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.
Tag Archives: schools
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.
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. 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…
Richmond Council’s support for a Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic School in the Borough suffered a blow this week when the High Court gave permission for a judicial review of the Council’s decision to approve the plans. The legal action against the Council is being brought by the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) and the British Humanist Association (BHA). The RISC is opposed to the Voluntary Aided school where places would be allocated on faith-based criteria set by the Church.
El Brute were clearly not impressed by this piece of news and in a terse press release Council Leader Lord True said, “I am disappointed that despite the clear, democratic decision that has been taken by our community, the national British Humanist Association and its local acolyte, have moved forward with their campaign”. Local acolyte? Bam! In your face, RISC! Bet you don’t get press releases like that in Tower Hamlets! The acolyte bit is a reference to RISC main man Jeremy Rodell who is indeed a humanist but is always at pains to point out how the RISC draws its support from people with a diverse range of beliefs and faiths but who share the view that any new school should have an open admissions policy.
The crux of the RISC’s argument is that El Brute’s decision to give the go ahead to a Voluntary Aided school on the Clifden Road site in Twickenham should not have been taken without first seeking applications for academies or free schools. The Council’s view is that its previous consultations have demonstrated clear support for the school and that it acted appropriately. A key point will be whether the new Voluntary Aided school is ‘needed’ as opposed to simply being wanted or desired. When approving the school plans earlier this year the Council was careful to argue that the school was part of a long standing commitment to provide the local Catholic community with its own school rather than as a response to a the genuine, growing demand for school places in the Borough. However, in accepting the application for the judicial review the judge said it was arguable that the Council’s consultation was based on a decision that the provision of additional school places was necessary and, if so, the provisions of the Act (requiring academies and free schools proposals to be sought) should have been applied. This will now be put to the test in the judicial review.
Although fighting a legal action might not sound like the best use of taxpayers’ money, one might also argue that it’s important to be crystal clear that any new school fully complies with the provisions of the Education Act.
The judicial review is expected to be heard in October.
And in other news from the dark corridors of York House…
El Brute has announced that it’s going to put a further £250k into improving local parks in addition to its previously announced spend of £3.7m over three years. The intention is to further improve facilities in the Borough’s green spaces. The view from Twickerati Towers is that as well as the usual kind of stuff, El Brute should capitalise on the Olympic goodwill legacy thingy by painting running tracks in every park so that we can all pretend to be Usain Bolt, Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis whenever the mood takes us. Cheap, simple and, who knows, possibly even effective.
Waldegrave takes Academy Status
Waldegrave and Teddington Schools have both now converted to academy status. Of course, academy status used to be code for ‘failing school’ but times have changed and it’s now many council’s preferred approach to education provision for existing establishments and, where free schools don’t materialise, for new schools too. Receiving funding from central rather than local government breaks the direct link between the council and the provision of education in these schools but also gives the schools greater autonomy over how they run their affairs and how they contract and manage their staff. Twickenham Academy, is already an academy – the clue’s in the name – and Orleans Park School is expected to follow suit either later this year or in 2013.
* Council Press Releases
Wondering what the latest was in the ol’ secondary school debate, were you? Fear not because we are able to bring you a brief and possibly quite inaccurate update. It’s certainly preferable to an accurate but overly long one, that’s for sure*.
The Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, with assistance from the British Humanist Association, is pushing ahead with its legal challenge to El Brute’s decision to support a voluntary aided Roman Catholic school Twickenham. The issue is a divisive one but El Brute press on regardless. In this brave new world of free schools and academies (where a maximum of 50% of places can be faith based) the decision to pursue a voluntary aided school which gives the Church rights to select all pupils according to faith seems out of kilter with current education policy as well as the views of many people in the borough. Under the Education Act, proposals for free schools and academies should be explored before going down the voluntary aided route, something not done in this case and made a tad more bizarre given the Council’s own statement that it is “encouraging schools within the borough to convert to academy status, within the framework offered by the recent broadening of the Government’s academies programme”. Obviously some Councillors know better. El Brute’s decision is now being put to the test by the RISC and BHA through the legal system with a judicial review being sought. As part of their initial response the Council has asked for names of people against whom costs could be enforced, suggesting they’re not in the mood to compromise on this issue any time soon.
Meanwhile the New School For Twickenham brigade received a set-back. Their bid to get approval for a new free school in Twickenham did not get the go-ahead for a 2013 opening from the Department of Education. The campaign had also set its eyes on Twickenham’s Clifden Road site (now bagged by the RC school, of course) as a possible location, although other option were being explored. The school would have been, and of course may still become, an inclusive local school but for the moment it’s a case of “carry on campaigning” with a view to getting approval in the next round. Down the road in Hampton, the plans for a Marharishi School also failed to get the Gove-ahead.
And finally, in case you didn’t spot it a month or so ago, El Brute is proceeding with its plans to re-introduce sixth forms to the borough’s schools by September 2014. Some see this as an expensive and unnecessary exercise, others as a move to widen the choice for post-16 education in the borough from just one single option to more than just one single option.
* not necessarily true