This private school 'won't change a thing' when it opts into the state sector but what about its selective admissions?

Fiona Millar's picture
Note this paragraph in the Guardian's piece about private schools 'opting in' to the state sector:

"Parents of children at Moorlands, a £5,000-a-year preparatory school in Luton, bought flowers for staff when they heard fees were being abolished, says the principal, Andrew Cook, proudly. "We don't want to change one aspect of what we do; 18 is our maximum class size. We believe our particular traditional brand of education works with children from all social backgrounds."

How will this school be able to maintain class sizes of 18 if it is funded on the same basis as other schools? Moreover take a look at the school's existing admissions criteria in the PDF here marked Main School Parent Handbook:

a) All candidates (internal or external) are assessed on their aptitude and
ability, with reference to no other criteria.
b) All external candidates for admission to the School shall attend an
informal assessment morning, bring their most recent report with them.
c) Prep school applicants (age 7+) may be required to sit an entrance
examination in English and Mathematics.
d) Where the number of eligible external candidates exceeds the number
of places available, a waiting list shall be established.
e) References shall be sought from schools/nurseries currently being
attended by external candidates.
f) Pupils are admitted to the School on the understanding that their
promotion in due course through the School depends upon a
satisfactory record of conduct and achievement.


Will the admissions criteria be one of the features of Moorlands that won't be changing? If so how does this square with Michael Gove's claim that all free schools must abide by the Code of Practice on School Admissions, which rules out use of references, school reports and selection by ability( in all but existing grammar schools)?
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Melissa Benn's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 09:22

Fiona, both you and Francis have highlighted the same interesting piece in The Guardian today, about government plans to help struggling private schools come in under the tax payer's umbrella.

I was surprised that the piece didn't ask more questions about the admissions policies of the free schools, as they now will be, particularly in terms of academic selection, and how they will be able to continue to provide small classes.

Clearly, the head of Moorlands has received certain guarantees that he will be able to continue with class sizes of 18. But how?

More generally, as the head of a struggling local school said, this policy clearly reveals the underlying values of government school policy in general ; 'to shift resources from the poor to the relatively rich.' It's quite breathtaking that they dare to claim that this is a schools policy that promotes the interests of poor children..... good for Kevin Courtney, who spells it out clearly every time.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 09:49

If it is true that the government is effectively going to start covering the fees of parents who are already in schools that required a selective entry test, then it does show that all their lofty rhetoric about fair admissions is just hot air.

I had assumed that private schools opting in would only receive funding for future pupils who came in under new, fair admissions criteria.

Surely someone needs to clarify this?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 09:53

It really is time now for the DfE to acknowledge that it is both reasonable and in the public interest for the funding agreements for free schools to be published. Their refusal to do so only heightens suspicion that approval is being given to schools without them having to abide by Codes or regulations stipulated at application stage by the DfE. Why the secrecy?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 10:14

Another quotation from the article: an independent school “admits that falling rolls and pressures facing cash-strapped parents in meeting the cost of fees (currently £6,000-£8,800 a year) are driving the bid to become a free school.”

So the taxpayer must step in to help “cash-strapped parents”. This raises the questions, “Will the government continue to fund the school at the same rate as the present fees? Will the school continue to receive between £6,000 and £8,000 a year per child?

georgina emmanuel's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 19:32

This is scandalous. Is Gove really intending to make it possible for fee paying parents to continue to send their children to fee paying schools but, in effect, pay the fees for them?

If this is the case then could Gove be very clear about the future admissions criteria for these schools so as to ensure they are open to all?

Or, could he pay for the same conditions - i.e. small classes - for all state school pupils?

Tokyo Nambu's picture
Wed, 13/04/2011 - 16:30

"So the taxpayer must step in to help “cash-strapped parents”. "

That's emotive, but something of a false heartstring to tug on. Suppose, for the sake of argument, every private school in the country went bust tomorrow morning. There are about 8 million children of school age in Britain, of whom about 11% are in private schools, so, plus or minus, there are a million children in fee-paying education. The rate's much higher in London, of course. It would be interesting to see how the education system would cope with a million extra children in state schools, without a penny in extra revenue --- indeed, a reduction in revenue, as it's hardly rocket science to see the obvious destination for money no longer going out in school fees would be (income tax exempt) pension contributions rather than (income tax paid) school fees.

So if Gove does prop up failing private schools, that's bad, and he should be stopped from doing so. And if as appears here you have free schools being encouraged to maintain non-compliant entry policies, that's very bad indeed, although the issue of "pre-existing" grammar status (as for, say, assorted KE Foundation schools) may make this a more subtle legal debate than you're implying. But the underlying problem is that if one effect of the recession is the decrease in people's marginal willingness to pay school fees, as one might expect, that may improve matters for people who point to the unfairness of a divided system, but the basic financial and logistic problem of what you do with the outflow is substantial. Government will have to pick up the pieces one way or another.

SaraGaines's picture
Thu, 14/04/2011 - 07:15

Admissions policy for free schools is clear, they must be non-selective. But in the case of these private schools switching to become free schools their existing selected pupils stay. Moorlands in Luton has also written to parents to tell them siblings will be prioritised in future admissions. So it will take a while before the schools really have a balanced intake.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 16/04/2011 - 15:23

Perhaps Moorlands will now clarify this themselves on their website after Easter

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