In case you haven't seen them already, do take a look at:
- our new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/RichmondInclusiveSchools which replaces the old Facebook group, so please go in and "like" it - it's a great way to stay up to date and is already generating plenty of comment.
- our updated website www.richmondinclusiveschools.org.uk which is now easier to navigate, and includes a useful set of Questions & Answers about faith schools and admissions, as well as a brief history of our campaign.
Secondary place offers
1st March was "National Offer Day" for secondary school places. The Council issued a "good news" press release emphasising that more children this year were offered a place at their 1st preference school, and only 97 did not get any of their preferences - all were offered a place somewhere in the borough.
What they didn't mention was that 2013 was always going to be an "easier" year because of a temporary dip in the numbers leaving borough primaries. These are the actual numbers due to enter secondary education each year on the basis of the numbers already attending borough primaries: 2013 - 1703; 2014 - 1857 (+154 versus 2013); 2015 - 1907 (+204); 2016 - 2092 (+389); 2017 - 2168 (+465). Of course, some of these children will switch to the private sector - Richmond already has the highest % switching of any London borough. But 465 children is equivalent to 3 new secondary schools. So we remain concerned about the pressure on places, even if we get a Free School and the Richmond College redevelopment leads to a new secondary in 2017. Giving away the Clifden Road site to the Catholic schools as a top priority makes less and less sense.
The other point they failed to mention is that the new Catholic secondary, St.Richard Reynolds Catholic High School, was under-subscribed - we're not sure by how much - so some of the unplaced children are being offered places there. For some parents, that's fine. But we've heard of a couple of cases where non-religious parents have been upset by what they see as an attempt to force their children into a Catholic school. Hopefully these cases will be resolved in the appeal process.
Do take a look at our press release on all of this. We don't yet have details of the actual offers made. In the meantime, the numbers and preferences of the original (October 2012) applications for secondary places at each school versus its Year 7 capacity ("PAN") are given here.
And there's a well-informed write-up on twickerati.
Free School applications have a better chance this year following a boost to the funding available from the Department for Education. Applicants for 2014 opening heard at the end of February whether they had made it through to the interview stage. We know that Turing House has already had an interview - here's their feedback from it. And Kingston Education Trust have also been called - they're using the Free School route to propose the much-delayed (and much needed) secondary on the Adult College site in North Kingston.
Free Schools (which are the same as new Academies) are now just about the only way to set up new state schools, unless you want to go down the Voluntary Aided route (as in the case of the new St.Richard Reynolds Catholic schools). They are effectively independent schools funded directly by the Department for Education and are not under Local Authority control. But a potentially important new development is that Local Authorities are now likely to have an important role in deciding suitable sites - a significant issue for Free Schools setting up in areas such as this.
Richmond College re-development consultation 11 March deadline
The Council is consulting on its plans for the redevelopment of the Richmond College site, including a new secondary school opening in 2017 - in line with their announcements last year. Overall the plans look fine, but we're still concerned about the overall provision of places, especially in central Twickenham, even assuming Turing House goes ahead. Click here to go to the Council's consultation page. The deadline is 11th March.
RISC at the House of Lords
We were recently invited to speak to a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG). The other speakers were Rabbi Jonathan Romain, head of the Accord Coalition (RISC's formal supporters), and Professor Ted Cantle, a national authority on community cohesion. The Chair was Lord (Norman) Warner, who heads the APPHG and, as a borough resident, had been following RISC’s progress in the press. The speeches generated plenty of interesting questions and discussion.
FOI response reveals Council forecast doesn't exist
The Council's consultation on the redevelopment of the Richmond College site says, in the context of the proposed new secondary school for 2017: “the Council’s forecast, taking into account as far as it can, the likely establishment of further free schools, suggests that further significant provision may be needed by September 2017”. So we asked for a copy of their forecast. It turned out there isn't one. Click here for the details.
Search for Head Teachers
Two of the borough's secondaries are currently looking for new Head Teachers for next Academic Year: Christ's and Orleans Park. Hampton Academy is looking for a "Head of College" (Deputy Head level).