Orleans Park School
UPDATE: A quick reminder that any comments on ending the link status need to be made by 13th January.
The great school debate continues in this most leafy part of suburban London. So what are El Brute up to now you say? Well, since you ask, two things. They’re consulting on whether to end the link school status that exists between some local (and localish) primary schools and three of the Borough’s secondaries and they’re also busy saying that everyone will be a winner when it comes to secondary education. Good news? Perhaps it is… if you can understand it all and depending on your point of view in the first place, of course.

Link School Change
El Brute’s consultation on ending link school status is currently live. Among the twickerati, the people most affected by this will be those with children at primaries which currently have a link connection with Orleans Park or Teddington Schools but don’t live close to them. But it will also have a knock on effect on admissions more generally. The other secondary school affected is Grey Court in Ham. What the link means is that children at linked primaries get a higher priority in admissions to that secondary school than pupils from non-linked schools. The result here in Twickenham is that a child at a linked school (say Archdeacon Cambridge) may get a place at Orleans Park School at the expense of a child at a non Orleans-linked school (say Trafalgar) despite that Trafalgar child living closer to OPS. Meanwhile Trafalgar has link with Teddington which can lead to Twickenham kids going there at the expense of children who attend non-linked schools over in TW11. Ending the link school status would produce a straightforward system whereby more school places are allocated on the basis of distance from the school. Simples.

Is that fairer? Probably. Well, it’s certainly more logical. Attending your nearest school seems like a pretty fair way of doing things although it will raise the usual “selection by postcode” criticisms. It won’t be good news for people who had hoped to get their children into Orleans Park through a linked school despite living on the fringes of its “catchment area”. They might find themselves looking at Twickenham Academy instead. Getting more Twickenham children into the Twickenham Academy would please El Brute who want to ensure the new academies are nice and full but its early days for Twickenham Academy and it’s still unproven. Will those Twickenham parents who had been banking on places at Orleans or maybe Teddington be happy with that outcome? We could ask some. Or, if you are one, you can add your comments below.

El Brute’s consultation is currently available for your comments and runs until 13 Jan 2012. If adopted as it stands, the changes would be effective for admissions in September 2013. This is quite a quick turnaround giving parents only a few months to consider their options. Given that El Brute are hoping that the three secondaries will convert to academy status by 2014 anyway (at which time they can start to muck about with their own admissions policies) it looks as if this could be something of a one year wonder. Is it worth the effort for a year of two of admissions? Probably not. So perhaps it’s got more to do with the other changes coming our way, which leads us on nicely…

Everyone a Winner?
At a recent council meeting the issue of secondary schools was debated yet again. And it’s great news for all, if you’re drinking Bacardi. Or rather, if you believe the Council Press Release. Plenty of places for every child, sixth forms, free schools, a Catholic secondary and a new community school (if required, of course) by 2016. A non-existent survey for this site revealed that most people just want good local schools rather than endless bogus options. The idea of choice sounds good but doesn’t always deliver in practice. School admissions criteria have to be broadly open to all although there are one or two exceptions locally in the form of Kingston’s grammar schools (exam based) and the planned RC secondary (parents attendance at Church). With limited ability to select their pupils, all these different types of school will have to try to attract the “right sort of pupil”. When this happens the good schools become the popular schools at which point the old postcode lottery kicks in again and all these specialisms (which already exist for some schools) count for next to naff all. What good is Orleans Park’s maths specialism if you live in Teddington or Teddington’s arts expertise if you live in Richmond? You’re just too far out, man.

Meanwhile the Council’s support for free schools hasn’t exactly been met with a flood of viable applications. There has been a bit of interest, the most recent being the Maharishi Free School proposed for Hampton. A school that places meditation high on its list of attributes may not appeal to all. Needless to say the Council has to sound gushing in its support but one wonders if that’s what it envisaged as being at the front of the queue when it looked for viable new free schools. Perhaps the efforts to grow support for a science and engineering focused free school is more what they had in mind. Who knows?

Meanwhile the slightly euphoric press release from the Council seems to have two purposes and one side effect. The first is to remind residents that the Council is taking education seriously. The second is to draw some of the fire from the proposal for a selective Catholic school by saying there will be plenty of good school places for everyone around the Borough. Why object to that when there are good schools for all? And the third, inadvertent side effect is to re-inforce just what a confusing state of affairs we’ve got ourselves into in this country when it comes to the type of state funded schooling we offer our children.

Consultation on Link School Status (ends 13 Jan)
Schools for All
Government page on school types

P.S. Linked Primary Schools in 2011
Orleans Park: Archdeacon Cambridge, Chase Bridge, St Mary’s, St Stephen’s, and from Hounslow The Blue Primary, Worple Primary & Ivybridge.

Teddington: Collis Primary, Sacred Heart, St John the Baptist, St
Mary’s and St Peter’s, Stanley, Trafalgar, & St Paul’s (Kingston)