The proposal was the idea of a group of local parents, who were concerned about the break-up of their primary school communities as they moved towards secondary school. They identified a strong and increasing local need for more high quality mainstream, inclusive school places in SW Twickenham and surrounding areas. They wanted to create an inspirational school, building on the success of Waldegrave’s science specialism by making similar provision available within a mixed-school environment. They also wanted to fill a local void with the addition of engineering and music specialisms, creating a distinctive ethos to complement the provision at our other local schools.
Our parent group enlisted the support of the Russell Education Trust, and developed a network of local ‘critical friends’ to help with various aspects of the application, including a senior leader from a large local primary school. The team then began awareness-raising in the local community.
Before our first funding bid in February 2012, scores of local parents gave out leaflets, talked to and emailed friends in order to help spread the word. Thanks to each and every one of you! Around 1400 local children were registered in just a few weeks, far exceeding our targets, and providing very strong evidence of local demand for our school.
The parent members of our Steering Group first contacted the Russell Education Trust in January 2012, because they had read about its work on the Bristol Free School. RET had worked closely with Bristol's Parents' Voice group to turn their school vision into reality. Our local group talked to the Bristol parents, as well as another group of parents that RET were working with in Hove. They researched other potential sponsors too, but liked the unique flexibility of RET's partnership model, which gave parents freedom to shape the school vision, whilst also providing the expertise they would need to deliver it. RET's connection to Education London, and history of involvement with the London Challenge, gave the parents further confidence that RET had the credentials to make the school a success.
In our original Free School application to the DfE in February 2012 we specified our first-choice location as Clifden Road in central Twickenham. However, Richmond Council decided in May 2012 to accept proposals from the Archdiocese of Westminster for Voluntary Aided schools on that site.
Although we weren’t on the list of schools to be approved for 2013 opening, we knew that our proposal was a very strong one. The feedback we had from the DfE indicated a strong chance of success in the funding round for schools to be opened in 2014. We submitted our application for that in December 2012 and were subsequently approved by the DfE in May 2013.
We feel very strongly that our school should be a part of the local family of schools, working together on joint educational initiatives that benefit our whole community. We are consulting with the Local Education Authority, and initiating dialogue with other local school leaders as a first step in that direction. Now that our proposal has been accepted by the DfE we will be able to develop partnerships, and start to contribute towards existing projects.
At the moment, Richmond Borough has anomalously high numbers of children who don’t get a place at one of their top 3 secondary choices (and 10% don’t get any of their 6 choices!). It also has anomalously high numbers that leave the local state sector completely at secondary transfer, either because they move to out-of-borough schools or switch to the private sector. We think these two facts are related and indicate a strong pent-up demand for more high quality local provision. Visit our Local Need page to read more about these issues.
As described on our Local Need page our school will fulfil both a demand need and an impending capacity need. The Local Authority have planned for Free Schools to help with future provision, and while we need to make the most of the opportunity to create our school while the funding is on offer, we want to minimise the impact of our school on others.
Whenever a new school opens, there will be changes in local patterns of demand. However, the majority of Richmond’s excellent secondaries are highly oversubscribed and that is unlikely to change while their quality remains high.
There are two community academies on the Middlesex side of the borough with a small amount of spare capacity. However, council forecasts show that they too are expected to fill over time as a result of rising numbers of children transferring to secondary school, ongoing quality improvements and the completion of building projects.
We know that there are more than enough families in the area to fill up all of the existing schools and our new school too, provided we tailor our proposals to parental demand and ensure that we deliver on our quality commitments. We believe our area deserves a secondary system where quality is high across the board and schools 'compete' only on the distinctiveness of their ethos.
Richmond Council have consulted, and recently released further details, on plans for an 11-16 Secondary Free School on the Richmond-upon-Thames College site in Egerton Road, to be opened in 2017, in partnership with the college and Haymarket Publishing Ltd.
A few people have asked if that plan will impact the establishment of Turing House. Don't worry; it won't!
The Egerton Road school is needed in addition to Turing House, due to the huge bulge of children coming through the primary system. The council's most recent forecast assumed that there would be a secondary free school opening before then, and Turing House fulfils that expectation.
Quoting from the consultation document, published in March: "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".
For more information on the demand for additional secondary school places, see our Local Need page.