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Good luck to an old friend of mine, James Wallace-Dunlop, who is trying to start a free school in Richmond (Surrey as opposed to Yorkshire.)

He has started a Facebook group called the SW14 Free School Group.

It offers the following message:

This group is dedicated to creating a Free School in, or near, SW14. The area already has a large number of good and excellent primary schools. As a result, they are oversubscribed, so another primary school would be helpful, but would not 'change the game'.

The local state secondary schools fall a long way short of parents' demands, and as a result are under-subscribed. The under-subscription is not because of low demand, but because of inadequate quality. Local parents are happy to use state primary schools because they are good; a third of them turn to private secondary schools that many can ill afford because the secondary options provided by the state are woefully inadequate. The 'spare spaces' at existing state secondary schools are not evidence of over-supply, but highlight the chasm between what the state offers and the education for which there is a demand.

The changing of Sheen School into the Richmond Park academy, and the possible transformation of other state secondary schools into academies is welcome, and we can expect improvements as a result, but only a free school dominated by parents can be relied upon to focus on pushing the brightest pupils to achieve their potential rather than considering their job to be done once a pupil reaches the A* standard beyond which achievement does not help the school's position in the league table.

In a recent public meeting about the Richmond Park academy, a representative of the Academies Enterprise Trust, defined an 'under-performing teacher' as one who was rated as below 'satisfactory' on the ofsted scale (1- Excellent, 2-Good, 3-Satisfactory, 4-Inadequate). Unless and until those running our schools require all teachers to be 'excellent' and see all other grades as differing degrees of under-performance, there is little chance of Richmond being able to offer its state school pupils the chance of maximising their potential.

 

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