Catholic School Consultation (now with added science)

Clifden Road Site, Twickenham

[UPDATE: If you want to express interest in the proposals for a new community secondary then you need to do it by 24th. It does not involve a commitment. See end of item for links.]

Well, Richmond Council said they’d consult on their intention to establish a Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic secondary school in the Borough and now they are. After the petition wars and great Council chamber debates of 2011, and not forgetting the gangs of placard waving supporters (of both sides) outside York House, the next step in the process is finally underway. But just like an episode of the classic cartoon series Wacky Races we’ve got a late entrant appearing out of nowhere just as we approach the finish line.

Richmond Conservatives have stated their longstanding commitment to setting up a Roman Catholic secondary school in the Borough. Apparently we are one of only two London Boroughs not to have a Catholic secondary. Ergo, we need one. But of course this won’t just be any Catholic secondary. It will be a Voluntary Aided (VA) Catholic Secondary. (And it might well have a primary school attached too). This VA status means the local authority pay all the running costs and 90% of the capital costs but the school decides who can and can’t attend. Faith-based admissions criteria will obviously take precedence. As a result, we could see RC children attending from further afield before any other local children get a look in. In the Council’s world, the ideal place for this school is in Clifden Road, Twickenham…

One of the possible stumbling blocks for the school has been overcome now that Michael “New Royal Yacht” Gove has given the RC Diocese of Westminster approval to pursue the idea. The RC DoW are currently running their own consultation (ending 17 Feb) to see if they really, really do want a school in Richmond although the final decision lies with the local Council.

Meanwhile El Brute’s own consultation (ending 16 March) is a mix of seeking views on the Catholic school idea and on the use of the Clifden Road site more generally. Perhaps one of the most telling aspects in the questionnaire is when it regularly points out that if the Council were to set up a non-faith “community school” then, under the provisions of the Education Act, it would need to be an academy. In other words, any new school ought to be an academy (or a free school) with an open admissions policy apart from this one which has extra special status because the Council flippin’ well says so. “Pulling up the drawbridge” seems like a reasonable analogy.

Demand for school places in the Borough is growing. This is especially true at primary school level and, making the bold assumption that children get older over time, this will soon flow through to the secondary school system. The government has made a great thing about academies and free schools providing choice, raising standards, and having inclusive admissions policies. Perhaps our own local authority should put that to the test.

Community School Alternative?
Amid all of this, arriving on the scene at the eleventh hour, there is growing momentum for a new community school in Twickenham. It would be a free school and, through having a specialism in science, its backers believe it could provide an option for children wanting to focus on these subjects within a broad curriculum. It points out that Waldegrave School already has a science specialism but as we know, boys aren’t particularly welcome there hence their idea for a mixed community school in downtown ‘Nam. Expressions of interest from prospective parents are required by 24th February. Whatever you think about the national education policy of devolving the future of schooling to companies, faith groups and collectives of super-keen parents, the establishment of a community school with a science focus seems to be just as valid as a plan for a Catholic school.

The whole free school thing already provides for the establishment of faith schools. Them’s the new rules. Any Roman Catholic secondary should go into the mixer with the proposed Twickenham community school, the Marharishi school in Hampton and the rest of the free school ideas. All should have an open admissions policy and the ability to stand or fall on their own merits. The Council should not be pushing hard to give a special status to one particular school, finding a site for it and supporting an admissions policy that is more exclusive than those of the other existing or proposed schools in the Borough.

* Richmond Council’s Clifden Road / Catholic School Consultation (runs until 16 March 2012)
* Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign
* New Local School For Twickenham (wants expressions of interest by 24 Feb 2012)
* Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster Consultation Page (runs to 17 Feb 2012)
* Wacky Races (YouTube)


Filed under Council, Local Issues & News, Schools

9 responses to “Catholic School Consultation (now with added science)

  1. I should have added that, despite this major legal issue, the Council is ploughing on with its consultation. So it’s important that everyone who wants to see something other than exclusive Catholic schools on the Clifden Road site for the next 125 years gives their input. Here’s the link:

    Anyone who wants to support and keep in touch with this campaign can sign up on the RISC website

  2. Mr Gorsky.

    Still nothing about the new community school proposal in the Richmond and Twickenham Times.

    Is this not news enough for them? Or are they deliberately ignoring the hottest local news story since the sorting office moved?

    • Simon H

      Don’t get me started on the R&TT. They’ve almost completely ignored the Heathrow flight-path trial, too.

  3. For fuNk’s sake: do we (the residents) actually want this, or not?! Hit the “thumbs-up” icon on this comment for “yes”.

  4. Anon

    once again i find myself asking the question, who voted for these mugs? Seriously, in 2012 we are being asked to support the criteria for a quality education being based on a medieval cult. Sharp elbowed parents of C of E stock will no doubt be brushing up on the hail marys to get the kids in. Well , 2 words,St Benedicts.

    Not for the first time in a month i shake my head at the shear arrogance of this local authority and can only hope the turkeys continue to vote for christmas.

  5. A couple of points of clarification here:
    1. Chris Squire says “…However this clause [the new rule requiring the Council to seek to establish an academy] does not come into force until Gove as SofS decides it should, which he hasn’t yet done.” In fact it came into force on 1st Feb, with a provision for proposals already in the pipeline.

    2. The proposal from the RC church is for both a primary school and a secondary. Their “Pre-Statutory Consultation” document is very misleading. They’ve decided to make a minor concession by allowing “up to” a third of the intake at the primary school to be non-faith-based, but selected on distance from the school. These children will then also have a priority at the secondary. They claim this means “up to 150 community places” will be available. It’s hard to see where this number comes from. And what they don’t say is that the primary will only take 30 children a year, while the secondary – which will have no “community” places – will take 150 a year.
    So in 2013, the first year of intake, there could be “up to” 10 community children at the primary out of 30, but zero at the secondary out of 150. (And of course any of these “community” places could be taken by children of Catholics living near the school.).
    So at secondary level there will be zero pupils other than those selected because they have Catholic parents from 2013 to 2020, then a max of 10 pupils could come in from the primary (that’s under 1.5% of the 5×150 total at the secondary) rising to an absolute max of 50, or 6.5%, of the secondary pupils by the time the first lot from the primary finish their GCSEs in 2025.
    And the church-controlled governing bodies can change the admissions policies effectively whenever they want. So even the 10 places per year at primary is not guaranteed.
    Still, I guess “Thou shalt not big up thy token concessions” does not appear in Canon Law, so that’s ok then.

  6. Clause 37 of the Education Act 2011 requires the education authority to hold a competition for an academy when a new school is required. However this clause does not come into force until Gove as SofS decides it should, which he hasn’t yet done.

    ‘Clause 37 gives effect to Schedule 11 which makes amendments to Part 2 of EIA 2006 in order to give precedence to proposals for academies where there is a need for a new school . . The changes include a new section 6A . . placing a duty on local authorities to seek proposals for the establishment of an academy where there is a need for a new school in their area . . ‘(Parliament briefing); it simply says: ’37 Establishment of new schools: Schedule 11 (establishment of new schools) has effect.’

    SCHEDULE 11: Establishment of new schools:

    ‘Amendments to Part 2 of EIA 2006:
    1 Part 2 of EIA 2006 (establishment, discontinuance and alteration of schools) is amended as follows.
    2 Before section 7 insert—
    “6A Requirement to seek proposals for establishment of new Academies
    (1) If a local authority in England think a new school needs to be established in their area, they must seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy.’

    82 Commencement:
    ‘(1) The following provisions come into force on the day on which this Act is passed— . .
    (2) The following provisions come into force at the end of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed— . .
    (3) The other provisions of this Act come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint.’

    Clause 37 falls into section 3 ‘Other’. So it is the law of the land but not yet in force.

    • Afraid the above comment is not correct. Section 6A was brought into force by The Education Act (Commencement No.2 and Transitional and Savings Provisions) Order 2012 which was made on 12 January 2012.

      Article 3 of the Order brings into force section 6A on 1 February 2012. Article 4 contains transitional provisions. Paragraph (b) provides that, despite the coming into force of section 6A, that section shall not have effect in relation to a case where ”proposals have been published … by any persons under section 10(1) or (2) of the EIA 2006 (publication of proposals with consent of the Secretary of State) before 1st February 2012”.

      In other words, the new regulations are in force. The only relevant exception is for cases where proposals for a Voluntary Aided school had already been published before 1st Feb. The Catholic Diocese did not publish statutory proposals by that date. So the new rules apply.