Wednesday, 9 December 2009

West London Free School

On tuesday evening BBC Newsnight featured a proposed new school based in Acton which, if it gets off the ground, would start to recruit children from some of W12. The proposed school has caused quite a stir locally, since the establishment of a new school would imply a criticism of existing local schools - especially Acton High Scool -  its fair to say its not gone down particularly well with them. And yet the Board of the new school claim to have 250 local parents already signed up in support.

What is interesting about this school is that the proposed founder of the school - Toby Young - makes statements about how the prospect of "another old Etonian" becoming Prime Minister illustrates the "collapse of social mobility in the last 25 years". He says the mission of this school would be to equip children from within the state sector to "go out there into the world and take on the public schoolboys at their own game". At the moment it appears both the current government and the likely next Conservative government would both support the idea in principle.

Toby Young says that this new school will be run on the same lines as a comprehensive, in the sense that it will not select pupils based on academic ability or the ability to pay. But he also says that the old comprehensive model was good at picking up the less able but pretty bad at supporting the more able - and that's what he wants to change with his new school. He says its based on this school in East Los Angeles, whose pupils come from deprived backgrounds and yet achieve over the odds.

Some local parents and traditionalist supporters of state education as it currently exists however fear that such a new school would be a needless diversion of valuable local resources away from existing schools. They have a point - this school would only be judged as a success or otherwise after a couple of generations had passed through - while the same generations of kids going to existing local schools suffer from resources being diverted away to fund the experiment next door. But then how would we ever know if we don't try new approaches? Ironically Toby Young is the author of a book called How to lose friends and alienate people which judging by some of the comments I have already had about this school seems quite apt.

So - an interesting local experiment in education that could benefit our local kids and be of national importance or a costly diversion and needless meddling?

Unlike most articles on this blog, it is my blog after all, I don't have a clear opinion on this. I'm lucky enough that our own kids go to one of the really good schools in the Borough, and I can genuinely see both sides of the argument. I'm going to try an experiment though and run a poll - do you support the idea of a West London Free School?

[polldaddy poll=2360194]

1 comment:

  1. As a resident of shepherds Bush since 1981 despite my not having figures to the fact I am certain that the population of the area has increased Whilst the number of places in schools hasn't. Without a doubt there is a need for more schools (a point made in the program last night) and as yet the only people that see this are parents. I for one think its admirable that at least they are doing something about it.