North Cestrian Free School bid proves controversial among heads across Trafford

North Cestrian headteacher Lee Bergin and deputy Matthew Bell celebrate the Free School bid with pupils

North Cestrian headteacher Lee Bergin and deputy Matthew Bell celebrate the Free School bid with pupils

First published in News
Last updated
Messenger Newspapers: Photograph of the Author by , Arts Reporter

NORTH Cestrian Grammar School’s decision to abolish its fees and apply to become a free school has proved deeply controversial among secondary school headteachers in the borough.

An open letter signed by 10 heads in south and north Trafford has expressed grave concern over the proposal, which, if approved by education chiefs, will take effect from September 2015.

The letter signed by secondary school heads ranging from Broadoak to Wellacre Academy says the change in status could influence the outcome of a Trafford Council led consultation over the provision of school places in the future.

It also said headteachers were concerned about the financial costs involved in the proposed change in status, adding ‘we are unsure what effect this will have on existing school budgets. It is our cynical belief that this could be a way of undependent schools using the grappling hook of free-school status to get them out of a financial mire.’ The letter concludes: ‘"Ironically North Cestrian intends to retain the ‘grammar’ title when in fact it will be a secondary modern."

Lee Bergin, headteacher at North Cestrian Grammar School, said: “We are disappointed by the content of this letter. North Cestrian Grammar School has received overwhelming support for our plans to become a Free School from staff, parents of our existing and potential new students and we remain keen to work with other schools on our road to achieving this.

“North Cestrian Grammar School is in a healthy financial state and we are in a position to be able to provide much needed secondary education places within Trafford, through our Free school status application. We want parents in the area to have more choice over where to school their children, rather than limit it. Ultimately, North Cestrian offers an established, inclusive education for all abilities.”

Executive Councillor for Education Mike Cornes said: “Trafford schools have an excellent reputation for high quality education provision and the authority will continue to support them.

“The Council has a responsibility to ensure there are sufficient school places in the borough to reflect parental choice. There is currently high demand for places within the Altrincham area and even with potential growth at other schools there is still likely to be excess demand, especially from 2017 onwards.

“The proposal is therefore welcomed in principle. The decision to grant Free School status will be made by the Department for Education.”

The open letter was signed by Stuart Beeley, Wellington School, Vicky Beer, CBE, Ashton on Mersey School, Peter Brooks, Altrincham College of Arts, Dawn Farrent, Lostock College, Andy Griffin, Broadoak School, James Haseldine, Stretford High School, Julie Hazeldine, Flixton Girls School, Tarun Kapur, CBE, The Dean Trust, Lynn Nichols, Sale High School and Melanie Wicks, Wellacre Academy.

Comments (4)

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5:15pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Mum 2 the boys says...

As a fee paying parent of the school, I am disappointed to read about the concerns from the 10 heads regarding the free school proposal. As a parent, the most import thing for me is to match up the right school for my child. My local school (free status) is being temporarily run by Mr Tarun Kapur and having spent 3 years interviewing it for my son, I decided it was not appropriate. I ended up sending him to NCGS and although fee paying wasn't ideal because we as a family, have had to make huge sacrifices to finance it. If my local school 'could get it right', I wouldn't have sent him to a fee paying school, so by making it a free status it gives parents another option and greater choice; and if NCGS is not for their child they are free to choose others. I would suggest that Mr Kapur would be better turning his attentions to the issues at Lymm High rather than involving himself at NCGS.
As a fee paying parent of the school, I am disappointed to read about the concerns from the 10 heads regarding the free school proposal. As a parent, the most import thing for me is to match up the right school for my child. My local school (free status) is being temporarily run by Mr Tarun Kapur and having spent 3 years interviewing it for my son, I decided it was not appropriate. I ended up sending him to NCGS and although fee paying wasn't ideal because we as a family, have had to make huge sacrifices to finance it. If my local school 'could get it right', I wouldn't have sent him to a fee paying school, so by making it a free status it gives parents another option and greater choice; and if NCGS is not for their child they are free to choose others. I would suggest that Mr Kapur would be better turning his attentions to the issues at Lymm High rather than involving himself at NCGS. Mum 2 the boys
  • Score: 8

6:44pm Thu 20 Mar 14

mms98 says...

How sad that these headteachers only care about money!!

If NSGS gains free schooling status, then the pot given to these schools Im guessing stays the same maybe slightly heigher but with another contender asking for money, hence a smaller amount to each school

Isnt that fair?

How about we change something else as well?

Most of the schools in trafford only allow local children in (approx 1 mile radius) of the building.. agreed?

Not the same for sale,altrincham grammar - why not????

Look at the queues for the entrance exam, miles long, kids from oldham,rottenstall,b
ury, lymm, knutsford, all miles away!!

Are these places within a mile radius?

Why not have all schools in trafford only teach trafford children!!

Stop the snobberish idiots, local councillors etc bleating on about trafford schools being in the top ten,when we dont teach trafford kids!!!

We have brilliant schools,greedy and selfish when it comes to money I'll agree but still brilliant schools.

Lets make them all for trafford kids and make our kids the best they can possibly be.

Grammar schools!!!! Teach local kids and local kids alone!!

NCGS good luck ,but please only take local kids, and make them the best you can.
How sad that these headteachers only care about money!! If NSGS gains free schooling status, then the pot given to these schools Im guessing stays the same maybe slightly heigher but with another contender asking for money, hence a smaller amount to each school Isnt that fair? How about we change something else as well? Most of the schools in trafford only allow local children in (approx 1 mile radius) of the building.. agreed? Not the same for sale,altrincham grammar - why not???? Look at the queues for the entrance exam, miles long, kids from oldham,rottenstall,b ury, lymm, knutsford, all miles away!! Are these places within a mile radius? Why not have all schools in trafford only teach trafford children!! Stop the snobberish idiots, local councillors etc bleating on about trafford schools being in the top ten,when we dont teach trafford kids!!! We have brilliant schools,greedy and selfish when it comes to money I'll agree but still brilliant schools. Lets make them all for trafford kids and make our kids the best they can possibly be. Grammar schools!!!! Teach local kids and local kids alone!! NCGS good luck ,but please only take local kids, and make them the best you can. mms98
  • Score: 10

11:14pm Mon 24 Mar 14

B123nda says...

Having had an extremely stressful year last year, when my child didn't get a place at our nearest school, I agree with the parents above. We had to appeal to get a place at a school less than a mile away, as we had been offered a place 2.5 miles from our home. We did eventually gain a place, but not until our child had been traumatised, being told she would not be going to the same school as all her friends. Despite knowing children who lived much further away than us getting a place straight away, because they lied about where they lived. It is a lottery, the borough needs more school places, as lots of people are moving to Trafford to get places in good schools. Also due to the restraints on schools, having to accept children with special needs and children in the care of local authorities, regardless how far away they live, there are fewer places for local children. Grammar schools picking the brightest pupils, having no catchment area, means that the brightest pupils in Trafford, are being squeezed out of the places there, and are having to apply to the other local schools, (such as the schools from which these 10 heads lead), which are all excessively oversubscribed. Our children ( Trafford children), need to know that there will be a place at their nearest school. So head teachers please be aware, it might seem great to you that your schools are always oversubscribed, but to local parents, it is a nightmare year on year. Many people do not have the choice to pay for schooling, just because you live in a reasonably prosperous area, doesn't mean you have the money to pay for schooling for your children. NCGS is quite a small school, even if it increases in size, it is not going to take away the oversubscription to other local schools, they will still get enough children to keep their schools going. Perhaps if schools worked together to educate our local children in their local area, we would all be better off. I was told in my child's appeal the school was not physically big enough to accept the children who appealed, as this would be prejudicial to the children who had gained a place, we won our appeal as did a number of other children. Surely if there is another school willing to offer another X amount of places to local children, this is a good thing as it would mean the other schools would experience less overcrowding? Or do they just want more and more. The money for each school is allocated based on the numbers of children at their school, from their school census. If the parents who currently pay could get places in an appropriate state funded school, I'm sure many of them would, so if NCGS were in a dire financial situation and it were to close, no doubt these 10 schools would make sure these local children would be able to be schooled in their local area! Of course We all know this is not the case, the children would be offered places in any school in Trafford where there was space, I.e miles away from where they lived, as that is all the LA is required to do.
Having had an extremely stressful year last year, when my child didn't get a place at our nearest school, I agree with the parents above. We had to appeal to get a place at a school less than a mile away, as we had been offered a place 2.5 miles from our home. We did eventually gain a place, but not until our child had been traumatised, being told she would not be going to the same school as all her friends. Despite knowing children who lived much further away than us getting a place straight away, because they lied about where they lived. It is a lottery, the borough needs more school places, as lots of people are moving to Trafford to get places in good schools. Also due to the restraints on schools, having to accept children with special needs and children in the care of local authorities, regardless how far away they live, there are fewer places for local children. Grammar schools picking the brightest pupils, having no catchment area, means that the brightest pupils in Trafford, are being squeezed out of the places there, and are having to apply to the other local schools, (such as the schools from which these 10 heads lead), which are all excessively oversubscribed. Our children ( Trafford children), need to know that there will be a place at their nearest school. So head teachers please be aware, it might seem great to you that your schools are always oversubscribed, but to local parents, it is a nightmare year on year. Many people do not have the choice to pay for schooling, just because you live in a reasonably prosperous area, doesn't mean you have the money to pay for schooling for your children. NCGS is quite a small school, even if it increases in size, it is not going to take away the oversubscription to other local schools, they will still get enough children to keep their schools going. Perhaps if schools worked together to educate our local children in their local area, we would all be better off. I was told in my child's appeal the school was not physically big enough to accept the children who appealed, as this would be prejudicial to the children who had gained a place, we won our appeal as did a number of other children. Surely if there is another school willing to offer another X amount of places to local children, this is a good thing as it would mean the other schools would experience less overcrowding? Or do they just want more and more. The money for each school is allocated based on the numbers of children at their school, from their school census. If the parents who currently pay could get places in an appropriate state funded school, I'm sure many of them would, so if NCGS were in a dire financial situation and it were to close, no doubt these 10 schools would make sure these local children would be able to be schooled in their local area! Of course We all know this is not the case, the children would be offered places in any school in Trafford where there was space, I.e miles away from where they lived, as that is all the LA is required to do. B123nda
  • Score: 3

2:25pm Thu 27 Mar 14

JSLShoots says...

I wholeheartedly support NCGS's free school application.
My family and I live in Baguley, our local schools are some of the poorest performing in Manchester with only 10% gaining GCSE A - C grades. I wanted the best education possible for my daughter, so my wife and I took the difficult decision to put our lives on hold and sent her to a private primary school in Timperley.
For the last 2 years my daughter has worked tirelessly with the aim of a Grammar school place. She sat 4 exams and failed 4 exams. I can tell you that the stress on a 10/11 year old has been insane. With that disappointment, we then applied for places in high schools out of our area in Trafford, Warrington & Cheshire East. Then we read about NCGS's free school application, this opened up a potential new school for us and my daughter sat the exam, passed and starts in September 2014.
If NCGS had remained a fee paying school, we had already decided it was not an option, we just don't have the money. However, now we only pay for 1 year if the application is approved. If not, we will have to pull her out and probably move house to find a suitable school.
Back in the 1990's NCGS had about 495 pupils, so Free School status will simply bring it back up to that level. It really is quite an insignificant figure when you compare it to Wellington High or some of the other high schools in the area.
NCGS does not come across as snobby and elitist like Altrincham Girls and I am impressed with the ethos of the school. It's about making kids the best they can be in whatever field their talents lie.
If NCGS gets Free Schools status, then Trafford Council will decide which kids go there and yes they will be local kids.
I wholeheartedly support NCGS's free school application. My family and I live in Baguley, our local schools are some of the poorest performing in Manchester with only 10% gaining GCSE A - C grades. I wanted the best education possible for my daughter, so my wife and I took the difficult decision to put our lives on hold and sent her to a private primary school in Timperley. For the last 2 years my daughter has worked tirelessly with the aim of a Grammar school place. She sat 4 exams and failed 4 exams. I can tell you that the stress on a 10/11 year old has been insane. With that disappointment, we then applied for places in high schools out of our area in Trafford, Warrington & Cheshire East. Then we read about NCGS's free school application, this opened up a potential new school for us and my daughter sat the exam, passed and starts in September 2014. If NCGS had remained a fee paying school, we had already decided it was not an option, we just don't have the money. However, now we only pay for 1 year if the application is approved. If not, we will have to pull her out and probably move house to find a suitable school. Back in the 1990's NCGS had about 495 pupils, so Free School status will simply bring it back up to that level. It really is quite an insignificant figure when you compare it to Wellington High or some of the other high schools in the area. NCGS does not come across as snobby and elitist like Altrincham Girls and I am impressed with the ethos of the school. It's about making kids the best they can be in whatever field their talents lie. If NCGS gets Free Schools status, then Trafford Council will decide which kids go there and yes they will be local kids. JSLShoots
  • Score: 2

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