Free School Launch Setback

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.

LINK:
* Turing House

19 Comments

Filed under Local Issues & News, Schools

19 responses to “Free School Launch Setback

  1. westwick

    There was a rumour that the school would go on that bit of open land on Fulwell Golf Course behind the Amida Centre. That would be popular with families in fulwell and Hampton hill. It would cause a stink with the dog walkers, but given the rest of that whole golf course site is given over to either playing golf, buying plants, or private gym facilities, they would actually be doing the area a favour by turning that last little bit into something the wider community could benefit from.

    • Eh316

      Council owned isn’t it? They won’t want a big fight about that before the election. Parents v dogwalkers, that could be interesting.

    • dogwalker

      I’m a parent and a dog walker, and would be much happier walking through that plot if there was a school on it, provided they left a path. Its seedy when its quiet, which is why everyone walks their dogs across the golf couse instead.

      Assuming they left the trees up along the Uxbridge Road it would be well hidden from view (more to the point, the Sainsbury’s would be well hidden from view from the perspective of the school, and the trees would keep out the traffic noise).

      If the kids could also use the Amida tennis courts and pool during off-peak times, that would be even better.

    • Walkinthepark

      Another dog walker here and one who got involved in the fight to keep the golf course accessible when the Amida started locking it at night. However it was the golf course the dogwalkers wanted access to, the scrubland is not a nice environment and is just a venue for anti social behaviour that dog walkers rush across to get to the golf course. As long as that access remains I can’t se anyone but the hardened NIMBYs objecting. The borough needs two new schools to accommodate the pupil bulge that si coming, they have to go somewhere.

    • Eh316

      Not sure there’ll even be any nimbys. Not really in anyone’s back yard is it? Except Amidas.

    • sweeneyted

      It wont be NIMBY’s objecting. It will be those wishing to preserve the good progress that both Twickenham and Hampton Academies are making. If a school opens on that site parents will choose it over the academies. There is enough space at Egerton Road if the college is moved, it doesn’t need such a large space anymore.

    • Eh316

      Seems to me the school with no permanent site is now spoilt for choice! Any more suggestions for Lord Nash?

    • Walkinthepark

      *sweeney* as pointed out after your other post, the admissions point for Turing agreed by the Council and DofE will be just by the green, the midpoint between existing academies. Once a permanent site is found that may change to include some proportion selected on distance from the new site but that will be subject to consultation with all parties and doubtless will take into account the latest position on the catchment distance of HA and TA. By then perhaps TA and HA will have made good enough progress to have the confidence of a greater number of parents. Whilst at the moment there are parents who are very satisfied, OFSTED are not and parental demand is static, 5% up at TA and 5% down at HA, in contrast to 46% up at Richmond Park Academy and in spite of over 200 more applications this year than last. Even so both are almost full. Quite honestly if they are not able in a couple of years time to improve their OFSTED and attract parents in preference to a new school then someone, I am not sure who, should be suggesting drastic action and questioning the Swedish sponsors methods and role, and certainly it would be immoral to change the plans for a popular school that is in demand amongst parents in favour of unpopular schools which are overdue proving their worth.

      It has also been pointed out to you that Richmond College is still needed, there are not enough places in the new sixth forms. Whatever the publicity given to incidents at the college every year students go there from all schools in the borough including private schools like LEH who already have sixth forms, because of the wider range of subjects they offer. This incidentally will be particularly true of TA whose sixth form will only be offering a choice of 7 A levels and two vocational streams.

      It makes no sense to cram two secondary schools, one 11-18, one 11-16 and a college meeting the needs of students who cannot be accommodated in sixth forms on to the Egerton site, if there are potential other sites in Twickenham and Teddington.

    • sweeneyted

      The land on Fulwell Golf Course behind the Amida is tight up to the border of the borough. Consequently the catchment area of a school on this site would be 50% in a neighbouring borough and would have a limited benefit/cost ratio for LBRUT. Also it is in close proximity to two other schools (Twickenham/Hampton Academies) and would possibly undermine their progress. Accessibility and travel for children from the areas in LBRUT where a shortfall has been identified would also be an issue. The Egerton Road site is the obvious solution. It has the space to meet the requirements for 11-16yrs schooling and the remnants of the College activities could be moved to another site with relative ease compared to trying to find space for two new schools

    • dogwalker

      sweeney, I’ve read on another site that the school has an admissions point in Fulwell, and admissions would be split between that and the school site.

      Turing will have its own sixth form so I don’t think the college site would be the best place for it at all. The college isn’t being closed, it’s just reducing in size. The new sixth forms aren’t big enough for everyone. Plus, the college has an Ofsted Outstanding rating, so there’s no argument for closing it whatsoever. There will always be students who prefer to go to college at 16 than stay on at school sixth form.

  2. George

    The late ruling by the DfE is clearly a massive disappointment for some parents. It’s strange that the Council do seem to be lukewarm in their support for this school compared to others. Or is that just my perception? Perhaps they want to ensure there’s plenty of pressure on places at Twickenham and Richmond Park Academies & St Richard Reynolds before another alternative is made available. Any school at Egerton Road is a few years off so perhaps that’s why it can get their support & publicity… plus the plan for it to be part of a bigger site development.

    • Eh316

      Not surprised the council were luke warm about Turing given that they originally wanted the Clifden Road site . How impudent of them to suggest it! I expect they’ve got over that now they’ve suddenly realised how popular the school is.

  3. sweeneyted

    Stephen Knight’s letter is ironic really given that this whole sorry mess is the fruition of years of Lib Dem malignant ideology regarding schooling in this borough.It is also dishonest as they would violently oppose the obvious and most desirable solution (for most parents) which is to have Turing House, Clarendon Centre and a new secondary school all on the Egerton Road Site. As Richmond College is now surplus to requirements (the new sixth forms within secondary schools are by far the preferred choice for parents and students) this site should be given over to the urgent need for school places. The Haymarket deal depends on Teddington Studios being demolished and replaced with hundreds of flats. This is enormously un-popular and will meet serious and co-ordinated resistance at the planning stage, possibly delaying the development considerably. We need places now !
    Egerton Road is the only viable site within the area and it should not be reserved for an institute that is of little benefit to Richmond residents or it’s future development contingent on the chicanery of a property deal.

    • Vicky Phillips

      Just to point out that the new school sixth forms have only about half the places in each year that the rest of the school has and will only be offering a limited number of courses. So even if 50% of Richmond 16 year olds elect to stay at their schools that still leaves another 50% needing to go on to education and training somewhere, and I believe the current plan for the new secondary at Egerton Road opening in 2017 is for it to be 11-16 only due to having the college next door. With all the neighbouring boroughs needing to cater for more 16-18s aswell I think it’s not correct at all to say that Richmond College is surplus to requirements.

      I agree about Teddington Studios however, although I’ve seen little sign of any resistance in Teddington yet despite the enormous impact the closure will have on local shops, pubs and restaurants.

  4. …And now leader of the Lib Dems on the Council, Mr Stephen “The Yellow Knight” Knight is trying to persuade, nay demand, that Lord Nash come to Twickenham to explain his decision to defer the opening. Here’s Mr Knight’s letter:

    But will Lord Nash take him up on his offer?

  5. parentfightback

    Y6 families are campaigning for Lord Nash to reverse his decision. See http://www.facebook.com/turingparents2014.

  6. anonymouse

    There’s no such thing as a free (school) launch!

  7. pernickety

    they won’t have to revise the stats because the Turing House places weren’t offered by the council – they were additional offers to their 1st-6th choices of open schools