Two New Free Schools for North Kingston

The deadline for parents with primary school children to pledge support for two new secondary free schools in the north Kingston area is fast approaching.

Parents are being invited to vote for one of two new schools hoping to open by 2015. The first proposal has been made by the Kingston Church Schools Foundation (KCSF) and the second by the Kingston Education Trust (KET). The free school option is seen as the best chance to resolve Kingston’s shortage in secondary school places.

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston, is a supporter of the free school model. Mr Goldsmith said: “It’s not about new builds. It is about the quirkiness of it, so there will be lots of different types of schools. As opposed to one prescription you’ll have lots of different types of schools and that makes people nervous, and probably rightly so.

There are going to be some schools that do well and some that don’t do well. Instead of the very safe but not particularly high standard approach that we had before you’re going to have much more variation.”

At a public meeting held on 11 October, parents heard from councillors and KET representatives on proposals for a new secular secondary free school.

Nick Whitfield, Director of Learning and Children’s Services, admitted the council did not have a Plan B. Mr Whitfield said: “What we can do is push this proposal and make the best out of it by getting a school here. That’s really really important I think.”

A shortage in school places has been a long running issue for Kingston parents.

Natalie Crew, Norbiton, said: “I’m not satisfied with what they’re doing. I’m satisfied with the KET proposal – I think. I’m not convinced that they’ve got the numbers right. We’ve already seen the mistakes that they made over the primary numbers. My daughter was in the bulge year, without the bulge classes we would have been stuck without a school. I’m expecting to do it all over again.”

The KET free school proposal plans to be co-educational, non-selective and non-faith based. The school would offer six forms of entry and has indicated the North Kingston Centre as its preferred site. Latchmere House has been ruled out due to lack of accessibility and cost.

Parents have until 21 December to register support for the KET free school proposal. A minimum of 360 signatures is required but it’s hoped more people will register support to strengthen the claim of the application.

An alternative free school proposal is planned by the Kingston Church Schools Foundation (KCSF). The KCSF was formed by a group of local parents whose founders include former councillors, David Campanale and Kevin Davis.

The KCSF is proposing a faith-based co-education secondary school, to be named King Edwards School. The school will offer five forms of entry and will be managed by The Woodard Academies Trust.

In a joint press release on 1 October 2012, KCSF and Woodard outlined that entry will be non-selective with no faith criteria. Under Department of Education (DfE) rules, once a free school is agreed, there may be no change to entrance criteria.

The Department of Education would be responsible for securing a school site, if the King Edward’s school is approved.

Public consultation for the King Edward’s School is planned for Thursday 13 November at 7.30pm, at the YMCA on Lower Ham Road.

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