School Update: Does it all add up?

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.

But there’s a weird thing too. And that weird thing is that places at St Richard Reynolds, the new Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic School, were offered to children who, not only didn’t have it as a first choice school, but in some cases didn’t have it on their list at all. Eh? Yes, you’re correct, the inference from that is that St RR was undersubscribed. Most people seem confident the school will become a success – we hope it will be – but cast your mind back to the campaign to get it established in the first place; thousands of petition signatories, the Blue Baron and others in York House at pains to point out the huge level of pent-up demand, the rejection of suggestions that 50% of places should be open to all rather than be allocated on faith-based criteria. Against that background it’s odd that the school’s 150 or so Year 7 places seem to be so undersubscribed. Sure, not everyone supporting the proposal happens to have a child ready to go there in September 2013 but it does seem a little bit weird. Perhaps it was first night nerves about a not-yet-open school, or uncertainty caused by the judicial review, or even that the end of the ‘link status’ improved the chances of children leaving local RC primaries gaining places at the popular (and oversubscribed) Orleans Park and Teddington schools. Whatever the reason there does seems to be a disconnect between the Council line about the need for the new VA school and what just happened. Ah well, we’re sure the Council must know best. Surely?

Meanwhile the local free school brigade are making progress with their plans. The folks behind Turing House School (as it’ll be called) have been invited to the Department of Education for an interview about their application. Although they had initially been eyeing up sites in Twickenham, the current preferred location is at NPL in Teddington. The meeting at the DoE is a positive sign and if things continue to progress, we could see the new school open in September 2014. If it does eventually get the go-ahead, it will be interesting to see how Turing House fares in next year’s national offer day. The meeting with the Ministry takes place on March 8th.

And of course, if you want to comment on the Council’s plans the Egerton Road site, presently home to Richmond College, you’ve only got until 11 March to do it. One of the components in that plan is to use part of the site for a new non-denominational secondary school, most likely a free school, which would help tackle the shortage of secondary places that is building up in the Borough. Sounds pretty sensible from where we are now.

There are plenty of challenges around providing sufficient primary school places too, both now and increasingly so over the next few years. Some schools have taken on additional classes and the new St Richard Reynolds will also be taking on a class at its Clifden Road site. National offer day for primary school places is 17th April.

* Richmond Council Press Release
* Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign
* St Richard Reynolds Catholic College
* Turing House School
* twickerati item on Richmond College site consultation


Filed under Local Issues & News, Schools

14 responses to “School Update: Does it all add up?

  1. BSTwick

    Follow the link for an account of the Turing House interview today …

  2. WalkinthePark

    I am sure the Council do know best and it is perfectly acceptable to have hundreds of parents denied their first preference of Orleans, Waldegrave and Orleans whilst having invested millions in the much desired St RR when only 67 families desire it enough to make it first preference. At least one of the families offered St RR when it wasn’t a preference live in Hampton, much closer to Hampton and Twickenham Academy than St RR so it appears they are now oversubscribed too. Just as well Catholic families have opted to continue with all those impossible journeys to out of borough schools because otherwise the Council would have had to eat their words about having spare capacity on this side of the river until 2017 this year instead of one year soon….

    Good luck to the Turing House team, we need you

    RISC have issued a press release which gives parents another perspective

    • George

      If that figure of 67 for first choice preferences is correct then that’s pretty embarrassing for the Council and the Diocese of Westminster. I’m sure the school will become a good one but the lack of support for it in its first year does not look great. It also means that there could be quite a few non-RCs attending, something previously unacceptable to those who rejected the idea that 50% of places should be non-faith based, in line with what would have been the case had it been a free school or academy.

    • Lesley Dove

      Yes we are one of the families in Hampton offered the Catholic school, totally against our wishes, not on our list and never would have been which means this is a very stressful time for us as we thought HA at the end of our street (or otherwise maybe Twickenham Academy, only 1.1 miles away) was the default if we did not get any of our 4 preferred schools! But of course the council knows best.. oh yes.. attempting to force a child from a non-religious family into a Catholic School, which will happen over my dead body! I hope they can sort out these problems for ALL the concerned families in good time!

    • Emily

      You are able to put 6 choices down for schools, so did you decide not to use your last 2 options?
      If so, you can hardly blame the council for giving you another in-borough choice.
      There are spaces at both RPA and TA so no one will be ‘forced’ to go to St RR if they do not wish to go.

      If you wanted HA then you really should have put it as one of your preferences!

    • Lesley Dove

      We did not “want” HA but expected it to be the default as it has never been oversubscribed before. Looks like we might get it and otherwise definitely can have Twickenham Academy, and we know that now, but the fact remains that choice is an illusion as we put on the list schools not too terribly far away!

    • Lesley Dove

      RPA is very far from us, lots of out of borough schools are nearer as well as all the others in the borough, so why was it even mentioned by you to illustrate presumably your point that we have choices? I just noticed it was mentioned. Also we did NOT choose on our form any schools that were a ridiculous distance away. Since most families do get one of their top 3 or 4 choices we had no reason to think we would not get one of ours! I’d really appreciate not being judged for the way I filled in my form and putting only 4 choices which I am sure is not unusual! I have illustrated by my experience fairly well that real choice is an illusion and for the record we put down Thamesmead, Heathland, Tiffin Girls, and Teddington (yes mostly out of borough but not stupidly far away).

    • Anonymous

      I think the important word here is ‘choice’ – call me cynical but I think the increase to 6 is purely to make Council stats look good, so they can turn around and say they met one of your 6 choices. If you are forced to put down schools you don’t want just to make up the numbers it’s not really a choice is it?

  3. BSTwick

    You forgot to mention the rising number of children leaving our maintained primary schools over the next few years. Here are the figures from the 2012 School census data:
    2013: 1710 children leaving year 6
    2014: 1854 children leaving year 6
    2015: 1903 children leaving year 6
    2016: 2094 children leaving year 6
    2017: 2168 children leaving year 6
    2018: 2302 children leaving year 6
    Notice a trend?

  4. twickerman

    I assume there is a lack of faith in the Baron True Blue school! 😉

  5. Mumto1plus2

    More news came my way today. Apparently, Orleans Park school, Twickenham will get a sixth form from Sept 2014.