Who Are The Free Schools’ True Neighbours?

There was some discussion today on the New Statesman’s politics blog about free school meals at West London Free School and its neighbouring schools:

 

Lisa Nandy wrote this:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/why-labour-should-not-embr…

 

Toby Young replied with this:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/right-reply-free-schools-a…

 

The figure of 23% FSM at WLFS is not disputed, but how do we get 32% FSM for neighbouring schools?

 

Look at WLFS on the DfE web site and compare it with nearby state secondary schools:
http://www.education.gov.uk/establishments/urn/136750/west-london-free-school…

 

Hammersmith Academy has no data, so the nearest five state schools with published FSM statistics are: Sacred Heart, Cardinal Vaughan, Fulham Cross, Phoenix and Henry Compton.
http://www.education.gov.uk/establishments/compare/pupilsworkforce?urns=10036…

 

In total, the five schools have 3,800 pupils, of which 1,223, or 32%, are on FSM.

 

DfE claimed in September 2011 that Free Schools were “targeting deprivation” and “deprived communities” in “disadvantaged areas” to “support the very poorest pupils”
http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00197713/new-free-schools-ar…

 

By analysing FSM and SEN statistics for free schools and their nearest comparable state schools neighbours, SchoolDuggery challenged those claims.
http://schoolduggery.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/free-schools-and-disadvantaged-…

 

Andrew Adonis echoed the old DfE claims by talking about “disadvantaged communities” and “disadvantaged areas” in his New Statesman piece:
http://www.newstatesman.com/education/2012/03/free-schools-labour-academies

 

Lisa Nandy, once again, challenged this view. What the comparison with the nearest state school neighbours shows is that, far from targeting disadvantaged children in neighbouring state schools, West London Free School’s real target is, as Toby Young admits in his response, middle-class children in neighbouring fee-paying independent schools.

 

At a time when state investment in education is being squeezed, I think this is an inappropriate use of limited public funds, and that’s why I, like Lisa Nandy, don’t support it. If the DfE really does want to target the very poorest pupils in disadvantaged areas, there are better ways of going about it.

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4 thoughts on “Who Are The Free Schools’ True Neighbours?

  1. Anonymous

    interesting to compare what the DfE say. that Free Schools were “targeting deprivation” and “deprived communities” in “disadvantaged areas” to “support the very poorest pupils” and Toby Youngs brutally honest remark that “One of the arguments for free schools is that they’ll appeal to parents who would otherwise send their children to fee-paying schools”

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    The two aims aren’t incompatible. Our aim is and always has been to secure a genuinely comprehensive intake and, by that measure, we’re succeeding.

    I fail to see why trying to persuade local middle class parents to send their children to a state school where they’ll be educated alongside children from the local housing estates is “an inappropriate use of limited public funds”. Are state schools only supposed to be for the very poorest children? Surely, one of the aims of people who campaign in favour of comprehensive education like Fiona Millar and Melissa Benn is to persuade middle class parents to send their children to state schools, even going so far as to call for the abolition of fee-paying schools. Why is that such a high-minded, laudable aim in their case, but “an inappropriate use of limited public funds” in mine?

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    The two aims aren’t incompatible. Our aim is and always has been to secure a genuinely comprehensive intake and, by that measure, we’re succeeding.

    I fail to see why trying to persuade local middle class parents to send their children to a state school where they’ll be educated alongside children from the local housing estates is “an inappropriate use of limited public funds”. Are state schools only supposed to be for the very poorest children? Surely, one of the aims of people who campaign in favour of comprehensive education like Fiona Millar and Melissa Benn is to persuade middle class parents to send their children to state schools, even going so far as to call for the abolition of fee-paying schools. Why is that such a high-minded, laudable aim in their case, but “an inappropriate use of limited public funds” in mine?

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Recall that WLFS is rather further south and east than originally intended, which results in the comparison also having to be made with schools to the west and north west like Acton High (which IIRC Toby’s kids would have gone to, and is 36.7% FSM) or Chiswick Community, which quite a lot of Hammersmith kids go to, including my partner’s nieces and barring accidents my elder son in due course, and has 28.7%, or Ellen Wilkinson in Ealing at 31.3%. High 20s/early 30s scores are thus not uncommon in the wider west London secondary school ecosystem. If Toby lives where I think he does his three nearest with figures published are Acton High, Phoenix and Ellen Wilkinson which taken together have 1438 FSM out of 3553 or 40.5%, skewed by Phoenix being a big outlier, admittedly.

    Another consequence of the location of WLFS is that the % of pupils residing in the same borough is about 51%, which is below even the extremely low figure for Hammersmith & Fulham. Essentially it’s a school for kids who, taken as a whole, are from slightly less deprived backgrounds than the wider area and quite a lot less deprived than the immediate area and are more likely to reside outside the borough than other borough schools. It’s a bit of a cuckoo, in other words.

    “DfE claimed in September 2011 that Free Schools were “targeting deprivation” and “deprived communities” in “disadvantaged areas” to “support the very poorest pupils” ”

    I think we can safely file that under ‘bullshit’. Chiswick Community was rated the worst secondary in Hounslow for building quality a few years back, has a higher FSM score than WLFS, excellent results and nevertheless lost its BSF funding back in 2010. Meanwhile Toby’s been given *two* school buildings. Would West London really be worse off if a rapidly improving existing school had been given the money to bring its decaying buildings up to date instead?

    Reply

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