First free schools aren't actually serving disadvantaged pupils

Fiona Millar's picture
 83
Excellent use of FOIA here by fellow schools blogger @SchoolDuggery ( definitely worth a follow on Twitter) . I won't repeat the substance since it needs to be read in full, but the key point is that the numbers of children on FSM  in the first tranche of free schools is just over half the national average, and much lower in most cases than the proportion in neighbouring schools. Even if these new schools are in deprived areas, they don't appear to be taking in the deprived children from those communities. Canary Wharf College, whose admissions criteria include prioritising children of the founders ( even though that is not permissable under the current admissions code) only has 2% of pupils on FSM, compared to a local average of 48%.

Also some interesting data regarding SEN pupils and class size, and an entertaining exchange between the Chair of Governors of the West London Free School and the author of the blog about that school's SEN provision, which leads directly back to the still secret funding agreements which neither the free schools or DFE seem willing to share with the public that funds them.

Anyway so much, for now, for the claim that free schools are the shock troops that are going to revolutionise education for poor children.

 
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Alan's picture
Mon, 14/11/2011 - 22:36

There have been claims of FSM being inaccurate measures of deprivation. Apparently, those who are entitled don’t always claim. However, areas of high deprivation should provide context for comparison of SEN and FSM intake across schools. If all things are equal there should be diversity in admissions. Context shouldn’t add value to the backdrop of inequality, but rather, the value added by schools in deprived areas, in conjunction with fair admissions, should make it real for all children.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 15/11/2011 - 16:54

Let's hope the local authorities, political parties, unions and media commentators do all they can to promote application to free schools by the poorest people in our society, including use of broadcast media and public demonstration.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/11/2011 - 17:35

What is your idea of a public demonstration, Ben? A sit-in outside a Cathedral? Picketing other state schools, perhaps? Or parades through the streets by Cameron's shock troops?






Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/11/2011 - 17:37

And let us also hope that free schools adhere to guidance from the Department for Education about school uniforms. The cost shouldn't put off poorer parents. The uniform should be "widely available in high street shops, other retail outlets and internet suppliers rather than from an expensive sole supplier." Schools can use their purchasing power to buy in bulk and pass on savings to parents. Governing bodies shouldn't be sole suppliers of uniform in order to raise funds for the school. This applies to sports kit as well.

So schools (and this isn't just free schools, but academies and others) who insist, say, on PE shirts with the school logo which cost double the price of a pack of two from M+S; who insist on distinctive hats, bags and so on; who mandate a blazer which costs more than twice as much as one from Asda, are discouraging poorer pupils from attending.

http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/s/school%20uniform%20guid...

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 15/11/2011 - 17:54

Not sure what that link is about Janet unless it is suggesting that poor people need more help with things like free school uniform which I would agree to.

A public demonstration - possible yes, I would head to where our poorest people are in public places, maybe social security offices, council offices, working class shopping areas, bus interchanges and union meetings. I've heard plenty on radio 4 about free schools but we need perhaps to be finding the poorest where they communicate more frequently such as physical newsletters from councils and political parties, local radio and television.

It seems reasonable that even if a person does not agree with the free schools policy or implementation we should all encourage all our citizens to be applying for the schools they want.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 06:27

"but the key point is that the numbers of children on FSM in the first tranche of free schools is just over half the national average, and much lower in most cases than the proportion in neighbouring schools."

Firstly I think it is a bit unfair to target free schools when

a) There appear to be worse offenders out there for not taking their share of FSM children.

b) I happen to know that sort of segregation can happen in areas served by a large number of state schools.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 06:57

Apologies I hit 'submit' before I had a chance to edit this for SPAG.

“but the key point is that the numbers of children on FSM in the first tranche of free schools is just over half the national average, and much lower in most cases than the proportion in neighbouring schools.”

I think it is a bit unfair to target free schools when;

a) If they have an 'above average' intake of children on FSM there are worse offenders out there.

b) I know at least one area where until this year there was a wide choice of LA schools in a relatively small geographic area yet the sort of segregation you describe has been allowed to take place.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 07:17

Check out this information from Norwich.

http://www.education.gov.uk/establishments/compare/pupilsworkforce?urns=...

Three state schools within a short distance from each other who have massive variation in the numbers of students entitled to FSM.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 07:38

The point is that free schools are supposed ( according to HMG) to be serving the poorest communities. According to these figures, they aren't.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 08:33

Thanks for the link, JimC - it raises a particularly interesting question as to why schools in a small area have such a variation in the number of FSM pupils. In the case you highlight there's some clue in the type of schools:

City of Norwich - larger than average secondary community co-ed school. Lower than average FSM pupils. Has sixth form. No special classes.

Notre Dame High: Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided (NB not controlled, therefore can set its own admissions criteria). Only 7% FSM - much lower than average number. Has sixth form. No special classes.

Hewett School - 26/8% FSM pupils. Foundation school with sixth form and has special classes.

I should be interested in your views as to why FSM pupils are more likely to be at the Hewett School and, leading from that, why the free schools open at present are less likely to have FSM pupils.

Guest's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 09:13

Janet,
I think you have highlighted an OECD report that concludes that all children, regardless of background, will not do as well if they attend a school with a large number of deprived children.
It would follow that all parents, who want the best for their children, will avoid schools in deprived areas and always, where possible, choose the school with the lowest FSM.

Or have I misunderstood the OECD report you quoted?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 09:56

I don't know if you have misunderstood the OECD report, "Guest", but you may have certainly have completely misunderstood the Free School Policy.

The thinking behind the government's Free School policy is that parents in a deprived area - who cannot exercise an option to educate their children outside the area - now have access to a local Free School whose existence is, allegedly, to provide good education for the poor community around it. Since the blog shows that such schools are not actually serving disadvantaged pupils, then one questions why they were set up in the first place. These statistics lend credence to the suspicion that they might be vanity projects for the founders, or another option for the middle class.

Toby Young himself seems blissfully ignorant of the balance of SEN and FSM pupils at his own school and immediately went on the attack, trying to dismiss the findings at West London Free School as a lie. This reaction certainly raises more questions about the real motives behind setting up WLFS - and indeed the whole Free School policy - and it is worrying that those who questioned and criticised the way the policy was drawn up, promoted and implemented, are now being proved right.

Finally - I live in Hackney, a "deprived" borough in which I believe all the schools have high levels of FSM students. The schools are very popular, perform extremely well and are actually an excellent and successful mix of ability, ethnicity, class and socio-economic background. I don't see many people clamouring to educate their children elsewhere - quite the opposite in fact. The borough is actually a very good example of how the LA, the local community, investment in schools, dedicated leadership and equality can create excellent schools.

Guest's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 10:09

Hackney has obviously done well because of the academy programme and is a great advert for it. The LA were thankfully bypassed in in most of the important decisions.
Free Schools are brand new and obviously need time to bed in before the critics can claim they were right.
One thing has become apparent is that the majority are being set up in deprived areas which was something this website, The Guardian and Observor all claimed was not true.
One last thing is that people might listen to the critics if they did not come across as bully boys and hypocrites.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 16:19

I agree that Hackney has done well but if you look at this year's GCSE local authority performance tables here you will see that the results in Camden and Tower Hamlets ( both boroughs with high levels of deprivation but without any academies or free schools) were actually better . This suggests that strong performance probably has nothing to do with school type. Incidentally Hackney does have a strong education authority which is actively involved in all its schools , including academies.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 17:39

Guest - you are correct. The OECD did find that globally (not just in the UK) all pupils tended to do poorly in school where there were a large number of disadvantaged students. Where the majority of pupils in the school were advantaged then ALL the students tended to do better. It does not follow, however, that the answer to this is for all advantaged parents to withdraw their children from schools where there might be a large majority of disadvantaged children. The answer is to encourage a more equitable system whereby ALL schools took a share of disadvantaged children. OECD, in "Education at a Glance 2011" (p455) said the best-performing school systems tended to be those that were most equitable: children were not segregated academically or geographically. OECD also warned in Economic Survey UK 2011* that although the free school/academy programme would increase choice the policy would need careful monitoring to ensure it didn't further disadvantage the already disadvantaged. This appears to be what is happening so far. The OECD also said that the evidence about the effect of user choice on educational outcomes was mixed - some high-performing countries had very little user choice. This point is overlooked by the present Government who trumpet choice at every opportunity.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf (Education at a Glance 2011)

*Economic Survey 2011 is not freely available on the internet. Details of how to obtain a copy are here: http://www.oecd.org/document/38/0,3746,en_2649_34569_47283558_1_1_1_1,00...

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 18:34

Not all of the 24 free schools which "opened" in September were brand new. Five were existing independent schools and only one of these, Moorland Free School, has FSM numbers which are comparable with the local area.

It is not "apparent that the majority are being set up in deprived areas". The jury is still out. This was highlighted on this site:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/09/the-jury%e2%80%99s-still-o...

Henry Stewart's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 18:51

Very interesting table, Fiona. (More precise link is http://bit.ly/t6hrn0, select Additional Tables 1 and choose the tab Table 16 for LA results). You are right: Camden achieved 59.2%, Tower Hamlets 60.4% on 5 A-Cs incl English and Maths. Hackney was 56.5%. All are impressive given the levels of deprivation in those areas, but the non-academy boroughs did better.

And you are also right that both the LA and the Learning Trust were involved in all the key Hackney decisions regarding academies.

Keith Turvey's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 19:55

Yes JimC but as Fiona points out the Free Schools policy have been set up explicitly to address this issue of segregation, which it clearly isn't doing. Furthermore funding is being directed away from other schools and wasted on new premises or transforming existing premises to support a policy which is failing to address one of its stated key aims.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 20:19

Really?

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/freeschools

It doesn't seem to say anything explicit about the issue of segregation here.

Keith Turvey's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 20:01

It doesn't matter where they're set up. What matters is who is given access to the education on offer and who is excluded. It's quite clear from @SchoolDuggery's data that as yet those from lower income families are not benefiting from this policy much as the government and other Free School advocates claimed they would.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 20:26

Guest -

I don't think the critics are making claims about the achievements of Free Schools - as you rightly say, they are brand new so it would be premature to assess how successful they are, in whichever ways one wishes to measure success.

What I said was worrying was the way the policy was drawn up, promoted and implemented. Critics have long pointed out that Free Schools are divisive; expensive; implemented in a haphazard way leading to chaos over such issues as Admissions; split communities; create unhealthy competition between local schools; not serve the interests of the most disadvantaged, despite the government rhetoric; favour the sharp-elbowed middle-classes; are unaccountable to local government and their community and have special conditions which allow them to modify the established Admissions Code. They do not guarantee success; neither do they guarantee to outperform existing schools. The example in America has proven this. There are good charters and there are bad charters.

Both the DfE and Free School founders have refused to be transparent about funding agreements, consultations and who or what makes up the founding/steering committee, opting instead to make grandiose and unsubstantiated claims on school and DfE websites about the superiority of such schools when their mission statement is no different to any other school and when they don't even have staff, premises or realistic classroom sizes.

No one in their right mind who has reservations about the policy wants to see a Free School fail, just as they don't want Academies, community schools, private schools etc. to fail. This is in stark contrast to government pronouncements which seek to denigrate existing schools in order to add sheen to the coalition's "radical reforms". A stance sadly mirrored by the verbal incontinence of the Free School poster boy and girl Toby Young and Katharine Birbalsingh, both of whom appear to me to take pleasure in attacking other schools. A quick read of their attention seeking bluster on their blogs and interviews suggests that it is not the Free School critics who are the bully boys and hypocrites.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 20:33

Yes Keith. You're right. Segregation is such a dirty word and unacceptable condition that governments will do or say anything to hide or deny it. The fact that the policy has so many loopholes, avoids local accountability and allows Free Schools to play fast and loose with admissions suggests that the interests of the disadvantaged were not really at the forefront of this policy.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 20:58

"I should be interested in your views as to why FSM pupils are more likely to be at the Hewett School and, leading from that, why the free schools open at present are less likely to have FSM pupils."

Well I probably don't know more than you about the schools so will enter into the realms of guesswork - albeit guesswork that is informed by modest experience elsewhere. I suspect that the schools in question don't select much at all, they don't need to because local parents do it for them. I'd hazard a guess that Notre Dame is oversubscribed, outstanding and middle class pushiness is enough to engineer a place at a primary feeder school for it.

A bit like the free schools really (of course the outstanding remains to be seen). The result of all this is a higher chance of anyone whose family is apathetic to school admissions and education in general ending up together in a school that isn't usually outstanding (at least according to Ofsted). Now I'm not trying to insult every member of the working class, indeed I am working class myself, but there surely is likely to be a correlation between apathy towards education and 'FSM'.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 21:05

Did the government actually say that the aim of free schools is to serve the poorest communities? I thought they were all about choice.

Keith Turvey's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 21:09

You are right it doesn't say much about anything in the link you provide. However several slides on the short video make reference to phrases like 'open access' and 'education for all' whereas the evidence that is emerging suggests that whilst there might be a perception of open access and education for all the reality is further segregation in the system. There's plenty of evidence in various media of proponents exploiting the rhetoric of open access and education for all, particularly those from the poorest communities. The reality however is reflected in data that's emerging.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 21:17

Yes but what is causing this segregation? Are free schools turning the poor away or is there another reason - for example not many poor people apply?

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 00:07

Good to see that you agree Free Schools are divisive. And nice to see you also questioning the purpose of Free Schools. If people - poor or well off - are not applying then perhaps that schools are sending out deliberately offputting signals to weed out those they deem undesirable. I think WLFS are rather good at this - informing the public that it is not an establishment for the less academically minded; compulsory Latin; a Chair Of Govenors whose partisan political affiliations divides opinion; a Chair of Governors whose own conduct might be viewed as setting a bad example to the children at his school; overbearing discipline; a narrow curriculum; an unhealthy obssession with Eton. If Free Schools are discouraging the poor by turning them away or discouraging them for applying, then it is clear they will be an enclave for the already advantaged and a handful of the deserving poor. Bit like grammars in fact. Perhaps that was the plan all along. That - and privatisation. Either way, the government's claim that they give "choice" and a good start in life for the poor is looking every bit as dubious in practice as they did in theory.

JimC's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 08:38

"Good to see that you agree Free Schools are divisive. And nice to see you also questioning the purpose of Free Schools."

If you mean that I think the purpose of free schools is to provide choice as opposed to ending segregation.

"If people – poor or well off – are not applying then perhaps that schools are sending out deliberately offputting signals to weed out those they deem undesirable."

A free school might not be many poor peoples cup of tea just as state schools are clearly not other peoples cup of tea. However your suggestion that the raison d'etre of free school founders is hating poor people seems a bit extreme.

"If Free Schools are discouraging the poor by turning them away or discouraging them for applying, then it is clear they will be an enclave for the already advantaged and a handful of the deserving poor."

Do you have any evidence to suggest that free schools are turning away the poor?

Bit like grammars in fact. Perhaps that was the plan all along. That – and privatisation. Either way, the government’s claim that they give “choice” and a good start in life for the poor is looking every bit as dubious in practice as they did in theory.

Firstly are poor people in general even bothering to apply and, if not, why not. I'm still not satisfied that we have got to the bottom of this yet. Secondly given your rhetoric against free schoolers why do you want them in your state school to begin with?

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 08:56

Amusing the way you cherry pick people's quotes, twist them and then throw them back out again. It's clear I make no suggestion whatsoever that FS founders hate poor people. A major "raison d'etre" of the setting up of Free Schools is that they provide opportunities for the disadvantaged. Well @skullduggery's are just the latest investigations to suggest quite powerfully that they are not - so why was the system promoted to care for the poor whilst doing the opposite, like so much of the coalition's policies?

You are keen on challenging people on "evidence" whilst providing none yourself to supplement your sniping. I don't think anything is going to satisfy you unless you are presented with evidence that fits your own ideology. In that sense you are like Gove.

If you want to be taken seriously why don't you submit something - with evidence - showing just why we haven't "got to the bottom of it". Better still - an evidence backed comment on why Free Schools will appeal and raise educational standards for the poor would be welcome. Be prepared for quite a few people to demolish your argument though.

Keith Turvey's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:05

JimC 'Yes but what is causing this segregation? Are free schools turning the poor away or is there another reason – for example not many poor people apply?'

The policies of this government including that on free schools, admissions etc. appear to be increasing the rate of segregation. As Alan has pointed out above the new admissions code leaves far too much room for interpretation. The previous code nailed a lot ore of the issues down but the Schools Adjudicator didn't have the teeth to enforce it. It's really quite simple. If, as various Coalition mouthpieces have claimed, segregation in the education system is unacceptable and detrimental, then policies need to be aligned to address this issue. The government often goes on about the widening gap in levels of achievement. It is a sad fact that levels of academic achievement are lowest among poorer communities (not I hasten to add because they are any less capable). So, if the government genuinely wants to do something about this, as it claims it does, it needs to ensure its policies impact most where the need is greatest.

The data from @schoolduggery clearly shows that the impact of the free schools policy, certainly in these initial stages is not where it is most needed. It would appear that the policy has merely shifted scarce education funds away from existing schools often doing a good job merely to create a little bit more choice for potentially disgruntled families, higher up the socio-economic ladder.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:09

JimC - you raise an important question about why disadvantaged parents are less likely to exercise school choice. This was considered by the OECD during the 2009 international PISA tests by asking parents in eight OECD countries about their reasons for choosing schools. The UK was not one of the eight but the results might go some way to answering your question. PISA found that socio-economically disadvantaged parents were more likely to consider "low expenses" and "financial aid" when choosing schools. It reached a tentative conclusion:

"If children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds cannot attend high-performing schools because of financial constraints, then school systems that offer parents more choice of schools for their children will necessarily be less effective in improving the performance of all students."

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf

Guest's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:13

Skullduggery found that contrary to claims to the contrary that Free Schhools have been set up in the more deprived areas.
It is therefore clear that they will offer more choice to people in such areas. At present, in a situation replicated in most outstanding LA schools, those without FSM entitlement are dominating.
The Free School policy was not set up to only help the disadvantaged and to reduce the segregation caused by previous Governments, perhaps you need to check the actual reasons.

Unfortunately Allan you have again used selective quotes against Jim and come across as a bullyboy and hypocrite. You need to apply the same standards to yourself as you expect in others, if you are unaware of yourself doing this go through your posts with a friend ....

JimC's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:14

Then perhaps you would like to explain what you meant when you said free schools "are sending out deliberately offputting signals to weed out those they deem undesirable."

"A major “raison d’etre” of the setting up of Free Schools is that they provide opportunities for the disadvantaged."

I'd accept that Free schools are supposed to provide choice in areas where they are set up. This is different from 'providing opportunities for the disadvantaged'. Perhaps you'd like to provide some evidence, as I did earlier, that supports your claims.

"You are keen on challenging people on “evidence” whilst providing none yourself to supplement your sniping. I don’t think anything is going to satisfy you unless you are presented with evidence that fits your own ideology. In that sense you are like Gove."

Allan can you please stop trying to flame other posters.

"If you want to be taken seriously why don’t you submit something – with evidence – showing just why we haven’t “got to the bottom of it”."

This is incredible. You get to say whatever you like but I have to meet certain standards before being allowed to comment. This is sounding a bit like 'do as I say not as I do'.

"Better still – an evidence backed comment on why Free Schools will appeal and raise educational standards for the poor would be welcome."

I'm not saying they do. I'm not convinced that the purpose of free schools is to appeal or raise educational standards for the poor.

"Be prepared for quite a few people to demolish your argument though."

Whatever.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:35

Like I said - instead of playing with your bow and arrows in the corner why not post something - with strong evidence - that shows why Free Schools will appeal and raise educational standards for the poor. This is the way the policy was sold to us and the mantra chimed daily by Toby Young and Katharine Birbalsingh. I await your pronouncements with impatience and great anticipation, Sire

Keith Turvey's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:18

Yes Janet agreed. This also concurs with what happened in New Zealand back in the 90s when they experimented with fairly open area-wide lotteries which in theory increased the opportunity for families from lower socio-economic areas to compete for places in popular or 'higher achieving' schools across the city. Higher costs and inconvenience of travel remained a deterrent.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:30

I suggest you go through posts on this website alone so as not to embarrass yourself in front of a friend - real or imagined - and submit yourself to willful 20/20 vision. I might add that you also consider the very small numbers of children that Free Schools will actually educate. The first tranche comes to about 5000 I believe. At a cost of roughtly £130m. How does that offer "choice" to the majority of children with no access to the choice of a Free School? How does that increase choice or better provision when these costs are being skimmed from the budget from maintained schools? What choice is there when the founders of a school - and their staff - get priority admissions? This isn't choice - that sounds perilously close to a fiefdom to me

Finland does not offer the freemarket libertarian package of "choice" despite being a capitalist society. All neighbourhoods have excellent schools - no gimmicks and flannel, just great teaching, focus on individual students not grades, mixed ability classes, no selection, no segregation, big investment.

jimc's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 13:20

Allan before we continue do you accept that my position is not 'free schools are serving the disadvantaged'? Yes or no.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:49

Why don’t you clearly state what your position is and offer evidence – if you disagree – that the first tranche of free schools are in fact serving the disadvantaged.

You said:

“I’m not convinced that the purpose of free schools is to appeal or raise educational standards for the poor.”

There have been numerous pronouncements from the government that this is a stated mission. One of the first entries on google throws this up, so evidence is easily accessible -

“The government today gave the green light for the first eight “free schools” to open in England, with the prime minister, David Cameron, pledging they will bring greater opportunity to the poorest pupils.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jan/29/free-schools-announcemen...

Your response has not been to offer an argument or evidence to throw more light on these findings but to go off on tangents about whether it is “fair for Free Schools to be “targeted when there are worse offenders out there”, that you are not satisfied that we have got to the bottom of whether Free Schools are turning the poor away or if the poor aren’t bothering to apply and nonsense about my getting to say whatever I like but you having “to meet certain standards before being allowed to comment”, as if I am denying you free speech. It’s incredible!

So now that you have finally realised that, as Fiona said – “The point is that free schools are supposed ( according to HMG) to be serving the poorest communities. According to these figures, they aren’t.” – this policy is as much about serving the disadvantaged as so-called “choice”, you might like to give us the benefit of your evidence-based opinion to back up @schoolduggery‘s report or dispute it. I think the statistics are clear as water and no amount of muddying the waters is going to make this any less transparent now. The stated mission to give an advantage to the poor has either failed or it was never the real mission to begin with.

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 09:26

"Why don’t you clearly state what your position is and offer evidence – if you disagree – that the first tranche of free schools are in fact serving the disadvantaged."

A simple yes or no would have sufficed but this is a step in the right direction because you seem to be asking me what my position is instead of telling me then demanding I supply evidence to support whatever fantasy you've made up.

"So now that you have finally realised that, as Fiona said..."

Now you've spoilt it, I couldn't care less about your appalling lack of manners but I'll only debate with you if you agree to stop telling me what my position is and stop trying to tell me what I think.

If you can agree then we can move on and I will clarify my position for you and at the very least refer you to two pieces of evidence I've already provided on this thread.

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 09:39

Janet I would agree with this and it would be very interesting to look at the intake of some of the new free schools in depth and try to find out more about the reasons why people did and did not apply for a place. I was fascinated by the some of the tools avaialble for school comparison on the Department of Education website and may look into it. In the meantime do you or Keith have any relevent sources that would aid this task?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 10:15

The Compare Schools information should be approached with caution. Much of it is out-of-date or incorrect. For example, my granddaughter's school had the wrong address and the headteacher named had left two years before. You will also not find much information about newly-converted academies because they are classed as new schools. It's even difficult to find Ofsted reports for these schools in pre-conversion years especially if a school has changed its name.

The next school census should take place in January. Once all this information is collated it should be easier to find information about free schools and newly-converted academies.

Finding out how parents make decisions about which schools they prioritise would be difficult. It might be possible to find out why they chose School A followed by School B, but very difficult to find out why they rejected School C. It would probably need a survey undertaken by a reputable market research organisation.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 10:04

Michael Gove, speaking in the Commons on 10 October 2011: “The experience so far of existing head teachers, where new free schools have been set up, has been in some cases concern before the application has come forward and, afterwards, some trepidation, but after the school has opened there has been a general recognition that wider choice and an emphasis on helping the most disadvantaged students has helped to raise the prestige and reputation of state education overall, so such proposals should be seen as friendly emulation and not as a threat to any school.”

The free schools had been opened for only about a month when Mr Gove made this statement yet he can say with confidence that head teachers in schools near free schools have overcome their initial “trepidation” and have recognised that the “prestige and reputation of state education” has been restored and realised that any proposed free schools are not a threat but “friendly emulation”. Of course, he doesn’t say who has been busy trashing English state education, but he does make it clear that the free schools emphasised “helping the most disadvantaged students”. Yet this recent research shows that in most cases free schools have not done so.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111010/debt...

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 10:33

Aren't you the one embarrassing yourself here demanding evidence from contributors like Janet Downs, whose links to articles, reports, research and data probably exceeds information from anyone else? Yet you yourself have provided very little by way of evidence or even links to articles offering an opinion or comment. I was not under the impression we were engaging in a "debate" - this is a public forum of discussion where everyone is invited to chip in.

I am surprised that on a thread specifically about Free Schools not serving disadvantaged pupils you write that you are "not convinced that the purpose of free schools is to appeal or raise educational standards for the poor” when it is most emphatically one of the stated aims of the coalition! I am not telling you what you think here - this is fact, not a matter for nuanced interpretation and it is most certainly not what you call a "fantasy" of my own imagination. Since it is a fact, I would welcome why you believe that, although this is a fundamental reason for the Free School programme, you are still not convinced that Free Schools were launched on a mission which included targeting the poor. Since you so tirelessly and energetically ask people like Janet Downs to provide "evidence" you might like to demonstrate some manners yourself in offering her and us some evidence to support why you are unconvinced about the truth of a stated and fundamental aim of the government.. If there is fantastical thought going on here, it is more likely to be your imagination convincing you that someone is telling you what to think. This is a bit "victim" isn't it? I recall on another thread your sneering at the Citizenship Curriculum, which you claim was about "celebrating victimhood". I suggest you look at the actual curriculum and empower yourself.

Incidentally, as with your exchanges with Janet Downs, may I remind you - courteously - that we are not in a private conversation here and that what you have to reveal to me will be revealed to anyone who comes onto this thread? As you are now attaching conditions to revealing your hand in respect of what your position actually is, you will forgive me for having no interest in entering into a deal, with or without strings attached.

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 10:45

Much of it? Are you saying you wouldn't accept this as a source of evidence even if the weaknesses were noted? The fact that is out of date could be useful as it provides information to compare up to date information with in the future.

I'm also surprised about your comments regarding market research - would you not accept action research from educational professionals?

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 11:03

Debating, discussing, talking call it what ever you like. The only person I am attaching conditions to is you because that is what is required to facilitate meaningful communication between us. Until you are prepared to communicate with me and not the fantasy you have created there is little point in further communication between us.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 11:20

I am still going to pass on the conditions - I'm not desperate to benefit from your wisdom, thanks.

I think what you might want to communicate is why, despite the many posts on LSN, national media coverage and easily accessible information on the internet, you have been so in the dark about government policy and statements that you are "not convinced that the purpose of free schools is to appeal or raise educational standards for the poor.” The fantasy is yours. Not mine. I don't particularly want to communicate with a fantasist but I think people find it difficult to engage with someone whose idea of meaningful communication appears to be a mission to demand evidence from other people whilst providing little of your own; to distract attention away from criticisms of policies by deliberately trying to go off-thread and playing the victim card when your activities are robustly challenged.

It really isn't for my own personal sake JimC - I don't give a fig - but for the sake of your own decreasing credibility - do please tell us why you didn't realise helping the poor was a stated aim of the Free School policy, especially as you have given the impression that you work or are engaged in some way in education - "Sensible representatives from my profession need to discourse with the government and going in all guns blazing with the politics is only going to get everyones back up", to quote you on another thread? I am curious as to why you can't answer this question but are way too ready to discourse on "meaningful communication."

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 11:33

Re JimC's post above: discussing why parents make choices risks veering off-thread. The original post drew attention to research which found that most free schools were not doing what the government said they were intended to do: help disadvantaged pupils. This is what should be discussed.

However, in answer to Jim C's post (other readers can stop here if they want) - the Compare Schools tool is a useful tool but as I said, it needs to be approached with "caution" since much of the information is out-of-date. That doesn't mean it should be rejected but users of the tool should be aware of some inaccuracies. In any case, the information about free schools and newly-converted academies is limited but this should be solved after the next school census.

Market research might be one way of discovering why parents make choices but to ensure reliability it would need to be undertaken by a reputable, trusted market research firm and not by a think-tank or other who might have an interest in a particular response and ask leading questions (see link below for criticism of the recent survey into British attitudes to children).

I am unsure how action research from educational professionals would help in this instance. Action research is supposed to be self-reflection and you appear to be asking teachers to reflect on decisions made by others (ie parents).



http://www.straightstatistics.org/article/giving-britain%E2%80%99s-child...

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 11:59

Allan,

"you haveut been so in the dark about government policy and statements that you “are convinced that the purpose of free schools is to appeal or raise educational standards for the poor.”"

"do please tell us why you didn’t realise helping the poor was a stated aim of the Free School policy?"

These are not my thoughts or opinions. I’ll only debate with you if you agree to stop telling me what my position is and stop trying to tell me what I think.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 12:32

You're just repeating diversionary nonsense now in an attempt to deflect attention from whatever it is you are up to.

So why did you say “I’m not convinced that the purpose of free schools is to appeal or raise educational standards for the poor” if you now claim these are not your thoughts?! You said them. It's there in black and white- its undeniable and it shows a fundamental lack of knowledge about this policy. And still you refuse to explain why - not to me but to yourself, to make yourself a little bit more credible than you are now.

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 12:13

If any school was genuinely interested in attracting a comprehensive intake action research would certainly help inform what it needed to do to appeal to different groups i.e. FSM.

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