Haberdashers' present free school plans

Following the news that Haberdashers' Aske's is proposing to open a free primary school in the area, reader TH Nick has written this report from the public presentation (also posted on the New Cross forum), which they gave last night:

The plan is for the current Hatcham Temple Grove school (HTG) to move back to its original site for September 2013 (i.e. for start of the Free School).

The first Free School (FS) reception will then use the current (permanent) reception classrooms while new permanent blocks will be built in time for the class to move into.

People asked about amounts of free space: the current HTG pupils (and therefore the FS pupils when they move in) have the same amount of outside space now as they will have when they go back to old HTG site.
The current HTG site (and again, presumably the future FS site) apparently does not encroach on the main Haberdashers Askes part of the site, so there will not be an issue with crowding for secondary children.

Pupils will be taught in English and German using an "immersive method", as currently used in HTG. Example was that currently children have a morning doing numeracy etc in English, then will do the same topics in the afternoon but using German words. The theory being that learning the language should't be hard....

There were questions about what impact this might have on other local primaries/the status of Haberdasher Askes secondary as a local school. The stat quoted by someone in the audience was that last year there were 72 places allocated by distance at HA. Once the 60 FS pupils each year come trhough, this will drop to around 12.

HA suggested that the pupils at the FS will be local and would have been those who otherwise would have got in HA in secondary admission, therefore this wasn't really any issue. In 2020 (when the first reception class moves to secondary) they will look at this and there may be a need for more secondary places but they haven't/can't consider this now.

In my opinion (and I suspect that of the person in the audience who asked the question) this was a bit of a weak answer. It looks clear that if live close to HA but choose to send your children to Edmund Waller/John Stainer etc you will be unlikely to get a place at HA secondary. While HA will remain a "local school" as the pupils that have come through the FS will be local, it does feel like it will end up slightly sealed and seperate from the local area and other local schools.

Finally, I chatted to some other parents after. Broad view (and I'm sure there will be some that don't agree) was that while they might disagree with free schools on principle, they were impressed with the plans and would be willing to compromise those principles for their children. Of course that position might change if their children didn't get a place at the FS.

44 comments:

Anon said...

Wonder if we will get over 100 posts on this thread?

CG said...

Absolutely agree with the final statement of this piece. I was there at the presentation and will be happy to send my 3 year old there next year, should the plans go ahead (and we get a place, of course).

Transpontine said...

Thanks for report Nick, just to be clear is the entire Free School to be on the top site (Pepys Rd roundabout) or will any of it be on the other HAHC site (bottom of Jerningham)?

Pete said...

Sounds like an interesting school, I wonder why they chose German rather than French or Spanish?

I am totally clueless as to how they allocate school places in Lewisham. As we live in Ladywell I had always assumed that our son would have zero chance of getting into Haberdashers secondary school. Is that the case?

Anonymous said...

They chose German as the school has links to Goldsmiths where they train up German teachers - apparently the pupils in the secondary school get to do work experience in Germany too. I think it unlikely that you would get a place if you live in Ladywell as proximity to the secondary school is now a key criteria.

Pete said...

Oh well, off to one of the Lewisham sink schools it is then :-(

Tressilliana said...

Pete, I'd say yes, zero chance unless your child has considerable musical aptitude. On the other hand, you're well placed in Ladywell for the new Prendergast Vale school and for Prendergast Ladywell Fields, which seems to be improving a lot.

You can see the admissions policy online at the HAHC website and Lewisham does a secondary transfer booklet which summarises all this stuff for every school in the borough.

Tamsin said...

Would have been in with an equal chance of anyone in Southwark, Greenwich or Lewisham ten years ago - when proximity meant absolutely nothing. Now, it seems, they've gone to the opposite extreme.

Pete said...

I've got 9 years to worry about it, so won't get too worked up. Anything could happen between now and then.

Tressilliana said...

Pete, I don't want to sound like Pollyanna, but I really don't think you can write off every other secondary school in the borough as a sink school! The schools in Lewisham have changed a lot in the last 15 years and Ofsted thinks Lewisham is a top-rated Children's Services Provider, performing 'excellently' across the board. There isn't a single secondary school in special measures now, as far as I know, and most are on an upward trend.

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/lewisham

Pete said...

He is quite handy with the xylophone though, perhaps I should encourage him....

Pete said...

My sink school remark was mostly in jest. Although some of the schools really are terrible, at least in the results they seem to deliver.

Tressilliana said...

Encouragement is great, but 2 might be a touch early to judge musical aptitude...

For the sake of your sanity, don't give him a drum.

THNick said...

Transpontine - the exact location wasnt completely clear but I believe it will be same as the current HTG arrangement, half at top site and half at bottom of Jerningham road.

It's not a massive factor, but in my opinion it's another minor downside to the plans, as it means younger children won't have the older role models in the playground.

Pete - based on last year, you'd have to live with around 650m to have got in. As to why they chose German, anon got it right - HA specialises in German, so has more expertise, does work experience in Germany for 6th forms and due to Goldsmiths link, is not worried if the German teacher leaves.

Anonymous said...

So my children go to John Stainer at the moment and we back onto the Haberdashers on Wallbutton Road less than 1 metre away! Do I take it we won't have a hope in hells chance of getting in? Great!

Brockley Nick said...

Kids who are currently in the primary school system will not be competing with kids from this school for entry to the secondary school.

But if you have any other kids, you'll probably need to put them through the new school in order for them to have a chance of getting in to the secondary. Hence the view that it's unfair competition for other local schools...

THNick said...

Anon at 14:28. The first lot of children from the Free School won't be going in secondary until 2020, so your children won't compete with them. And any new siblings would get in under that criteria.
Finally, if you're on Wallbutton road, I reckon you'd be close enough to get one of the few remaining places on distance.

Tamsin said...

Those currently at primary school are not competing with this new school, but are with the Temple Grove children (displaced from Monson and mainly living close to that site), who get priority (along with siblings etc.) before the intake is then measured on proximity.

And it is front gate to front gate rather than hopping over the wall!

Didn't get to yesterday's presentations - were there any details given on where on the site(s) they are going to fit in the new buildings, and where and how large the playground areas will be for the different ages?

Anonymous said...

I actually left the meeting feeling less concerned about whether or not my child would get a place at the proposed school. My understanding is that the evidence base on language immersion is fairly mixed. Coupled with this, I didn't find the (implicit) ethos that appealling.

THNick said...

Tamsin - I think the new buildings/playgrounds will be on the same footprints as the current temporary buildings.
When asked about what this means in terms of amount of outside space, apparently the current HTG children (i.e. those in the temporary blocks) have the same amount of outside space as they go back to at HTG itself.

THNick said...

Last anon - don't suppose you have a link to evidence about immersive language learning. TBH that's the thing I'm most interested in.

Anonymous said...

@anon7.54, I absolutely agree with you - it seemed to lack entirely any of the verve and excitement you would hope would accompany such a venture, and there was little sense of an understanding or interest in primary education in any of the speakers. I can't really understand this idea of replicating temple grove either - looking round this year for my older child, it failed to impress me. Surely the direction of a school is partly determined by its staff and head, and by the community it serves? This cookie cutter approach baffles me. Whilst like you I feel unconcerned about getting in, I suspect parents will still go for it, perhaps with a detrimental effect on other local schools.

Chair of Governors - Local School said...

It is quite clear that the new school will have a detrimental effect on other local schools as parents will chose to send their child to the new school in order to secure a place at the secondary, whatever they feel about immersive education in German, and this will leave the other local primaries as second class citizens. The new school's population is likely to be more stable than other schools as parents have a vested interest in leaving their children there, which means that other local schools will have to mop up the mobile children (who usually do less well in SATS etc) and, if last night's Newsnight is anything to go by, will end up mopping up the children who are excluded from it(exclusion rates at Academies are apparently substantially higher than at ordindary state schools). This school is good news if you move to its catchment area with a child under 3, but less good if (from 2013) you move to the area with a child over 3 or you live outside the catchment area for the primary. Expect further house price distortions as a result.

Anonymous said...

I'd never have kids in the area. What a shame it would be to grow up in London of all places.

Mb said...

Shame to grow up in London? Having done so I'd say that was garbage.

Tressilliana said...

My children have grown up in London and seem to have survived! We made a conscious decision to stay in London while they grew up and we haven't regretted it.

Westsider said...

Where did you grow up, anon? I'd like to avoid raising kids there.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely sending my little one there if the plans go ahead and we get the place
,

Anonymous said...

@THNick I'll try to find the references. I think one of the suggestions is that kids taught in immersive settings are slower to reach language proficiency than those taught in single language settings and it can impair learning of subjects like maths.

@Anon 18.35 Thanks for for articulating much more clearly what I was getting at!

(Anon 15.54)

Anonymous said...

@anon 12.21

I'd be really interested to hear your reasons. I'm still unsure about it so hoping for some relevant discussion here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my post should have been addressed to Anon 20.21 - for some reason the timings are all wrong on my mobile phone, but correct on my laptop. Has anyone else had that problem with the mobile version?

Anonymous said...

You probably have the time zone/region set wrong on your phone somewhere.

Anon 20.21 said...

I did some research into the results and performance of the local schools and concluded that locally there is no school that performed well over longer number of years. Except for Habadashers which was up to recently secondary school only. So they give me confidence in their ability to maintain good standards all the way through the child education. I also believe that the discipline that are promoting is essential for the kids to be able to concentrate on learning. And once the child passes it's 11+ after some good teaching it can move the school if it so wishes.

Transpontine said...

I think in general secondary schools in the area have improved compared with ten years ago, but a wider question might be will there be enough secondary school places when the current primary 'bulge' reaches that age. There are many more young children in South London than ten years ago, but there is also high mobility with a proportion of people moving out when their children get older. But then again that kind of mobility may slow down if there's a prolonged recession.

If secondary school transfer seems a long way away for newish parents, believe me it soon comes around. So if there needs to be a campaign for a new secondary school you'd better get started as these things take time. It would seem that if your child goes to any primary other than Monson or the new HAHC free school you will have very little chance of getting in to Haberdashers secondary.

There was a big campaign for a new secondary school for New Cross about ten years ago, it didn't achieve its main objective but it did pressure the Council to plan a new school for the north of the borough. The result of that is Prendergast Vale, the new secondary on the site of Lewisham Bridge due to be opened in September 2012. That may mean there are then enough secondary places in the system, but not necessarily.

Tamsin said...

@ Anon 9.15 It's horses for courses. The Haberdashers set up would probably have suited my daughter (if we had had more than a 5% chance of getting in with the then 3 borough catchment area)but, with every will in the world on the part of everyone to make it work, gave Bridgit's a school phobia.

What I did find with secondary transfer (as did a friend of mine who had her sights set on a particular school from babyhood but then went somewhere completely different) is to involve the child in the decision. Then, when they come to a point of being at loggerheads with the school, it is not your fault for pushing them to go there - they are equally if not totally responsible for the decision and have to accept the results. An important step on the way to adult-hood.

@ Transpontine - nice to know that all that grief achieved something. It seems generally the case that a battle lost sometimes has on-going results.

Transpontine said...

@Tamsin

My secondary experience was similar to your's in that Haberdashers was by far the nearest school, but neither of my children got a place there (and by the way it wasnt't then and isn't now selecting on ability contrary to whoever mentioned the 11+). They ended up going further afield but I must say that catching the train every day hasn't done them any harm (so far, touch wood), and maybe even boosted their confidence in travelling around London.

Most parents would say they would ideally like a good primary or secondary school in walking distance of home. And by 'good' I think most people mean that their child will be happy there most of the time (especially free from bullying) and secondly that their child will be able to learn to the best of their ability. They don't necessarily expect that it will be fantastic all the time. Everything else - church school, single sex, academy etc. - takes second place.

In primary terms this need has been pretty much met for most kids until recently when demand seems to be outstripping supply in some areas. For secondary it hasn't been the case for years in London, if ever.

Anonymous said...

Anon (18:35) - you are absolutely right about a lack of verve and exceitement. The reason for that is that the people at HAHC driving this are doing so for political brownie points rather than an urge to improve education in the locality. Just look at who the schools commissioner is! http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a0072538/elizabeth-sidwell-to-be-schools-commissioner-for-england

The formerhead at HAHC decides she loves free schools,and, hey presto, New Cross Gate really needs one! Mr Chair of Governers also has a good point. I wonder if this would be happenning if HAHC had been allowed to take over Ed Waller like it so desperately wanted to years ago?

Whether this will benefit education in the locality I don't know, but if you own a house nearby, sit tight!

Tamsin said...

Did HAHC desperately want to take over Edmund Waller? Three years ago it was the other way round - Edmund Waller were up for being linked into the Federation but HAHC controversially joined up with Monson Road, the far side not only of Queen's Road but also the A2.

Anonymous said...

@Tamsin, I'm interested to hear that Edmund Waller was open to joining the federation. Are you aware of the reasons for choosing Monson?

Anonymous said...

Tamsin - I'm talking 6/7 years ago when 3-18 state schools were first mooted. I was under the impression that Waller wanted to maintain its independance. HAHC loved the idea as it would guarentee a supply of bright middle class kids.

Monson was taken over as the only school local to HAHC that the borough would give up control of without too much of a fight with the DofE.

Incidently, I think the free school has to be sited on land currently used by HAHC for education. Otherwise, they either have to buy more nearby, or the local authority would have to be petitioned to supply a site. Can't see Lewisham being up for that!

Tamsin said...

First Anon. I don't know of the reasons for choosing Monson over Waller (or John Stainer) - only aware of the issues going on and some very heated public meetings. My children had passed the age of the changes affecting them so I was not deeply involved. And I could well be wrong about when it was (time passes so fast...)

Second Anon. On building on the site - I had a look at Google earth and there is a fair amount of empty space tucked in behind the current permanent buildings on the Pepys Road site. They presumably could not use them for the portakabins because they were to big to fit through the gaps - but bricks and concrete could be trundled in.

Tania said...

There is nothing untoward about Free Schools and the primary will no doubt fulfil a need in the local area. I have two children already at Waller but I would be tempted to send my youngest to the Free School because of the likely quality of education that he would receive.

My concerns about the proposals aren't related to education or politics but simply about parking. I live on Pepys Road opposite the main Pepys Road site which is where all the school staff seem to park. I dare not use my car before 9am as I won't be able to park anywhere along that stretch of road or indeed Pendrell Road until after school closes. I understand that the school has negotiated staff parking a Sainsburys with staff using the minibus to get to the different sites but this does not seem to be happening. The parking problem has only been a problem since the erection of the temporary primary school but this is likely to be a permanent problem if the FS goes ahead. Whilst I agree that me being able to park my car near my house after I've used it maybe not be as important as our children's educations but it is bloody annoying!

Tania

Anonymous said...

Tania, perhaps you could elaborate on your assertion that there is 'nothing untoward about free schools'. From what I've read (for example: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2011/08/free-schools-for-and-against/)the issue seems a bit more complicated and merits debate.

Maybe more so than parking issues.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing against aske's opening a free school, but think it should be on the old Monson road site, am disgusted with the preformed classrooms in the play ground, as these were only put in as tempory classrooms, till Monson site was rebuilt. If they are staying I object, the effect it has on locals with noise, parking issues and just driving around the school during drop off and pick up times is crasy (ask the bus drivers). Yet again locals are tricked by having a tempory thing made permenant. Why dont they take over Crossways,isn't Lewisham getting rid of that?

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