Free School admissions criteria discriminatory?

Jane Eades's picture
The proposed Bolingbroke Academy has, according to sponsors ARK, four primary feeder schools. The justification for the new school is that there is no secondary school in the area - ignoring Chestnut Grove School, an "outstanding" school.

When I plotted the primary feeder schools on a map and looked at the Deprivation Indicator, the hidden agenda becomes apparent. The original 2 primary schools, Belleville (36.58%) and Honeywell (23.65%, have well below Wandsworth averages (64.09%). Two more schools have been added: Wix's (59.84%) and High View (72.37%).

However, a school which is closer than Wix's has been left out of the catchment area by some dextrous manipulation of figures. This school is Falconbrook which has a deprivation figure of 79.09% - the highest in Wandsworth.

Wix's and Falconbrook are similar distances from Battersea Park School - rated good with outstanding features by Ofsted.

The Bolinbroke project is very clearly in blatant opposition with ARK's stated aims.
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Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 13/12/2010 - 11:02

It is very odd that an organisation (according to its own website) which "is helping to break the cycle of underachievement in schools in the UK's most challenging urban areas" would exclude some of the most deprived pupils from its feeder schools admissions and create a secondary school which will be vastly more affluent than surrounding secondary schools thus supporting middle class parents in segregating their children from the more mixed intakes seen in existing local schools.

Figures suggest that the free school will have around 15-20% of children receiving free school meals versus some 40% at the 2 nearest secondary schools. We were out campaigning at the weekend and one particularly aggressive supporter of the free school said it all with the comment "those schools may have vastly improved; Ofsted may rate them outstanding but I've seen the sort of children that go there and I would never send my son there."

I am certainly not saying his views are the same as everyone involved in setting up the new free schools but I think this is the kind of shocking, blind prejudice that drives some aspirational parents to dismiss certain schools out of hand and demand new ones!

Sometimes I think what would really help schools (especially those saddled with poor reputations based on distant history and prejudice) would be high-profile PR campaigns to really make people aware of how schools have changed and the great things that are going on in many of them. So few people seem to know the facts when criticising local schools or claiming they have no decent choices, it is actually ridiculous.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 13/12/2010 - 16:01

This is very odd indeed Laura. I've met the people at ARK who struck me as being committed to having fully inclusive schools. I can't help feeling the company has been the unwitting victim of a group of parents intent upon segregating their children from the poorer ones. This is the problem with the system set up though: the free schools system gives parents, I believe, the power to hire and fire private firms to run schools. Therefore, if ARK isn't doing the right thing for the parents then, another company probably will. The moment you have a school system which supports the interests of special interest groups, you're always going to get segregation.

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