Free Schools

Discussion in 'education & employment' started by Diamond, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Diamond

    Diamond The Red Baron

    This thread is to record people's experience of Free Schools, be they teachers, kids or parents.

    They look like a fascinating experiment to me and, having read Amanda Ripley's "The Smartest Kids in the World", they sound like a rather good idea (although I could have got the wrong end of the stick there).

    Anyways, we hear a great deal of sound and fury from both sides of the political spectrum on Free Schools so what are they really like?

    Does anyone have any direct anecdotal experience?
  2. BlueSquareThing

    BlueSquareThing With chips

    The ones around here have managed to hoover up quite a few middle class kids - generally the ones who have a better academic record. I know of at least two cases of children being asked to leave them because of relatively minor behaviour problems and one case where a child with a statement has been "strongly advised" to not even apply to the school. One child who was excluded from another school after 6 months of year 9 lasted two days at the free school he was sent to before he was farmed out on a permanent basis to a pro - he will never be in an inclusive school again because the free school essentially can't cope with anyone who has any form of minor behavioural issue.

    One here which has it's first GCSE intake has made every child start doing both history and geography with the caveat that "we'll see which one you like in a few months". Quite why they're wasting time at KS4 getting kids to start both subjects if they'll only end up with one I beyond me - I imagine it's got something to do with the lack of specialist staffing in the school - they tend to have hoovered up quite a few middle school teachers who have no experience of teaching GCSE at all. Add to that their lack of ICT teaching as a discrete subject in any form, a single language only and anyone who wants to do GCSE PE has to do the practical elements in their own time and will be only monitored in core PE lessons.

    I know someone who worked with a couple of the teachers there - he used the term "tool" to describe one of them and "useless" to describe the other. I know one who went for a job as a mainscale teacher in another local school and was "let go" at lunchtime as her observation lesson was inadequate in almost every way who was, a week later, appointed subject leader in one of the free schools.

    And they get about £4m for intakes of 40 kids a year whilst other local schools, which have had to expand by more to deal with an organisational change (loss of middle schools) get less than £200,000 to set up for two new year groups.

    Both of the ones which set up here made all sorts of claims in their bids which have simply not been carried through - opening till 6pm, offering three languages in each year group etc... These were the things that made them unique, that might have justified them opening. They are the things they haven't done "for practical reasons" (no shit sherlock)

    So, yeah, interesting "experiment". Fwiw I wouldn't allow my children anywhere near them. It's just a shame that they're taking kids, and therefore money, away from the local secondaries which were undersubscribed anyway.
    frogwoman, weepiper, Greebo and 3 others like this.
  3. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    A child's education - especially at secondary level - is not something to be experimented on.
    frogwoman, Greebo, Plumdaff and 5 others like this.
  4. DJWrongspeed

    DJWrongspeed radio eros

    I've a friend who worked at the DofE when they were being setup. His conclusion was that they were pretty much like academies. The department probably spent more time and effort in making the first lot work that it should have done as it was a govt flagship policy.
    Greebo likes this.
  5. Monkeygrinder's Organ

    Monkeygrinder's Organ Dodgy geezer swilling vapid lager

    This is one of those 'it doesn't matter how many things you can think of that theoretically be good about this, under this shower of utter cunts you have to assume the worst' type things as far as I can see.
  6. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    Why don't you just join the tory party diamond you knob.
  7. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    Greebo likes this.
  8. catinthehat

    catinthehat Failed VK = Replicant

    Gove's advisor Cummings (who even Coulson described as untrustworthy) has just declared genetics to be the key ingredient - Shades of Charles Murray. If we wait a bit the next big thing will be 'Why educate the poor at all as they have inferior genes'.
    Greebo likes this.
  9. killer b

    killer b Nostrofuckingdamus

    I'm not sure I agree with that at all. While I dont endorse free schools in any way, nor do I think education shouldn't be experiented with. How else do we get better at it?
  10. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    That's why research into education exists so that academics can research better teaching methodologies, better communication methods, the different ways different ages/genders/brain types learn etc.

    Not by letting any random set up a school.
    Greebo and Sue like this.
  11. BlueSquareThing

    BlueSquareThing With chips

    The problem is that it's not so much experimenting with different ways to teach, which is certainly needed, and more about experimenting with the organisation of schools.

    In this part of the world that's causing chaos and uncertainty in terms of how many kids are going to each school. We're also seeing much, much more movement between schools - we gained about 10 between the last half term in year 9 and now - these are kids taking GCSE courses who have missed a lot of the background stuff because they' em been taught, frankly, by people who aren't experienced GCSE teachers and in schools which don't have enough kids in them to appoint specialist teachers - neither free school here has a proper physicist or chemist for example and neither teaches computing at all. Massive gaps in knowledge and kids who come to us unable to do anything complex with a computer for example.

    That's not experimenting with teaching. And it's causing chaos with their education.
    frogwoman and Greebo like this.
  12. FridgeMagnet

    FridgeMagnet Administrator

    I'm not sure I would characterise the free schools thing as "experimenting with different ways to teach" - I'd characterise it as "an ideologically driven attempt to move the delivery of education into private hands and destroy the power of associated unions".
  13. killer b

    killer b Nostrofuckingdamus

    Absolutely - I'm making no defence of free schools, more a criticism of the blank statement that childrens education was not to be experimented with.
  14. BlueSquareThing

    BlueSquareThing With chips

    It's also specifically designed to experiment with using market forces much more obviously. Which is creating massive longer term planning issues. Made worse because they're generally not being set up in areas of real need in terms of need for school places (as opposed to a bunch of middle class parents who want a nice small school where their kids don't have to mix with "the scum".

    Allied with the removal of LEAs and forced academisation and we're moving towards an almost totally unplanned model for secondary education. Exactly what Gove and his advisors want as it'll be almost totally impossible to recover from.
    Greebo likes this.
  15. Cloo

    Cloo Surfeit of lampreys

    I expect there will be some good and needed schools coming out of it in the shorter term (for example near here they've started a co ed secondary because there were otherwise no non religious, co ed state secondaries in the area), but agree this doesn't seem thought out over the longer term. Schools have been set up with extraordinary speed and you have to wonder how sustainable a lot of it is. Plus whatever the gov says, I'm pretty sure it's disproportionately benefitted middle class people.
    frogwoman and Greebo like this.
  16. Thora

    Thora Differently Ethical

    Seems like where new schools are opening is not being thought through at all though - the area I work in desperately needs more primary places but it looks like it will be getting a new Steiner free school ffs :rolleyes:
  17. nagapie

    nagapie Well-Known Member

    Exactly the same here. Predicted 40% shortfall of primary places in a few years but only academies and free schools that run either from primary to secondary (replacing an existing primary that could have just expanded) or just secondaries being opened. Free schools have nothing to do with the good of education or children.
  18. Monkeygrinder's Organ

    Monkeygrinder's Organ Dodgy geezer swilling vapid lager

    It's not thought out by definition isn't it? The whole point is to not have any overall planning.
    equationgirl likes this.
  19. Bob_the_lost

    Bob_the_lost Elsewhere

    Market driven education for the win!
    equationgirl likes this.
  20. Cloo

    Cloo Surfeit of lampreys

    I mean, it's all just typical of politicians' (and this is both sides) lack of understanding that the whole 'choice' thing is pretty meaningless when you don't have money, because money is choice. You can't move to be near the good school if you're very poor. You can't go to the fantastic specialist hospital two bus rides away if you're poor and need regular appointments, because you can't afford to go there rather than the crummy hospital down the road and so on.
    porp, miss giggles and Greebo like this.
  21. nagapie

    nagapie Well-Known Member

    I don't think politicians don't understand, I think they don't care. They think that being rich enough to engender that sort of choice is because they have earned it and therefore deserve it and therefore others don't.
    frogwoman, miss giggles and weepiper like this.
  22. BlueSquareThing

    BlueSquareThing With chips

    I don't know, I'm not sure that they aren't rather ignorant of much of the day to day stuff. I've heard a story, from a pretty reliable source, of some current politico from within the DfE who came and toured a school and asked who it was who put together all the resources for the teachers.

    I'm not sure how much they're aware of how close more and more of the people I work with are really close to just packing it in either. I wouldn't think they'd care at all about this (young teachers = cheaper and more likely to do as they're told), but I'm not sure they actually appreciate either that it's happening or the impact it's likely to have.
  23. nagapie

    nagapie Well-Known Member

    Then they choose not to know, it's not like they aren't told enough times about things. The whole idea that our politicians don't understand because they're not like us let's them off the hook somewhat.
    Frances Lengel likes this.
  24. Balbi

    Balbi Hey, Dean Yager!

    Free Schools done right: Specialist Needs catered for like autism, severe disabilities. State fund the establishment of a school where Local Authorities cannot afford to do so.

    Free Schools done wrong: Like bloody mushrooms by every tarquin and griselda, causing L.A schools to have a drop in intake and schools with a bad reputation (not, not bad schools, because that's all kinds of wrong right there) become completely ineffectual. Education system fragments, academies take over.
  25. BlueSquareThing

    BlueSquareThing With chips

    I think there's an element where they do choose not to know - or certainly can't be bothered to find out. I find that worse than the ignorance tbh - and I find the ignorance difficult to excuse. Mind you, I often think SMT members are pretty fucking ignorant of how it feels to be a mainscaler as well - or at least, they often seem to act like they're ignorant.
  26. Cloo

    Cloo Surfeit of lampreys

    I dunno, I really think it does not occur to them that someone with barely £30 a week to live on after bills might not, say, be able to make a bus journey every day; that not everyone can save money; what it's like to barely earn anything above childcare fees etc. Because they're careerists, not idealists; their interest is 'being an MP' not people's welfare.

    Personally, I'd love to see a law that ruled out people from being MPs until they'd worked for at least 5 years in a non political role!
    miss giggles likes this.
  27. DaveCinzano


    In Bristol the Bristol Cathedral Choir School - a private school for 435 of its 471 years, and an Academy since 2008 - wants to create a Free School primary next door. To do this it wants to take over two floors of the Bristol Central Library.

    Those floors are used for the 'stack' (ie reference material that is in constant use but which is vulnerable to damage, is oversized, needs to be stored flat, etc) and vital administrative functions.

    BCCS has engaged in an energetic propaganda campaign to (i) characterise the areas of the library it wishes to colonise as 'storage space' which could be easily transferred elsewhere; (ii) emphasise the shortage of primary places in Bristol; (iii) frame the argument as 'isn't the education of children more important than a few old dusty books?'.

    The BCCS effort is led by prominent Merchant Venturer Stephen Parsons. Millionaire mayor George Ferguson (himself a Merchant Venturer) has backed the establishment of the Cathedral Primary, and endorsed the 'schools not books' narrative.

    It should be noted that:

    (i) The stack is not a place for books that don't get read, it is a vital staging area for material which is essential for the running of a proper library service - protecting and keeping available for local people (amongst other things) key historical material. The mooted replacement location for the stack is in the council's bonded warehouses way out of the Centre. Such a location would require library users to put in and pay for requests to see material, and ensure significant delays to that access. Clearly this would disadvantage library users who cannot afford to spend multiple days hanging around the library, waiting for requests to be filled. Such a relocation would also divide library staff between locations, and reduce their efficiency and effectiveness.

    (ii) The shortage of primary places in Bristol is most acute in south and north Bristol. The BCCS Free School primary is in Bristol Centre, where there is no such shortage. The admissions policy will be that of a Faith School with a very large catchment area - including all of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset! - rather than that of a local community school providing places for local children.


    (iii) It is believed that the semi-independent BCCS and its Free School primary woul lease the space within the library at a rate of approximately half the value of the commercial rent that would be applied - in other words a sweetheart deal. It is also not certain that the rent received would go into funding library services.
  28. DaveCinzano


  29. DaveCinzano


    Love Bristol Libraries has issued a response to the above joint statement:

    1. This information still isn't available to library users. No information displayed in the library itself, and only information displayed on web on the 'Central Library' page. No information is displayed at the point many people access the information -, or on
    2. Library users currently need to pay a 'reservation fee' to access items that are transported from other libraries. Does that mean that items that are currently free at the point of use will now incur a charge?
    3. There is still no reassurance about how this will affect the library's ability to respond to in-house reference queries. The tools they need to do their jobs are being removed.
    Read the press release. It explains that 80% of the reference stock is not available via the Libraries West catalogue. Simply because the library has not been given the funds to do it. It's still not being given the funds to do it from Bristol City Council. Rather, a 'solution' has been provided, which takes the library one step forward and two steps back. Yes, having the items in the reference collection fully catalogued is a great improvement. What a shame the library is being asked to forfeit it's space in order to be able to bring it up to date.
  30. BlueSquareThing

    BlueSquareThing With chips

    Tbh I'd be fairly shocked if they weren't just given the space. That's what seems to happen round here - I'm not even sure there's any form of restricted land use on the public land that's been given to the company involved.

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