International students same admissions criteria?

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Please would someone kindly explain how the 'free' schools are going to be different in the long term to the current grammar/high schools in terms of selective admissions?

Currently those who advocate the setting up of these schools are concerned that parents should have choice. Does this choice extend to all parents? So, for example, if I have arrived from Bangladesh with children who speak no English at all and have had no prior education, would I be permitted to choose one the new free schools in my area and would my children be accepted?

I'd appreciate a frank response.
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Gerry Newton's picture
Sat, 12/02/2011 - 16:30

This is typical of the dog whistle stuff that goes on in this site - the regular implications of racism (choosing Bangladesh rather than Belgium for instance) aimed at free school supporters.

Why, being frank, are the choices of these hypothetical uneducated (your words) immigrants of any concern to you? They aren't - you're just using them to imply racism. Pathetic.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 12/02/2011 - 17:12

Gerry, I am not sure that the implication here was racism, but more that certain sections of the community are sent the message by some free schools -- and other schools -- that they are not welcome. It is more subtle than racism. But let's be honest Gerry, you are what is known in internet parlance as a "troll" -- relentlessly trying to trip people up with negative, short and vague comments. Do you have any constructive points about how schools should be, any vision yourself?

Francis, do you have any evidence for your first sentence? My experience is that it is opponents of free schools telling certain sections of the community that they will not be welcome at free schools.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 12/02/2011 - 17:36

Most experienced teachers know that it's very easy to put off certain sections of the community from coming to a school by saying certain things in prospectuses, at Open Evenings, having complex admissions criteria.

The key document to read about this issue is Unlocking The School Gates, published by Barnados.

In answer to a previous question from Ben Taylor, I agree with the conclusions in this report that we need LAs to take control of admissions, stop schools being their own admissions' authorities, have some sort of fair banding system where appropriate, with things like selecting for aptitude in music terminated.

Here are some important quotes from this document:

"While the current system aims to promote parental choice, it has become very complicated and therefore off -putting to some parents. There are concerns that while middle class parents tend to be strongly engaged to get the best result from the admissions process
– even to the extent of moving house – disadvantaged parents are less likely to exercise their right to choose and more likely to simply opt for their local school, or not apply at all."


"it is not simply the case that poorer parents are being refused admission by certain schools, as they may not even apply. Recent research showed for example that poorer parents were making different choices because they were more likely to prioritise their child’s own preferences – relating to factors such as friendship groups – rather than academic results."

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 12/02/2011 - 17:52

Francis is right. Over the years in writing about this subject I have come across many examples of how 'self selection' operates to the advantage of certain schools. Favoured methods include highly complex admissions criteria, distributing the brochure to certain post codes, open evenings at which the high cost of uniforms and school trips are explained, or requirements for voluntary contributions and unrestricted use of IT at home, are openly discussed as being essential.
All these contravene the Code of Practice but unless the Adjudicator has powers to investigate, and parents don't complain, they can go unchecked for years.
We know that the Education Bill is proposing to reduce the powers of the Adjudicator and in my latest blog about the grammar school heads, I link to their newsletter which, as well as showing how much they hate the EBacc, also reveals that Michael Gove has admitted he is looking at ways that Heads might have ' more opportunity for judgement in admissions to Year 7 and the Sixth Form'. This is no doubt part of his desire to encourage more back door selection, since he knows opening up the front door (with an increased use of the 11 plus) won't be acceptable to the majority of parents. However it would be a retrograde step and almost certainly work against the interests of deprived or minority groups.

Francis, you have said, "certain sections of the community are sent the message by some free schools — and other schools — that they are not welcome." Do you have any evidence for this at all?

The Barnados report suggests that parents from poorer backgrounds are less likely to engage with the admissions system. Don't you think that if you put out the message that free schools are only looking for certain types of pupil and pupils from certain backgrounds won't be welcome then you are encouraging this disengagement. In fact you seem to be encouraging only a certain demographic to apply. Is this so that you can then turn round and say, "Told you so"? I hope we can disappoint you at the WLFS.

Fiona, we are still waiting ...

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 12/02/2011 - 22:06

I think you are clutching at straws here, Charlie. We have no influence upon how free school project themselves in their local communities or their admissions' policies, we are merely a discussion forum for the issues. We do not write the rules for school admissions, issue admissions' criteria for free schools, write their prospectuses, hold meetings to recruit pupils for free schools, in short do all the things that schools do to draw in pupils. As I said, the fairest system would be to ban schools being their own admissions' authorities, and for LAs to administer school admissions entirely with no aptitude tests, no separate applications to the school, a broad and balanced curriculum that welcomes pupils of all abilities, and some sort of fair banding system in place which means every school gets their fair share of abilities. Would you be happy for WLFS to be part of such a system? If so, I think that would be a big step forward. Perhaps we can gain some kind of consensus!

Anton Daley's picture
Sat, 12/02/2011 - 22:19

I will be interested to see if the WLFS disappoints those that hold the view that admissions to the school will be less than fair and transparent. I attended the session held at the Town Hall in Hammersmith and was quite amazed to hear the rather publicity hungry Ms Katherine Babalsingh gush about her job being to ensure that the school would reflect the diversity of the local community. How did she make sure that all sections of the community knew about the open session? By "running up and down the aisles of Iceland" in Hammersmith - quite pathetic really (and I see that this has now been changed to 'Poundland' in a subsequent article). Interesting also to note that the open session was not widely publicised in certain areas - in fact it wasn't advertised on the Hammersmith and Fulham council website but was on the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives website - why would this be?

Francis, that is utter rot! You seek to influence opinion - perhaps I might cite this entire website as evidence. You don't answer my question. Please don't reply to this unless you intend to. For clarity I will repeat it; do you have any evidence that free schools have told any section of the community that they are not welcome?

There is no 'clutching at straws'. I am happy that I am on the firmest of moral ground. I have spent a large proportion of over the past year working on a project that I believe will improve the life chances of many in my locality that might otherwise have been forced through lack of choice into inappropriate educational routes. I have worked hard, with my WLFS colleagues, to ensure that our admissions are as open, fair and (for lack of a better expression) background blind as possible. It seems to me that you are the arch agent of segregation. You are telling people not to apply. You are saying that we won't welcome certain people. Our oversubscription admissions criteria don't differentiate between people from Bangladesh, Belgium or Brompton. As far as I am concerned it is you that is adrift in the moral river. I'm happy to throw you a life ring, though. Why don't you encourage people to call our bluff? Encourage people who you think won't be welcome at our school to accept places that they are offered. The god of randomness being willing, offers to pupils of different backgrounds will be in proportion to applications (and I hope the anti free school lobby haven't done too much damage here). I got into the free schools movement as I saw an opportunity to improve social mobility. I don't believe that in a nation as rich as Britain a person's destiny should be prescribed by the circumstances that they are born into. I feel that we genuinly have the same destination in mind, even if we disagree about the best route. It saddens me that you can't engage in honest debate. You attack my position with slurs and unsubstantiated comment. I'm interested in what you say and I like to believe I have an open mind. I understand many of the concerns that you are raising, although I am happy that the WLFS, despite the scenarios that you present of potential abuse of power, is acting for the community as a whole. I ask the questions I ask because I actually want to know the answers. I will not blindly support all free schools. If you have evidence that some free schools are trying to reject sections of society I would support you in saying that this isn't the right thing to do. In my view my interjections have always been to keep you honest. I wish my open mind was reciprocated, is that too much to ask?

As I alluded to on a separate thread, regarding attracting students of all abilities, we are absolutely happy to have students of all abilities and students with SEN if what we are offering is what they want. It is shocking, upsetting and wrong that vocational qualifications are seen to be and seem to be easier than academic qualifications and so considered to be a dumbed down route. I personally think it is a tragedy if we allow pupils pre 16 to give up what is a golden opportunity to acquire the experience of the human race to date, they can always learn their trade when they leave school. Given life pressures, though, how likley are people to return to education for its own sake when they are older? However, I undersatnd that people have opposing views. Given that, if students take a different route through education I think it should deserve to be as well regarded as the academic route, and perhaps that means that the content and assessment of such qualifications needs to change.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 10:45

Evidence from Sweden raises concerns about religious free schools: “while the introduction of free schools has expanded the number of choices available to students and parents looking for schools to suit their particular skills and interests, the schools have also given rise to a number of concerns… One such concern is the rapidly growing number of religious free schools.”

Religious free schools in UK are supposed to offer 50% of places without reference to faith. However, this presupposes that people who are not of that faith will want to send their children there especially if there is a stated requirement for “partial immersion in Hebrew” (Haringey Jewish Primary School) or reciting Hindu scripture at the start of the day (Evington Hall, Leicester). Will parents be able to opt their children out of what is considered by the schools to be an essential part of their philosophy? Or will these schools in practice comprise one faith only?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 11:43

Charlie, in answer to your question, I would like to re-word what I said before, the process of excluding certain parents is a subtle process, which occurs in the way prospectuses are written, information is disseminated, admissions codes are written, Open Evenings are delivered. Coded messages are sent that certain types of students wouldn't "thrive" in the school. This seems to be the case with the WLFS; the curriculum offer will put off certain types of pupils. The claim that our website will brainwash parents into rejecting certain free schools is not tenable: parents make up their own minds about these things. We've always published our opinions and opposing points of view; you, Toby and your supporters have written at length here -- and eloquently too! Parents can make judgments for themselves. I am very happy to be corrected about factual errors, but I am entitled to my opinions, as is everyone else. You didn't answer my question about whether an LA-administered system -- where schools are not their admissions' authorities, where there are no aptitude tests, where there is an inclusive curriculum, where there's fair banding -- would be a good way of making the system fairer.

Francis, you have no actual evidence then? Your argument continues to rest on your supposition that certain sections of the community, presumably because of where they come from in the community, won't like a certain curriculum.

I'm not saying that LSN is brainwashing parents or that, on its own, it is having a significant affect on choices. I was making the point that I've only ever heard opponents of the WLFS say that certain kids won't be welcome there, we've gone all out to stress the opposite. Look, I'm doing it now! I'm also grateful for the opportunity that the LSN gives us to debate the issues (thanks) but I find it difficult to let misrepresentations lie.

With regard to your question: I think the first principle should be that whatever the rules are they should be followed faithfully with no gerrymandering. I can see how an LA administered system would set people's minds at ease over this. It wouldn't increase fairness, though, if schools were acting honestly in any case. I'm not sure why aptitude tests are unfair. I think if the school wants to specialise, and the whole school community will benefit from that specialism, then it is OK to ensure that you have students who will take to the specialism so long as other students still have fair entry to the school. How does the curriculum affect fairness? What is an exclusive curriculum? (Do you have an answer that is different from 'some sections of the community won't want to learn Latin'? I think we will have to agree to disagree on this or else endlessly repeat ourselves). Fair banding is selecting on academic ability, it might be nice for the school, but I'm not sure it is that fair for the pupils. In any case I understand that the fair banding system can be 'played'. As we have said, and put into practice in our admissions, we believe that the fairest and most unplayable admissions process is a lottery.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 16:50

Gerry, my question was not intended to be racist at all. It arose out of a genuine concern that the very flexible admissions policies for free schools (and academies) do not seem to have addressed the issue of parental choice for groups where making informed choices might be difficult, for a number of reasons.

And Charlie, I'm afraid there is evidence that some parents receive messages from some schools that their children are not welcome.
I'm not going to name any schools as this would be singularly unhelpful to this debate.

What would be more helpful is to address this issue by bringing it into the public domain in order to seek assurances that there will be admissions procedures which will welcome children from everywhere, no matter what their circumstances.

Gerry, you ask why these children would be of concern to me? I teach such children. I am head of the English Additional Language department in a large secondary modern school where there are 41 languages. Sadly some of the parents' stories around admissions experiences eschew the notion that cherry picking etc does not go on. It does and I'm worried that this may get worse.

At our school the parents are fortunate as the head practises a warm, open-door policy which welcomes all children. Because of his values, I believe we have a happy and successful school where the highest standards are set for the international children - including a significant number who arrive with little or no prior education. A large part of the head's success is in believing that the starting point is the individual child and, even with the current constraints that the NC imposes, trying to develop individual programmes to help all children excel. The proof is in the results. The two top scoring students in last year's GCSEs were EAL students.

Unfortunately, however, educating such children to meet their full potential is costly; and with government cuts biting everywhere, the funding for these children no longer ring-fenced, and the difficulty of helping some of the children meet the government's targets in the short time some of them have in secondary school, heads understandably are having to make choices. If we don't visit what may seem to some to be a sensitive issue, then we risk creating an underclass in our society (especially in the current economic climate) of international students who have not got the tools to go on and have successful careers.

The situation is not helped by the current lack of teacher training in EAL and also by the government view that EAL children can simply pick up English, together with new teaching styles and cultures, just by sitting in classrooms. They cannot. They need a proper programme of language focused teaching that is based on each school's curriculum. Again, a lot of schools do not have the resources to provide this and might therefore feel that they would rather not have to do so.

It's also important to stress that these students are often a huge asset to school life as they bring very rich and varied life experiences with them that they can then share. A year ago, we had an international assembly involving over 100 international students. Their theme was 'Our gifts to you'. Each 'country' presented some of the most talented people across all disciplines/ walks of life, from their heritage and they finished with symbolc 'gifts' to the head teacher to say thank you to the school for their education.

What we need is some kind of an assurance that all heads/schools will be extolling these values. It is not happening yet, even with LAs trying to monitor 'cherry picking'.

Perhaps you can see now why I posted my question.

Frances is right when he suggests that the process of exclding children is subtle. And unfortunately, in my experience most of the parents who are newly arrived here, neither have the resouces to work the system nor do they want to, for fear of jeopardising their children's future.

In terms of children taking 'tests', this may be fine where the tests can perhaps be offered in different languages and the context of such tests carefully examined to ensure that it is culturally user-friendly for the child taking the test.

Incidently, the problem with any form of selection (e.g. grammar schools) is the type of test which is heavily weighted against certain groups of students; for example the huge demand for a rich English vocabulary some of which is now quite dated. I have seen many students with other (incredible) gifts but without the financial resources to pay for private tuition, turned down by selective schools.

Andy Smithers's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 17:17


Your questions are really about general admissions policies for all schools. There was no need to target it as only an issue for Free Schools or Academies.
My closest comprehensive school admits 150 children, however 30 are admitted if they show an aptitude for art, another 30 for aptitude to learn an addittional language and 90 on a banding system. This is before one talks about children in care, siblings etc.
This is for my local authority comprehensive. Most local authority secondary schools in my area have a similarly complex admissions policy including specialisms etc.

The issues you raise therefore need to be discussed in all schools and it is in fact more likely that free schools, such as WLFS, will have fairer admissions due to the scrutiny they will be under.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 18:58

Charlie, I believe I show there's a great deal of evidence for my point that schools which are their own admissions' authority tend to cause social segregation if they're not monitored carefully. My evidence is in a new post:
I am pleased you feel that an LA administered system would be best. I too feel ambivalent about fair banding as well as lotteries. I think the goal is to have schools with diverse populations which reflect their local areas. Perhaps LAs are best placed to decide what is appropriate: fair banding, lottery, or catchment area. I certainly don't think schools should choose because you get a free-for-all, and no consistency.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 19:45

Yes, we do need clear, transparent admission policies that operate on the basis of fairness to all. You say there was no need for me to target this as an issue only for free schools and academies. However, I suggest that there will always be issues around admissions where schools/governing bodies make the final decisions rather than a more disinterested body such as an LA. I think Francis is right to point out that school admissions must be properly monitored; and so must the appeal processes as these can be skewed in favour of those families who know the ropes (and have the language skills and the contacts to make a strong case to the panels). LAs are not perfect but they are currently best placed to facilitate all this. I have also looked at an admissions policy that was posted on this site. There was a disconcerting lack of detail about how students would be chosen to fill the remaining places once those meeting the criteria in the principal categories had been offered places.

My comments also addressed the issue of choice since the purpose of the free schools is to offer more choice to all parents.
I really do want to know a bit more about how the new schools plan to go about advertising their schools to everyone in their local communities to ensure that all parents are fully aware of what's on offer and feel warmly welcomed.

Urban Head's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 21:45

Free Schools have not told any particular students they are not welcome however we need to think about them more carefully. West London No Fees School will run a fair system for those who apply - but who will apply? Lots of parents and children will be put off by the emphasis on Latin and the clear messages about vocational subjects. B Broke has carefully chosen the right feeder schools which will now attract even more of the right kind of parent who can afford to live in the right primary catchment area. Its smoke and mirrors friends. Its schools for 'people like us' rather than running the risk of ones children going to school with 'those children'

Anton Daley's picture
Sun, 13/02/2011 - 23:41

Urban Head - I think you sum the WLFS up very well. My previous comments around how the school and the 'open' events were advertised (on the HF Conservatives website) and the attempt to show that all groups from the community were aware of the session by popping into Iceland have not been responded to by anyone from the WLFS. Neither has there been a response to my point about asking parents to indicate whether a child has any SEN in advance of places being offered, despite this being outside of the Admissions Code of Practice. An initial response from Mr Young trying to cover this by referring to pupils with a statement of SEN is the only comment posted regarding this and the possibility that certain pupils with SEN would not 'fit' into the plan for every WLFS pupil to take 8-10 GCSEs before going on to A-levels or university has not been commented on. Interesting....You are also right in saying that certain primary schools appear to have been made more aware, shall we say, of the open events - this was clearly evident in the audience despite what the publicity machine would have us believe.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 09:26

In the rush to ensure at least a handful of free schools open in September 2011, the government has allowed these early projects to oversee their first year's admissions outside the LA admissions round, as most were not approved before the October closing date for secondary transfer.

The first year of intake is crucial for any school for two reasons; it paves the way for the siblings of the same families and it also 'brands' the school in a certain way in the eyes of the local community. In due course we will presumably know how many pupils eligible for FSM, with SEN and from certain minority groups were admitted ( unless this information is also going to be withheld from the public along with their budgets). It will then be very interesting to see how the intakes compare to other neighbouring schools.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 09:59

I've already answered that question in full, Anton. I refer you to our previous exchange.

We tried to advertise the meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall as widely as possible and do our best to make parents and carers from all parts of the community aware of it. Judging from the wide variety of people who turned up – over 500 – and how diverse our 445 applicants are, we succeeded.

As I understand it, if a school is chosen by a parent or carer then that person is engaging in "self-selection" which, in the eyes of Francis Gilbert, is a sin. Consequently, if a school exhibits any characteristics likely to appeal to some parents rather than others – and that would include specialising in any subject – then it is encouraging "self-selection". Even a "fair" admissions policy (which you still haven't defined, though I assume you favour straight-line distance) wouldn't eliminate "self-selection" since people who liked the look of a particular school would move to within its catchment area, as they do in the case of Fortismere and Camden School for Girls.

Hard to see how you would eliminate "self-selection" short of having the state decide where parents and carers send their children. And, in fact, that's the admissions system most of the posters on this site would like, isn't it? No private schools, no grammars, no faith schools, no academies, no free schools ... no choice whatsoever, in fact, since that's "self-selection". Just the state deciding who goes to which one-size-fits-all comprehensive with a view to maximising equality of attainment. A more accurate name for this website would be the Stalinist Schools Network.

All I can say is, thank God Michael Gove is the Secretary of State for Education and not Francis Gilbert.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 10:36

Sadly I find myself having to correct another slur by Urban Head with a factual rebuttal about our school in Wandsworth.

In terms of our admissions, the easiest choice for us would have been to go with a 'straight line' policy. But given that the school site is in a largely middle class area, this would have quickly resulted in 'selection by mortgage' - or what Barnado's called 'clusters of privilege'. Basically a shrinking catchment area.

So having looked at some length at 9 different admissions policy options, we went with what we hoped would be the simplest policy to encourage social inclusion - the use of 4 local feeder schools.

By doing so, we will have a community cross section where the Year 6 kids come from the following FSM profile - 6%, 14%, 42% and 31%. So we will end up we hope with a FSM profile not too far off from an average London school (26%).

To ensure we encourage and inform the parents and children from the higher FSM schools, we have spent some time visiting these schools. So for example, the primary with 42% FSM - we have already been to visit on separate occassions to meet: the staff, parents, head/chair of governors and best of all the pupils. We also had our leaflets translated into several ethinic languages to reach the widest number of parents as possible.

Admissions will be run through the local authority alongside the other state borough schools and of course in accordance with the admissions code.

In short, the truth is we went with a transparent/simple feeder school option to encourage a diverse intake - not the opposite.

So when one sees the front page of the Mirror ("class war") or reads above that we have "carefully chosen the right feeder schools which will now attract even more of the right kind of parent who can afford to live in the right primary catchment area" you don't know whether to laugh or cry. People who make such comments not only show their ignorance of the facts but also do parents and kids from lower income families and the like a great disservice by in my opinion attaching some sort of stigma to them. Our school is not about class, race or whatever - its about meeting a demand for a local community school that we dont currently have. A school that will be secular, non-selective and welcome all backgrounds and abilities.

If that was not the case Urban Head, why did we even bother getting our leafleats translated into Somali?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 11:12

Once again you're misrepresenting my position Toby. A few questions for you to answer. Would you be happy for the LA to take control of admissions and to stop schools becoming their own admissions' authorities, which much research shows is at the heart of the problem (cf my post about Comprehensive Future's campaign to have fair admissions)? Or at the very least, giving the School Adjudicator and Admissions' Forums the power to stop unfair practices when they see them?

I support choice within schools so that curricula are inclusive. That might mean confederating schools so that pupils have a wide selection to choose from. It's not Stalinist, it's just good cost-effective sense. The cost-effective thing for you to have done would have been to work with your local comprehensive to get the curriculum you wanted; I am sure they would have been responsive. But I think you didn't even visit your local comp before deciding to set up a whole new school.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 11:57

"Thank God Michael Gove is Secretary of State" is a statement I cannot allow to go unchallenged. Mr Gove allows disputed data to be published with no indication that the organisation (OECD) that provided the data has found flaws and therefore warned against its use; he tells lies about Pupil Referal Units (saying OFSTED judged them to be failing when OFSTED said no such thing); he ignores international data (TIMSS) which shows that English pupils are doing better than other European students because this would not fit with his contention that UK education is failing; the High Court has ruled that he abused his power; he allows freedom to some schools (academies, free schools) which he does not allow to others; the Education Bill will give the Secretary of State 50 new powers to intervene when he, and he alone, sees fit; he sends out mixed messages about teacher training (toughen it up, but allow free schools to use untrained teachers); he says all developing countries require their school leavers to pass certificates covering the subjects in the EBac (they don't).

And that's before commenting on his demeanour in Parliament when the Speaker has had to remind him that he, the Speaker, and not the Secretary of State, says when fellow MPs sit down; when the Speaker rules that Mr Gove has used unparliamentary language; when Mr Gove pads out his debate with a welter of rhetorical questions (supposedly robust debate) which mix up the acceptable things with the contentious so that if the Opposition votes against him they will be seen to reject the good and so on.

I think I have shown why Mr Gove should not be Secretary of State for anything.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 12:42

In case you think I have understated the case against Mr Gove, I would add the following to the mistakes outlined above:

1 The unseemly haste to get the Academies and Free Schools Bill through Parliament
2 The U-turns on Schools Sports Partnerships and Bookstart
3 The Building Schools for the Future shambles
4 The refusal of the DfE to answer Freedom of Information requests from, among others, the BBC.
5 The grant of nearly half a million to an organisation run by Mr Gove's ex-colleague who is then provided with work by his Department.
6 The retrospective imposition of EBac and then using it to pillory schools.

If I have forgotten anything, I should be grateful if someone could let me know.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 13:11

Now you're talking Jon - it would be fantastic if you could publish details of the 9 admissions policies you considered and what the impact on FSM % would have been on each one and what assumptions you used in calculating it.

I agree that feeder schools are better than straight line distance in this case but you have cherry-picked the schools - perhaps with good motivations for having a good mix of pupils... Or perhaps knowing that, with the exception of High View, all 3 other schools are already extremely popular with middle class parents especially in the younger years (with people vying to buy a house far enough up a particularly street to ensure admission)... Admissions to these primary schools are decided on the basis of distance so I can't see that you are avoiding the potential for "selection by mortgage" as you state above... (although I accept you may be reducing it a little by spreading it over 4 areas rather than just 1)

It is also interesting that you assume so many children in your area will continue to go to private school in your calculation of FSM % - this does seem to be cherry-picking helpful assumptions to come up with a FSM % that supports your point! Just taking the raw % of children in each feeder gives 20% and, arguably, one could adjust this down further to allow for the fact that how close you live to the Bolingbroke is still very important.

Wix is a particularly interesting example - it currently has 31% of children entitled to free school meals overall. However, the Head himself states in a letter to parents (on the school's website) that "Factually speaking we still have cohorts of children in the school who are eligible for Free School Meals; over 50% in some classes. This generally has a detrimental effect on the results, because a significant core of these children do not come to school ready to learn, because of their family circumstances; the sociology of the school is however changing so that we have a more balanced intake, which on its own will lead to improved results. In this respect, scores in the newer classes have risen substantially."

For those who don't know the area, there is a bilingual french/english stream which started in 2006 and takes 14 kids from the french private school and 14 kids from the english state school. This stream is very popular with the affluent parents nearby and you need to live within 300m to gain access (would be very interesting to know % FSM for this group). The normal english stream is much less popular and people come from up to 1.5km away (which is a large distance in Wandsworth admissions world!). Places at Bolingbroke are far more likely to go to those in the bilingual stream as they live closer to the Bolingbroke site which is the second key factor after splitting applications between feeder schools. So, 31% is a helpful headline figure for the Bolingbroke team to tout around the place but the true story will probably be quite different once the effects of the bilingual stream start feeding through from 2013! Smoke and mirrors...?

Did you consider a lottery? As far as I can see, a 1.5 mile radius of the school would still ensure local children gained access (that's 7 square miles which I believe is the area you quoted in your campaign as lacking a secondary school) but would be likely to have a mix of children similar to the typical population of Wandsworth as it takes in a broad range of areas...

Anton Daley's picture
Mon, 14/02/2011 - 18:38

Toby - I am afraid that you did not answer the question regarding pupils with SEN in full - I asked why the WLFS needed information about those with SEN (but not with a statement) in advance of offering places, when this is not in line with the Admissions Code of Practice and every other school has to gather this information once places have been offered and accepted. I can see that you will not answer this question directly but I wanted to make the point that you are 'dodging' the issue by saying that you have answered in full. With regard to your 'diverse' audience, I guess it depends on your definition of diversity and in terms of publicising your event - running up and down the aisles at Iceland (or Poundland, as stated in a later article) hardly indicates a well thought out strategic plan! I would have to say that my views on education are not as strong as the founders of this website - I don't have a problem with independent schools or grammar schools, for that matter, but what I do have a problem with is a school that suggests it is one thing when it clearly plans to be something else entirely. There is really no way that your school can be as truly comprehensive and inclusive, as you would have everyone believe, when you are going to such lengths to ensure that certain pupils are at risk of being excluded - either directly or by the methods you are using to attract a particular 'type' of pupil. It simply doesn't stack up.

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