook school in the feeder schools initially but as a result of the consultation Falconbrook has now been included (and surely this is what consultations are about?).

I'm not sure what is "chronically unfair" about the Bolingbroke. I find it very unfair that most of the other schools in the borough offer a high percentage of places based on academic selection (regardless of whether they are local children), specialist aptitude (regardless of whether they are local children), faith or gender. These schools are much more "unfair" than the Bolingbroke and favour children of parents who want to use tutors or suddenly start attending church i.e. not equal access for all.

As an aside, the map of the supposed catchment area for Bolingbroke which has been used on the film is completely misleading (and factually incorrect). The map which is shown is actually taken from a completely different school - it shows a proposal for priority zones for a primary school in the area which will shortly have a second site. But if it had shown the potential area that wouldn't have looked so impressive for the anti academies alliance as it would have included 2 very large council estates.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 14:14

As someone who lives outside London, it's difficult to follow this argument. And if the map is incorrect then there's no way that people living outside the area would know. However, I've had a quick look at the Consultation on Admission arrangements of Bolingbroke Academy, Wakehurst Road, SW11 6HN, 2012/13, and it lists four feeder schools:

Belleville, Highview, Honeywell, Wix Primary (but not Ecole de Wix).

The consultation document can be downloaded from:

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/14/secondary_school_admissions/1104/bo...

I hope this is of some help.

Kate Johnston's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 15:41

This is a more up-to-date document about the admissions policy for Bolingbroke Academy taken from the Ark webiste:

http://www.arkbolingbrokeacademy.org/secondary/admissions/

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 06:39

Thanks, Kate. The new admissions policy does indeed include Falconbrook school. It's very difficult when outside the area to know which is the most up-to-date information.

The Ark Bolingbroke Academy website says the school will be a non-selective, fully comprehensive school. However, the curriculum is a "rigorous, academic curriculum, to prepare pupils for university". In a fully-comprehensive school the curriculum would be designed for a whole range of pupils including those not destined for university. Bolingbroke makes it clear that the curriculum will be unsuitable for such pupils. Is this a kind of covert selection?

Kate Johnston's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 08:29

Janet - I don't think so. The vision of the school is:

"We believe in high aspirations, high motivation and high achievement for all. Bolingbroke Academy will aim for the highest standards of achievement in education, in a school where everyone is valued and respected and fully supported to reach their full potential."

I think the point is that Ark believe that all children should feel that university can be an option, whatever walk of life you are from. I recently visited a primary school which ten years ago was deemed one of the worst in the country. The head teacher has turned this school around now to a really inspiring school. When she started she said that the children had no aspirations - except to stay on the same council estate with no work. She now has children leaving her school aspiring to go to university. Whether they actually go or not is not the point - the point is that these children now see it as an option whereas before they didn't.

I also think that the curriculum is designed for a range of pupils. Is states on the website that:

"The school will offer a full curriculum to age 14 including all current National Curriculum subjects including separate sciences, design/technology and IT, as well as music, drama, art and sport. The curriculum for pupils entering the school with attainment below age level will be designed to accelerate their progress so that they can participate fully in the whole curriculum."

I'm interested to know what you think is covert selection?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 09:44

This certainly seems more inclusive than a lot of free schools -- now that the boundaries have been re-drawn. In general, Ark seem committed to inclusivity. I hope that all free schools follow their example.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 13:40

I support any school's efforts to help pupils achieve their full potential. But for some pupil this potential will be below that which is needed to attend university. .

A fully-comprehensive school would provide a more flexible curriculum than one that is designed to prepare pupils for university. And what happens to those low-attaining pupils who don't make sufficient progress to be able to "participate fully" in the school's curriculum? How does the school intend to deal with them?

You asked me to define covert selection. This is any attempt by a school to dissuade certain students while recruiting more able students. This includes offering the kind of curriculum that would particularly appeal to parents of more able children.

Kate Johnston's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 09:59

Exactly Francis which is precisely why I am perplexed that the Bolingbroke Academy is being given such a hard time. Why has Lisa Nandy chosen to target this school (and therefore you Francis in your video - the "toffs aid" bit in particular!) when the Bolingbroke is probably the closest to a comprehensive school to most schools in existence now (I can only speak for Wandsworth)? Is it because it's in a middle class area and therefore easy to use the class card? I think that's pretty cheap and a real kick in the teeth for the parents who have spent a long time setting this school up to ensure its inclusivity.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 16:01

Thanks for this Kate. I will change the map on the video...

Jake's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 17:09

Yours Janet is the 'soft bigotry of low expectation' and everything I loath about this site. There is very little reason why pupils of low attainment cannot progress and achieve in such an academic school with the right blend of pedagogy, pastoral care, head and SLT. The idea that 'all schools must be all things to all pupils' is naive in a world of scare resource. If you want a school that has an academic ethos then great. If you want a school that does well in the arts then choose one that offers that. Or if you want a school that has a more vocational flavour then choose that type of school. I live in London and all those school types are available in our borough. By pandering to the lowest common denominator of low attaining pupils you are coverty harming the learning opportunity of more gifted and talented pupils - that in itself is a form of covert selection. Setting and streaming also exist to help with these issues and move pupils up the curve. The left wing cant wheeled out as educational gospel on this site is soul destroying.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 09:36

Jake - I have never said I was "pandering to the lowest common denominator of low attaining pupils". That is a deliberate misunderstanding of my position. I want ALL pupils to reach their full potential. Asking for suitable courses for all pupils is not the "soft bigotry of low expectation". The pupils for whom an academic curriculum is not suitable need to have access to a curriculum which is suitable for them - this is not "soft bigotry".

You argue that all parents have to do is to exercise choice - a vocational school here, an academic one there, arts somewhere else. A wide choice such as this is not possible anywhere outside very large cities. In any case, as I have argued elsewhere on this site, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that the evidence about the effects of user choice on educational outcomes is uncertain.

You are right about one thing, though. There is no reason why pupils of low attainment, or low ability, cannot progress and achieve. But what they require are courses tailored to their needs (as they do in Finland, and as the head of a successful Liverpool academy does*). Low attainment pupils need encouraging and nourishing to achieve their full potential. The trouble is that for some schools the full potential of low ability pupils will not be high enough for those schools bent on league table glory - hence the covert selection which dissuades low ability pupils for applying.

I am sorry that you believe I represent everything you loathe about this site. In which case you must also loathe the evidence of the OECD to which I often refer.

Finally, in "this world of scarce resources" every country needs to find the best possible method of allowing all pupils to reach the highest possible educational standard. A close reading of OECD reports points to how this might be done. Unfortunately, this Government is moving in the opposite direction.

* http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6086611

Sassy Puff's picture
Tue, 14/06/2011 - 22:46

My understanding is that the Bolingbroke Academy campaign started because the parents claimed that their children could not get into local schools on grounds of distance. Despite repeated requests over the past two years for evidence to support this claim, none has ever been forthcoming.
The two schools nearest to Northcote ward, where the free school campaign started, are Battersea Park School and Chestnut Grove. According to council records in the public domain, there are only 5 children from Northcote ward attending BPS and 6 attending CG.
Out of the 500 11-15 year olds resident in Northcote ward only 27% attend Wandsworth state secondaries. This information comes from a letter sent by Wandsworth council to the DfE in response to the proposal from Bolingbroke Academy. The letter further states that these figures "suggest that the size of the independent school population of the ward is substantial".
I am sorry, but it is simply untrue to say that children in Northcote cannot get into their local schools on grounds of distance. Children in Northcote are able to get into Chestnut Grove, Battersea Park, Burntwood and Ernest Bevin.
However, the parents in the ward, like many others in affluent parts of London, choose to opt out of the state school system at secondary level. I first became aware of the Battersea free school campaign via a South London parenting website called Nappy Valley. Education is a very hot topic on Nappy Valley; but if you look at their guide to local secondary schools, you won't see any of the schools I've mentioned listed. However, you will find information about grammar schools in Sutton and fee paying schools in Southwark.
I would argue that the free school campaign has very little to do with a lack of school places and a lot more to do with a desire for a school that reflects the demographics of Northcote ward. The two biggest feeder schools for Bolingbroke are Belleville and Honeywell, both of whom are the schools of choice for the residents of Nappy Valley. Belleville and Honeywell both have tiny catchment areas; this link gives more details
http://www.nappyvalleynet.com/honeywell-t65.html

I attended an anti free school campaign in Northcote last year. During two hours of speaking to local parents, I didn't meet one who had ever been to Chestnut Grove or Battersea Park School. In fact, despite Chestnut Grove being only 15 minutes walk away, few parents even knew where it was.
Despite this, there were a good percentage of parents who were very happy to tell me that Chestnut Grove was a bad school with rampant knife crime.
I must say that I was most taken aback by this, not least because my son attends CG and he hasn't mentioned that he spends six hours a day on the set of "The Wire." I actually asked one of the parents if she was happy to choose a school based on unsubstantiated gossip and she answered in the affirmative.
For the record, bad schools do not;
Have 777 applicants for 150 places
Offer triple science
Appear in The Times' Top 600 schools for the number of A and A* grades awarded to their most able pupils
Have specialist language places that ensure that children get to study two languages at GCSE level (these places do not assume any prior knowledge of any language, they are open to all children)
Have outstanding OFSTED reports - I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I am glad that Kate has commented here and she is correct in her analysis of the schools here in Wandsworth. However, her post clearly shows that there needs to be a thorough analysis of where exactly in the borough school places are required. The free school campaign seem to be of the opinion that outside of Northcote there is an embarrassment of riches as regards secondary school places. Not so! Ours is an agnostic household and once faith schools were taken out of the equation, I had a choice of three secondaries for my son, one of which was in special measures at the time. I have no doubt that families in other parts of Wandsworth could all tell a very similar story to mine.
In fairness to Wandsworth, they are not the only Tory council to be unconcerned with such mere trifles as morality and equality. However, building a free school in the wealthiest enclave of the borough, whilst proposing park charges and library closures in the poorest ward and expecting families who actually support state schools to accept substandard classrooms for their children is disgraceful.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 08:35

I am sorry but that is just one long class war rant. A cursory search online revals that this new academy will have BEM and FSM stats at or higher than both Wandsworth and London averages - not bad for a so called bankers free school. So the entire premise for the above comment is factually wrong.

As for Chestnut Grove, if parents living closer to that school actually applied themselves then the catchment would shrink to exclude the Northcote area - so much for local parents supporting their local school.

And the Ebac may be a blunt instrument but at CG they scored 2% - 98 out of 100 pupils leave that school without a basic grounding in core academic subjects. No wonder they will soon become an academy - the extra money will help them improve standards. Oh, and over a third of their places are via selection/aptitude testing - so much for covert selection.

But the most interesting thing about Saskia's comment is that she is quick to berate Bolingbroke parents for not supporting their local school but again a quick search online reveals this quote: "When I looked at primary schools for my son, although we had two schools that were much nearer, I chose one that was a good 30 minute walk away." Plus a similar story for her secondary school.

I thought the whole point of this site was to champion support of your local state school? Clearly that does not apply to Saskia - more a case of 'do as I say not as I do'?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 10:48

The EBac was introduced retrospectively - schools did not know they would be judged on this criteria until after pupils had been entered for their exams.

An EBac score based on how many pupils get GCSE A*-C in EBac subjects is not a "basic grounding". When GCSE was introduced in 1987, Grade C was supposed to be the equivalent of an old GCE pass, a standard which was expected to be achieved by only the top 25-30%. If GCSE A*-C is now regarded as "basic grounding", then GCSE standards really have dropped.

As far as academy status is concerned, Mr Gove has said that no school should benefit financially from academy status although there is a perception that such schools will find themselves financially better off. The extra money given to academies is to pay for the administrative and legal services provided by the local authority.

And there doesn't seem to be anything on Chestnut Grove's website indicating that they are considering academy status. It would be helpful if you could provde a link showing this information.

Sassy Puff's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 11:04

Hi Janet,
There is indeed nothing on the website. However, a letter sent to parents last week by the headmistress confirms that CG will be converting on July 1st 2011.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 11:17

I think you are very selective with the stuff you post on this site Janet. A quote here from the Guardian re benefits of flipping to an academy: "That money...means that they have the buying power to get expert professionals into school fast. Vulnerable and distressed pupils are no longer falling behind in their education for want of appropriate and timely support....The extra money means he has been able to increase staffing, extend payscales – so that good teachers can choose to remain in the classroom rather than move into management to increase their salaries, and employ a dedicated social worker on site who ensures that children with social and educational needs get complete continuity of care, which wasn't available via the local authority's social work team." And none of this means a council has to lose out, if they can provide a service the schools need at a good quality and affordable price then they will win the contract. The link to this article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/30/academy-status-advice?IN...

The Ebac as I said is a blunt instrument but it is a move in the right direction to re-balance the lazy games schools were playing with the curriculum to boost table rankings via lowbrow subject choices that serve their pupils no real benefit.

Chestnut Grove status here: http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/9078859.Unions_angry_after_two_s...

And in terms of your constant reference to OECD I would counter with the PISA statement that points out the effect on this country of our static educational performance while other countries improve and overtake us in the PISA rankings: "The international achievement gap is imposing on the United Kingdom economy an invisible yet recurring economic loss. A recent study carried out by the OECD in collaboration with the Hoover Institute at Stanford University suggests that a modest goal of having the United Kingdom boost its average PISA scores by 25 points over the next 20 years – which corresponds to the performance gains that some countries achieved between 2000 and 2009 alone – could imply a gain of US$ 6 trillion for the United Kingdom economy over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010 (as evaluated at the start of reform in terms of real present value of future improvements in GDP).” Link here: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 11:32

Thanks, Saskia. As I'm not local it's very difficult to keep tabs on what's going on. In any case, I thought that under Mr Gove's academization programme, only those schools judged by Ofsted to be outstanding could convert and I got the impression (which may be wrong) that Chestnut Grove was an improving school.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 13:23

I presume you are new to this site, Jake, or you would know that I have been posting comments for many months, most of them backed up by OECD data.

The article you quote ends with this:

"there are huge gains financially to be made now, which might not be available in the future." The DfE has said they won't be.

You are quite correct with your OECD quotation and its assessment of the economic gains to be made from increasing the PISA score of UK pupils. However, you do not say how this is to be achieved. Perhaps if you look through what I have written over the past months you may get some idea of what OECD suggest could help to raise the score.

I have already been accused of cherry-picking from OECD reports and I have countered this. And the tone of the first sentence in your last paragraph implies you think that OECD should not be constantly referenced. As OECD bases its evidence on carefully-compiled data and therefore has considerable weight. It behoves governments to look long and hard at what it suggests. This government shows every indication of not doing this.

And as far as the "lazy games" you cite whereby schools enter pupils for easier vocational courses in order to boost their GCSE score, there will be more of this in the future now that Mr Gove has removed the Contextual Value Added (CVA) score from the league tables.

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6087617


And as far as "selectivity" is concerned, perhaps you might do one of your "cursory" online searches and find out where academies are sacking staff to save money, or where they've found they've had to pay hundreds of pounds more for their IT licences than when they were with the local authority, or where parents (Thetford) find that complaints about their local academy can't be dealt with locally. That should keep you busy for a while.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 15:11

Based on the last paragraph of your reply below Janet, you appear to think that you know better than the combined wisdom of the droves of headteachers, SLTs and governing bodies that are converting to academy status en masse. They are wrong and you are right - what is it that they are all missing?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 16:03

Heads are converting for the money which they think they will get, but as the DfE has said, the money is unsustainable.

I would not be so arrogant to say that I am right and everybody else is wrong. But I read reams of objective evidence to such an extent that I'm beginning to feel I'm an OECD bore, never mind anybody else. And I base what I say on that evidence - not prejudice, or partisanship, or self-interest or politics.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 16:33

Where or in what context has the DfE said the 'money' is not sustainable? Notwithstanding the odd legal challenge from LAs for alleged double slicing, the monies are in essence moving between pots. The DfE report you refer to is more about removing the complexity of how academies are funded rolling forward from AY2012-13. Its nothing to do with the quantum. Far from what you imply the DfE say Janet, its not the money but the way they go about caluclating the grants that is 'unsustainable'. Everyone knows there is less money about but that cuts across maintained schools, academies and free schools together. To say the DfE has said the transition cant be funded is wrong - its the process the DfE is saying that needs improving.

Sassy Puff's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 09:39

Hi Jake!
Please could you give sources to support your claim that the new free school will have higher BEM and FSM quotas than existing local schools?
Regarding the Ebac, I believe ARK's Burlington Danes only scored 4%, does that mean it is a bad school too?
I don't recall ever berating people for not supporting their local school, but your tone seems strangely familiar and I have no doubt that you have two years worth of my quotes to trawl through...
What I have always said, is that I do not understand why people are claiming not to be able to get into their local schools, when they have never provided any evidence to substantiate this. If the NSC had been forthright about wanting to start a free school for the same reasons as Toby Young ie wanting a private school for free, then they would have attracted a lot less flak. Instead, they claim to not be able to get places at schools that they would never dream applying for!
I see that you have reverted to the free schoolers usual tactic of making personal attacks on those who disagree with you. Sigh.
For your information, the primary school nearest to us when I was choosing schools for my son was a church school. Ours is an agnostic household. I knew that my son's primary school was ideal for him on first viewing, so I didn't bother looking at any other schools.
As for my son's secondary, given your insider knowledge of the workings of my household, you already know my reasons for sending my son to CG. My son excels at languages and the arts, therefore I wanted to send him to a specialist arts college. But I do admire your chutzpah in berating me for sending my child to a Wandsworth state school, when 73% of the families in Northcote fail to do so. Mazel tov!
And for the record, the specialist places at CG do not assume any prior knowledge of any language; if you think your child would benefit from a place, they sit a short test. If they score over 40%, they get the place.
I suppose I should be grateful that you have not accused me of being a member of the far left, but the class war accusation is equally lame and tired. I'll have to inform my partner of my class war tendencies when I next see him. Given that he attended Dr Challoner's, and is more middle class than a fortnight in Tuscany, he'll be most tickled by your findings.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 10:48

I'm sure we can all find excuses for why we don't practce what we preach.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 11:50

As you appear to be such a big fan of Toby Young Saskia he has blogged a piece on Free Schools today - you can read it here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyyoung/100092216/left-unleashes-fur...

Kate Johnston's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 12:15

Hi Saskia. I'd forgotten that anything to do with Bolingbroke turns into a highly colourful discussion! I know where you're coming from when you ask for the evidence about claims for not getting into local schools. It is very difficult to actually find evidence I imagine - I'm not sure how you'd go about getting the stats. What I do know is purely from friends who have applied in the last few years and not got into Chestnut Grove, Burntwood or Ernest Bevin (depending on boy or girl). I obviously have no stats to back this up but I do know the anxiety which parents and children go through when only offered a school on the other side of the borough which wasn't even on their list of preferences.

The stats which you give for Chestnut Grove (777 applicants for 150 places of which 90 are on distance) don't seem to really fit in with the number of children from Belleveille and Honeywell (there are 180 leaving Y6 each year), particularly when there are a number of primary schools closer. The situation is only going to get worse - Belleville and Alderbrook (a Balham primary school) have each taken on an extra class in the last year so that's an extra 60 children leaving Y6 in a few years' time. I completely agree that a complete analysis of the borough would be ideal (maybe it has been done - I don't know?) but let's face it, we'd be talking a good few years before the results were acted upon by which time the figures would probably not tally! Local primary schools have been told to add extra clases to their schools - logic dictates that this will therefore be the case in a few years for secondary schools. And where in the borough are extra classes being added? That's right - South Battersea/Balham (for non-London readers that's where Bolingbroke and Chestnut Grove are). Doesn't the Bolingbroke alleviate part of this problem then? There can't be that many sites around the borough big enough to accomodate a new secondary school - and there's only so much expanding that schools can do. On top of that, with some of the borough schools becoming academies (of which Chestnut Grove is one) the council will presumably not have the mandate to tell a school to add extra classes?

When it comes to politics, education is a very tricky area as what is more important to parents - ideology or their own children's education? I'm still not sure where I sit in terms of free schools - my gut instinct is that it could all go horribly wrong. But what I do know is that education has become very fragmented - what with VA schools, foundation schools, community schools, academies and free schools - and it's never going to go back to local-maintained community schools. So rather than trying to go back, we should be looking at how we work with such a fragmented education system and getting it to work for everyone which I don't think should be by targetting individual schools (i.e. the Bolingbroke!). And that was my initial point in this discussion!

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 13:41

Sounds like Toby is getting scared. The heat IS being turned up because, unlike a year ago more and more people are waking up to the fact that Free Schools are an expensive, massive financial and ideological risk and are questioning the motives behind such schools. Even Sweden who pioneered the European model of Free Schools, are admitting to revising their policy on them, in light of the way that profit-making companies there have had an adverse on schools. And as for Charter Schools in America - for every trumpeted success story, there are mountains of failures, litigation. And no evidence that they have improved education for the most needy, only the sharp-elbowed. In many charters, underperforming kids are excluded, to maintain high grades, as the head and teachers live in fear of losing their jobs or their schools if they dip below the table.

WLFS will open soon. I'm sure Young is nervous about how the school will perform. He set himself up as the Tory poster boy for Free Schools, so he has a lot of expectations to live up to. He knows he will be judged but he raced to put himself in the dock to begin with. I suppose if it all goes up the creek, he can re-invent another persona for himself and write a book about it.

Sassy Puff's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 16:51

Hi Kate,
I really appreciate you coming here and putting your point across in such a calm, measured and respectful fashion. I doubt that we are ever going to agree fully, but it has been a refreshing change not to be on the receiving end of tiresome personal insults, accusations of being "looney(sic) left" or a barrage of unsubstantiated stats and gibberish!
Best wishes
Saskia

Sassy Puff's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:13

Why, thank you! I've found Toby terribly amusing ever since I read his biography and he continues to make me laugh. Here's a link for you Jon;
http://newsthump.com/2010/06/18/ill-run-the-best-school-ever-until-my-ch...

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 14:08

The West London Free School will not fail - it's too big to fail (too big in propaganda terms, I mean, not as in the banker sense).

Although I'm against the free school policy, I don't want any free school, or academy, or any other type of school, to fail. Children's lives depend on their education. All I hope is that no school, of whatever type, dissuades low-ability or challenging children from applying, or, having accepted such children, then persuades them they would be better off in another school, in order to achieve league table glory. Education is far more than the position in a league table based on raw exam results.

As the OECD says (sorry, can't resist quoting hard facts), the emphasis on exam grades in England is worrying. There are three pages discussing this in the latest OECD Economic Survey of the UK, together with a critique of our present method of judging schools (which has actually worsened now that Mr Gove has scrapped the Contextual Value Added score which OECD had described as a "step in the right direction").

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 14:15

Of course it won't. Gove will chuck more money and resources at it. If it fails he and his policies will fail. Your genuine concern, Janet, that no school should fail is admirable and one that I wish were shared by the government. One way they could ensure that all schools have an equal chance of success is if they revise their current policy, invest more in existing maintained schools and plough more resources and aid into schools that need help to improve. Schools are not going to improve if they live in constant fear of Gove's axe falling on them.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 15:26

To state that Gove will 'chuck more money and resources at it' is to fundamentally misunderstand how schools are grant funded and the contract they operate under and so why Gove can't do that even if he wanted to. It's an example of the gossip and rumour so often put about on this site that gets taken for gospel.

Sassy Puff's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 09:45

Oh, I forgot to mention this;

As for Chestnut Grove, if parents living closer to that school actually applied themselves then the catchment would shrink to exclude the Northcote area – so much for local parents supporting their local school.

Not sure about the nasty dig at CG parents there, but you do seem to be admitting that Northcote parents can get into Chestnut Grove. I've waited two years for someone to give me a straight answer about that.
Cheers Jake, enjoy your day!

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 10:36

Jake - a cursory search online revealed that although the estimated Free School Meals figure for Bolingbroke nearly reaches the borough figures, the figure for Black and Ethnic Minority children does not. Of course, you may have more up-to-date figures in which case could you please provide a link and not expect readers to make searches, cursory or otherwise, to reveal evidence which proves, or disproves, your case.

From the Report by Director of Children's Services to Wandsworth Borough Council 11 April 2011:

“ARK’s analysis of the socioeconomic mix of the four feeder schools [Belleville, Highview, Honeywell Junior and Wix] shows that the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals, when averaged across the schools, would give a likely FSM intake at Bolingbroke of 19%. This is above the national primary school average of 17% but below the Borough average of 27% …The effect of including Falconbrook as a fifth feeder school would be to increase the likely proportion of children entitled to Free School Meals, which averaged across the five schools would give a projected FSM intake of 26%. This is very close to the Borough average of 27% and compares with 19% without the inclusion of Falconbrook.”

“The initial Equality Impact Assessment… indicated that the Borough average for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) pupils is 57.2%. The four proposed feeder schools have an average BME pupil population of 37.5%, which is significantly below the Borough average. If Falconbrook were included this would rise to 43.1%. This is well above the national average but remains below the Borough average.”

http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/committ/(S(mmnhu4ih3qozyo45zsrk0ma4))/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=13643

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 10:55

GLA Population Projections for 2011 confirm that the BME % for total Wandsowrth population aged 10-19 is 36.7%. Council FSM projection as above is 26% versus 27% for the borough average. These facts show up the spin and lies that have been told about this academy over the last year by people opposed solely on the basis of ideology and misplaced dogma. The GMB and their sponsored Labour MPs are tilting at windmills.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 11:28

The information I quoted came from Wandsworth Borough Council in April 2011 as I made clear. I'm sure you're not implying that the Council's facts are part of the "spin and lies that have been told about this academy over the last year", or that the Council, who is actually supportive of the school, is "opposed solely on the basis of ideology and misplaced dogma", or that the Council is filled with "GMB and their sponsored Labour MPs [who] are tilting at windmills."

It would be helpful if you could remember that many contributors to this site, myself included, do not live in London. I was, therefore, unfamiliar with the abbreviation GLA as you would be if I started writing about SKDC*. I had to do another google search before I discovered that GLA stood for Great London Authority. It would also be helpful if you could provide links to evidence confirming your figures.

And it's rather odd to say the GLA evidence that opposers of the academy have been lying. Were the GLA that you quote available one year ago? If they were not, then people can hardly be accused of ignoring them when they didn't exist.

*South Kesteven District Council

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 12:24

You can find the GLA data here http://data.london.gov.uk/datastore/package/egp-2010rnd-shlaa-borough

If you click on the Excel file, search for Wandsworth, you will see that the total population estimate for 2011 for Wandsworth 10-19 year olds is 25,698 of which 9,424 are from BEM profile - a % of 36.7%.

These facts are available in the public forum to both people who support the free school and more importantly to those who oppose the school. It would help greatly if people stuck to the facts before sounding off about parents not wanting to send their kids to schools because they may resemble a set from the Wire - the implication is clear from that statement and unwelcome. The facts about the BEM intake at the Bolingbroke show a different story - an estimated BEM profile of 43.1% versus 36.7% borough wide for the KS3 and 4 age groups. People are entitled to say what they like but if they play fast and loose with the facts then I would hope we would all agree that such misrepresentation should be pointed out for the sake of some balance.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 12:34

You're right Jake. It would also be helpful if Academies, Free Schools and indeed the government didn't play fast and loose with facts either. It would help if schools performed proper and transparent consultations before converting (especially if financial incentives were the motivation); if Free School proposers came clean about the real objectives as opposed to their grandiose ones; if they would publish their Funding Agreements and their Business Plans; if they did not position their theoretical schools in direct competition with maintained schools; if the Government did not spin the hyperbole that Academies and Free Schools are the miracle to save state education (they aren't and it's been proved in America); if the Government did not go so far as to remove mention of maintained schools (still the majority) from their DfE website and instead promote Academies and FS as they only options. It is easy to hand out "facts" that pander to people's fears and concerns. Much more difficult to hand out facts that give the whole picture.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 12:45

Thanks for the link, but the fact remains that the report to Wandsworth Borough Council gives different figures. These, too, are available in the public forum. We can argue over which are the most accurate - the figures used by the Council or the projections by Greater London Authority. I have no idea - and statisticians may even be able say that both are correct. I don't know. The point is that you can't attack people for using figures which are publicly available and were produced by a reputable authority, in this case a Council.

Using figures produced by a Council is not playing "fast and loose" with the facts. And quoting them is not "misrepresentation". I have provided the link to the Council's report. If you think their figures are incorrect perhaps you could let them know.

And apologies for the garbled paragraph of my last post - it should have read "And it's rather odd to say the GLA evidence proves that opposers of the academy have been lying. Were the GLA figures that you quote available one year ago? If they were not, then people can hardly be accused of ignoring them when they didn't exist. Perhaps you could address this before accusing opposers of misrepresentation.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 15:20

I think you'll find Janet that Saskia posted her comment today some while after all this information has been available, that was the point I was making. The academy has been critcised for a while now by a very small number of people, always without any reference to the facts to hand at any given point in time. Even an understanding of the 'basic needs' issues in the area would be helpful for some people to acknowledge. And the GLA number relates to the age group that will be attending the Bolingroke - 10 to19 year olds.

Kate Johnston's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 15:50

I'm not sure that all these stats are really getting anyone anywhere. Stats are exactly what you want them to be - it all depends on what data you collect and how you interpret that data. You can generally gets stats to prove whatever you want them to - miss off a few important bits, add a few other bits and hey presto!

The fact that there are huge numbers of primary school children in South Battersea (and expanding primary schools) and this number is growing seems to me to indicate that there may be a need for further secondary school places. Bolingbroke Academy goes some way to solving this problem. If Bolingbroke Academy was actually "Bolingbroke Community School" would there be such a furore? The fact is that this campaign started way before the coalition government was even dreamt up. I'm sure that if the LA had said that they would build this new school the campaign would have been delighted and stepped aside for the LA to deliver a community school. The fact is that Wandsworth is not such a Local Authority.

Is it Bolingbroke Academy's fault that the only way to get a new school set up is via the Free School system? So should these parents then say "no we don't want Bolingbroke Academy now because we are ideologically against free schools"?

Give them a break - they're only trying to build a new school in as an inclusive a way as possible in that particular area of London.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 16:11

Kate makes an important point - how can areas where there is a need for a new school get that school without going down the free school/academy route?

I'm not commenting on Bolingbroke here, or any other free school. I have said I don't know the area and my posts above have given me the opportunity to find out more which is quite difficult when you don't know which is the most up-to-date and reliable information. And I agree, we did get bogged down in stats, tediously so.

But back to the question about new schools. Mr Gove has ruled that any new school must be a free school. Irrespective of the merits, or not, of the policy, I do not think that this ruling is democratic. Sir Philip Newsam, on this site, has warned about Mr Gove's policy on schools. I think his warnings need to be heeded.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:26

The free school policy was one of the flagship Tory policies pre-election and the government has been democratically elected and so mandated to deliver on that policy - there is nothing undemocratic about the free schools policy, far from it. As for Sir Philip's post, he bemoans the shrinking of local authority control and the impact on schools resulting from that. Interesting that in all his reference to statute he did not mention the latest Academies Act 2010 and the impact or otherwise on previous statute. I don't think anyone is pretending the free schools or academies are independent - they are clearly state/government schools resulting from the New Labour policy a decade ago under Lord Adonis. There is nothing new in what Gove is doing with outflanking the LEA and it is disingenuous to suggest there is. Whether one agrees with the the whole 'shrinking state' mantra is irrelevant for the next 4 years - local authorities will in the main morph into no more than commisioning agencies. I am not sure why local democracy trumps national democracy but there you go.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:38

There is NO mandate for these policies as the Tories didn't win the election - as I have pointed out here before they haven't been able to win an election outright since 1992 . The Liberal Democrats who have given the Coalition the majority it needs, stood on an entirely different manifesto which promised school autonomy but within a locally accountable framework. Moreover the Academies Act was NOT in the Coalition Agreement. That may be one reason why so many LD voters are now deeply disillusioned and the party struggles to get into double figures in most opinion polls.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 16:32

Jake -

There is every chance that Gove will chuck money at a Free School in danger of failing. He did it recently with a number of Academies - £5m alone for one in the North-East - and one can't help believing that he did so because these were flagship Academies that are the beacons of his policy.

Furthermore, it is now much easier for Gove to step in and either save a school or close it down. Since Academies and Free Schools are governed directly by Gove and not the nuisance of a local authority, he alone acts as executioner or saviour and can do so without much accountability or scrutiny.

So - more substance than "an example of the gossip and rumour so often put about on this site that gets taken for gospel." These are facts. It's just that the government and supporters of these regressive policies don't want to admit the truth.

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:01

Could you post some details on the £5 million, that would be good to read? And what clauses in the model funding agreement allow Gove to chuck money as he chooses?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:20

Google the Guardian and look it up

Jake's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:36

Yes, ok, just done that - no luck. But good to see the Guardian is your source of objective material, no axe to grind on their part is there? It must be true. Can you send me the link to the Guardian article and also to the MFA clauses that allow Gove to 'chuck money' as he chooses?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 17:43

Cut the sarcasm. If you must know I read as many articles but from all sources. It's just that the Guardian reported on the issue of £7m being spent by a govt quango to bail out failing academies. If you are trying to paint me as some left wing, Guardianista with a beard and sandals to fit in with your prejudice that anyone opposed to Academies has to conform to that stereotype then you are wrong. As I said, the information you seek is available on Google. I'm pretty sure the information and blogs about it appear on this very site. Sorry but i don't feel like being a search engine myself, if you don't mind.

For the record, I find the reporting on the Guardian generally pretty fair and objective. The Comments articles by there very definition can be more biased. I think the Times and Telegraph have more axes to grind - political and media - and I think the tabloids, with the exception of the Mail, very readable.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 16:44

Jake -

You asked above "Where or in what context has the DfE said the ‘money’ is not sustainable?"

In fact,a quick google seach will throw up news of this. One of the most interesting actually, including links, is from Janet Downs herself who flagged it up on this site:-

http://bit.ly/mnEwXT

The truth is, there isn't enough money to sustain Academy expansion. The DfE had to settle for, I think, a 60% cut to its budget, so perhaps it was unwise to embark on an "radical" restructuring of the school system. The government had made a number of U-turns - Gove himself has done about three just in his department. I'd rather he admitted the mistake, turned back and put a stop to a disastrous policy which will have long term adverse affects on education and society in this country.

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