In 2011 the parent members of the Turing House Steering Group recognised the strong pent-up demand in their local community for the choice of an additional high quality secondary school, catering for South and West Twickenham, Fulwell, North Teddington and surrounding areas. Local children were being given a great start with wonderful primary school education, but there was an increasing lack of choice at secondary level, both for boys and for girls who preferred co-educational schooling.
As well as a demand need, there was also a looming capacity need. The strain on primary school capacity has been felt for some time, and is now pushing its way into secondary provision. The council's 2011 forecasts for secondary school places showed that demand would outstrip supply within a few years, with the size and timing of overspill being dependent on assumptions that were very uncertain. The council planned for new free schools like Turing House and REEC to help alleviate that pressure, as they are the only type of new community schools allowed under the current Education Act. REEC's free school application presented strong evidence of need over and above the places that would be provided by Turing House, stating that "Year 7 capacity within the nine existing schools and Turing House will be exceeded by demand by 2017".
More recently, a 10 year school place planning strategy spanning 2015-2024 was published indicating that, without Turing House, contingency plans for secondary bulge classes would be required to manage demand. In fact, despite the opening of Turing House, a number of secondaries have accommodated a temporary bulge in 2015 (e.g. Orleans Park, Waldegrave) by using spare capacity in their new sixth form blocks and increasing class sizes. An un-forecast bulge class was also added on the Surrey side of the borough at Richmond Park Academy.
Patterns of demand are also changing, with Richmond's controversial linked-school admissions policy having been dropped from 2013. This change, while benefitting many families who previously had no link, has put additional pressure on the admissions of the more popular local secondaries, which were already highly oversubscribed. Catchment areas are shrinking as a result, and many local people are nervous about the impact of the change on their secondary school options.
The parents who initiated the Turing House proposal envisaged a school that would be firmly rooted in its community, and part of the local family of schools. They recognised that South West Twickenham, Fulwell, North Teddington and neighbouring areas wanted and needed another excellent mainstream secondary school; an equivalent to Waldegrave for those seeking a mixed school. The need identified was for a mixed, non-denominational, academically focussed community school providing a high quality, broad and balanced, inspirational curriculum.
In the current economic climate every pound spent by the Government must count. An inclusive community school, popular with local families, will help to deal with highly unpredictable changes in future demand. Richmond Borough has a shortage of land suitable for new schools, but local people want to see any site identified as suitable for a new secondary school put to optimum use in catering for local need.
Some useful resources:
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