Hello. I was part of the demonstration on Saturday and I would like to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how willing parents were to listen to what we had to say. I came away feeling that even if people were supportive of the free school, they were happy to engage in open and honest discourse and were, in the main, very respectful.
The rest of the group felt the same way too. I really enjoyed meeting you all.
What I was far less taken with was the attitude towards Chestnut Grove. Several of the parents that I spoke to told me that it was a bad school with knife crime. This would be shocking enough in itself, but not one of the parents that I spoke to had even visited Chestnut Grove. Most parents didn't even know where it was located. I did ask one woman where she was getting her information from. She informed me that she had been given that information "by a friend." I asked if she was happy to choose a school based on unsubstantiated gossip, she answered "yes."
Bad schools with knife crime do not get outstanding OFSTED reports.
Bad schools with knife crime do not get 777 applicants for 150 places.
Bad schools with knife crime do not appear in The Times' Top 600 schools for the number of A* and A grade GCSE awarded to their most able pupils.
Bad schools with knife crime do not appear in the top ten schools in the country for CVA scores.
Bad schools with knife crime do not have specialist language places that ensure that children get to study two languages at GCSE level.
Exam results are the starting point for most of us when considering a school, however they need to be viewed in context. You have consider what the intake of the school is. In the case of Graveney, there is a highly academic intake. When my son was taking his Wandsworth test, the minimum pass rate to get into Graveney was 98%. Yes, 98%. Minimum.
Any child residing in any borough is entitled to take the Wandsworth test. Therefore, if there is a choice between a local child with a 80% score or a Croydon child who gets 98%, guess who gets the place at Graveney? Given that most Wandsworth parents want to send their children to Graveney and therefore put it down as their first choice, then you can see why so many parents do not get their first choice of school in this borough. Graveney take the best and the brightest, regardless of distance.
As for Chestnut Grove, I believe that the GCSE pass rate is around 50% with English and Maths, rising to 95% without. Chestnut Grove has a varied intake of pupils across all classes, races, academic abilities, financial backgrounds etc.
Given that Chestnut Grove is located in London, not Gerrards Cross, I don't find this shocking in any way.
My son attended primary school in Putney; like Honeywell it is a school with a low percentage of free school meals recipients.
He scored level 5 across the board in his SATS and is therefore considered gifted and talented. I am a single mother and a full time undergraduate; ours is a family that values education. I would not play Russian Roulette with my son's academic future.
My son loves his school, is on course to do his GCSEs a year early and is very happy.
He is looking forward to going to Barcelona in the spring with the other language specialists at his school. I'm sure that you've guessed by now that my son attends CG.
I do find it sad that in London in 2010, someone could look at my lovely, polite, hard working, piano playing, Mozart loving, geeky son and make assumptions about him, his friends and the families that they come from, simply because of the uniform that he wears.
To the people who believe that CG is full of hoodies and chavs; did you realise that Graveney was once a very
similar school to Chestnut Grove? Funny how things change.
Again, I would like to thank all the people who took the time to speak to me on Saturday. I enjoyed meeting you all.