It’s bad news for parents wanting to send their children to the planned Turing House free school. And it’s bad news for the school and its sponsors too. Despite being on the admissions list of schools accepting pupils for Year 7 entry in 2014 – and offering places just a fortnight ago – the school has had to announce that its opening will be put back by a year to 2015. Why? It’s all down to that tricky but rather essential issue of having a site on which to operate. The lack of a suitable site has dogged the free school plan since its early days. It missed out on the Clifden Road site in Twickenham when El Brute opted to give that to the new St Richard Reynolds school and alternative ideas, including setting up home at NPL in Teddington, also never materialised. Turing House did have plans for a temporary site but Schools Minister, Lord Nash, opted to defer the opening to 2015 as a result of concerns over its permanent home.
The school’s supporters have worked long and hard to try to secure a site. An independent observer might wonder where Richmond Council fits into this picture. El Brute’s decision to facilitate Clifden Road going to a voluntary aided school and its breathless descriptions of Haymarket Media’s potential involvement in redeveloping the Richmond College site at Egerton Road site (complete with community new free school) don’t seem to have rubbed off in helping Turing House secure a location. Could they have done more? We’ve no idea, but ignorant folk might suggest that a ‘parent-powered’ free school is exactly the sort of thing that the government’s schools supremo and Tracy Island resident, Michael Gove would approve of. Or rather, as Mr Gove would probably insist, it’s “exactly the sort of thing of which he would approve”.
As for those parents who had been offered places at Turing House (along with a second choice option) they’re now having to weigh up their choices and see what they can find among the existing local schools. Meanwhile a parents’ meeting is scheduled for 25th March at 7.30pm at Clarendon Hall, York House. Oh, and the Council will have to revise down the stats in its press release which showed 71% of Richmond pupils securing a place at their first choice of secondary school.
Marks out of ten? You decide.
* Turing House
If it came to a scrap between Michael Heseltine and Michael Gove, despite the age gap, you’d have to put your money on the Tory grandee rather than the Education Secretary.
If you’re not the betting type, be honest, you’d still want Hezza to win. And he bloody would too! Micky Gove might have all the fancy talk but Micky H’s is a man of action… a doer not a pontificator. It’s just a shame we’ll never get to see such a spectacle. In fact, it could be just the opposite. If things come to pass, rather than conflict we might actually witness a harmonious coming together of the Gove worldview and Hezza’s empire, Haymarket Media, currently based just down the road in Teddington.
As you very well know, the Richmond College site in Egerton Road Twickenham has been the subject of much debate. Could it accommodate a new secondary school? Could the Clarendon School for young people with special needs also move there from Hampton? Could Haymarket Media Group bring something to the party too?
The proposal now getting a more thorough airing courtesy of El Brute is for the site to be redeveloped to contain a new HQ for Haymarket Media, a new secondary school (and we’re talking a non-faith, non-selective community free school, of course) whilst still keeping the college to provide the post-16 education. It’s a bold idea and we suspect it’s exactly the sort of thing that The Govemeister-General would love – business and education coming together on one site to serve the community.
After all the brouhaha over the setting up of the St Richard Reynolds voluntary aided faith school in Twickenham, it’s interesting to see the Department for Education giving the green light for the proposed Turing House free school. The Turing House brigade who started life (not literally, of course) promoting an inclusive, community-based free school for Twickenham have jumped through a lot of hoops to get approval for their plan. Their aim is to “create an outstanding and inclusive school, with a clear focus on high performance for children from 11 to 18”. Early thinking was that the Clifden Road site in Twickenham might have proved suitable for such a school but with that unavailable, the focus moved to NPL in Teddington as the preferred location. There’s still a lot more work to be done, including working with the Government’s Education Funding Agency to properly secure a suitable site, but Turing House hopes to open its doors to its first Year 7 intake in September 2014.
* Turing House School
* Press Release
OK, so you’re bored with the same old discussions and arguments on here about new schools in the area. Even if you don’t admit it to yourself, we can still sense it from the way your eyes are already glazing over as you read these very wordzzzzz. We’ll be brief, so very brief. More brief than a lawyer, carrying a brief case whilst sporting a particularly brief pair of briefs. A bit like Michael Mansfield QC in Speedos. It’s a troubling image, you’ll surely agree.
Friday 1st March was ‘national offer day’ for places at state secondary schools. It’s probably the kind of day when the captain of the Tracy Island chess club, Michael Gove, pats himself on the back and, as a reward for a job well done, vows to make ‘O’ Level Ancient Greek a compulsory part of the national curriculum. In our fair town it was the day when many parents and their Year 6 children found out which schools they will be attending next September (well, only the children will be attending, obviously). El Brute was happy, issuing a press release to confirm that 72% of children secured places at their first choice of school and that 91% were offered a place at one of their top three preferences. That’s good news, and both figures are higher than their equivalents last year.
No one loves a consultation more than us. No one, that is, except Richmond Council. And that, oh little ones, is why they’ve just launched another one.
Now, you’re thinking to yourself, “What else can there possibly be left to consult on?” And the answer of course is… schools and education again, obvs. Truth be told, this one’s about the future of the Richmond College site in Twickenham’s Egerton Road. Richmond College is the Borough’s sixth form college (in oldspeak) and offers a wide range of academic and vocational courses as well as ‘traditional’ A levels. Although the College does get some decent results, it’s not always the destination of choice for local sixth formers, many of whom head off to Esher or Strodes Colleges to continue their education. The proposals under consideration include improving facilities and partnership opportunities at the College; moving the Clarendon school for pupils with learning difficulties and special needs from Hampton to the site; and, developing a new co-educational, non-denominational secondary school. A new secondary school? Yes folks, with Lord True and his acolytes having got the controversial exclusive Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic school safely nailed down at the Clifden Road site, they’ve decided it could be time for another conversation about meeting the growing demand for secondary school places in the Borough. As was overheard recently at Ambassador’s reception, “Your Lordship! With your school consultations you are really spoiling us
OUTSOURCING PLANS RUFFLE FEATHERS
Since 2010 Conservative led Richmond Council have been working with other boroughs developing opportunities to share services. And when it comes to the provision of children’s services, they’re getting pretty chummy with Lib Dem run Kingston.
Council offices, Twickenham
In fact, the two boroughs are establishing a jointly owned organisation, ‘Achieving for Children’, to deliver children’s services in this part of south west London. It’s headed up by Nick Whitfield, formerly of Kingston Council, more recently of El Brute and who is now Joint Director of Education and Children’s Services across the two boroughs. Moving to a situation where a jointly owned body takes on this responsibility moves both councils further down the route of becoming commissioners rather than providers of local services.
The Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) has announced that it will not appeal against the recent judicial review decision which declared El Brute’s approval of a Voluntary Aided Catholic School to be lawful. In a press release the RISC said that although there were ‘a number of aspects’ open to challenge, any appeal would not be practical on the grounds of costs and because it would only be heard after the school had offered places to children for 2013 admissions. The RISC statement says, ‘We have no desire to risk that level of uncertainty for parents and children, and it is unlikely that, even if we won an appeal, a judge would stop the schools going ahead at that stage’.
UPDATE: The judge has ruled that Richmond Council were within the law when approving the Diocese of Westminster’s proposals for two Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic Schools on the Clifden Road site in Twickenham. So, a judicial review victory for the Council and defeat for those campaigning for new borough schools to have inclusive admissions policies. The full details of Mr Justice Sales’ judgement are yet to come but the earlier than expected announcement was designed to remove uncertainty about planning for the next academic year. Richmond Council leader Lord True is “delighted”, the RISC are disappointed. Of course had the Council gone down the route of inviting free school or academy proposals as extolled by Cammo, Bojo & Co then a range of school options could have been considered and any faith based school would have had a maximum of 50% of places determined by selective criteria, unlike the 100% permitted under the special Voluntary Aided status.
Here are a few updates (both real and imaginary) to keep you up to date…
BELIEVE IN GOVE!
Imagine the scene. You’ll have to imagine it pretty hard because it never happened and almost certainly never will. We can but dream…
Filed under Council, Schools