Bolingbroke Academy (finally) U-turns to include our most deprived primary school as a feeder

Laura Brown's picture
In a slightly strange setting for an announcement, ARK have pledged (in the midst of a longer interview with the Evening Standard) that they will include Falconbrook Primary school in Wandsworth as a feeder school for the Bolingbroke Academy that they will sponsor.

This is after extensive campaigning by several local groups who were extremely upset that this school has been excluded from being a feeder despite being slightly closer to the school than one of the schools that was included (see previous discussion here ).

In another interesting twist of free school governance, the article says:

'Does that mean Falconbrook will now be added to the official list of feeder schools? "Yes," says Marshall. "The consultation process with the initiating parent group and the council ends in April, and while I don't wish to pre-empt it, ultimately it's up to us as sponsors to decide - and I accept that Falconbrook will become a feeder school."'

So, they are carrying on a consultation process but have ultimately already made the decision anyway... And by the phrase "I accept" he hardly sounds that thrilled but nonetheless, I wouldn't want to argue with any of that in this case as I am so pleased that the local campaigning on this has gone some way to stopping this free school from being the somewhat exclusive enclave that it looked like becoming...

The next part of the article says:

'So Ark would withdraw, then, if one parent group - described in the media as bankers - insisted on excluding Falconbrook? "That depiction is completely unfair," insists Marshall. "Of the 3,000 parents backing the school, only a handful work in the City, and some of those are secretaries.'

He doesn't seem to answer the question about the views of the parent group on this so hopefully Jon de Maria will be along shortly to give the plan to include Falconbrook his endorsement.
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Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 20:45

I'm very interested in what other questions this might raise as they seem to be admitting that the process has been flawed.

For example, within the applications from each feeder school, should places be allocated by way of lottery rather than based on who lives closer? For example, even for Belleville pupils, the less affluent would generally live further away from the site and so the admissions policy is still skewed towards the more affluent end of pupils.

Going further, why have feeder schools at all (other than to ensure that the parent group's kids get in) - should there, in fact, be a full lottery system within 1.5 miles?

Perhaps a complete rethink is in order from those involved?

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 21:09

I think feeder schools can work well, if they are introduced with the consent of all schools in the local area, but no school should be allowed to arranges its admissions semi selectively, and unilaterally, without local consultation. The abolition of the admissions forums in the current Education Bill will make this situation much worse for all parents.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 20:51

This is a real triumph for local campaigning Laura.You should all be very proud of the way you have shone a light on the way the free schools try to arrange their admissions to suit themselves. Ark seems to be quite worried about how this story might have affected its reputation for helping disadvantaged pupils in deprived areas. The real mystery is why they got involved with this bunch in the first place. I still find this phrase 'ultimately it's up to us as sponsors to decide' (about admissions) very troubling. Surely admissions should be a matter for consultation with the local community and who exactly is the sponsor in this case - the parent campaigners or Ark?
Meanwhile Mr Marshall parrots the usual rubbish about only academies helping disadvantaged communities, wilfully ignoring the evidence of the many maintained schools that do this well, and have done for the past decade and, according to the TES last week, getting better EBacc results than many academies, including those run by Ark.

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 21:01

I love to hear about local successes against the injustices present within some free school propositions. Congratulations!

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 21:07

Both the Bolingbroke and Rivendale stories are examples of how other parents, affected by free schools in their areas, can make their voices heard. I predict there will be a lot of this in the next few years although I don't doubt the amount of time and energy it takes on your part.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 21:16

I can see that feeder schools could be work well in some cases. I think the feeder school policy in this case would work better if admissions weren't then based on distance from the school for each feeder school group of applicants which does still stack the chances against the less affluent kids given the choice of school location in such an expensive place to buy a house! It would be great if they published some analysis of the impact of different options so that the local people being consulted are well informed when they give an opinion.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 23:06

We should point out that the admissions consultation has not concluded to date as Laura herself has pointed out. Equally we are not aware of anyone admitting that anything has been flawed. To be very clear - NO outcome has been decided and we do not agree that there has been a lot of local support for a re-think. The December consultation supported the admissions policy as it stands. Both Highview and Wix are above the London and Wandsworth average % for FSM while Belleville is at the UK average. No surprise Fiona from you with a typical snide remark about why ARK "got involved with this bunch in the first place" - you don't know anything about us and that sort of comment just shows the type of person you are and your ignorance about why we are promoting a local state school here in Wandsworth.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 08/03/2011 - 08:41

I think most people following the saga of the Bolingbroke Academy, and reading comments on other websites like the Nappy Valley, would be left with the impression that this parent promoter group is seeking to use free school status to socially engineer the intake of the new school. This is at odds with the Ark philosophy in other areas so not altogether surprising that the organisation's leadership seems uncomfortable. However I am still not clear who is in charge here - Ark or the parent promoters? Either way the Bolingbroke Academy is raising a lot of important issues about the way admissions can be used ( and misused) in free schools.

Sarah's picture
Mon, 07/03/2011 - 23:14

If a local authority behaved like this during a consultation it would be accused of having predetermined the matter and would be leaving itself open to a claim of maladministration. Surely the point of a consultation is to hear ALL the views BEFORE making a decision. I think anyone that wanted to challenge their process would be able to drive a coach and horses through it.

Laura Brown's picture
Tue, 08/03/2011 - 07:49

Sorry Jon but the article is pretty clear that one outcome has been decided:

'Does that mean Falconbrook will now be added to the official list of feeder schools? “Yes,” says Marshall'

I'm not sure Mr Marshall could have been much clearer unless you are saying that he has been totally misrepresented. It must be very tricky for the parent group and ARK to negotiate on this matter as they have stated their aim to be helping disadvantaged children and you have stated your aim as being providing a school for local children from some of the most affluent parts of Wandsworth. Not natural bedfellows I guess... And, Mr Marshall seems to suggest that ARK are in charge anyway : "ultimately it’s up to us as sponsors to decide".

Are we to take it from your remarks that you do not support the inclusioon of Falconbrook?

Joan Gibbs's picture
Mon, 04/07/2011 - 13:14

I am a working single parent with a Year 5 child who goes to Primary School in Victoria, as I was working near there for many years, and my childcare options were limited due to a low income (I get working tax credit). I've lived (& child)! 3 minutes walk away from Bolingbroke Academy for the last 18 years, but in spite of at least two of Ark's other academies, (Globe & Burlington), operating a distance-related entrance policy, my child isn't eligible for a place.

Caz's picture
Fri, 12/08/2011 - 09:02

Most people are very much in the dark about what free schools and academy schools are actually about. It seems that ARK is behind this one.

It is essential to read the Schillings solicitors letters with respect to what Ark are actually about. Also essential viewing is the youtube video 'Ark School, Academies and Eugenics'.

Google 'ARK EIM Schillings' or go to the following links. (One of the very few places on the internet where these documents are available.)


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