New Head "Rebalances" West London Free School

Cutting trips and after school clubs and focusing on teaching

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Hywel Jones, the new headteacher at West London Free School says he is "rebalancing" the school by reducing extra-curricular activities and making sure children catch up on their work.

Mr Jones, who will become full time headteacher in September, told parents he has cut the number of trips and after-school clubs, saying that staff need to focus on teaching as part of a general rebalancing of the school.

The school has an extensive extra-curricular programme with 30 different activities including Ancient Greek, Mandarin, games and puzzles and chess as well as a full range of sports.

On its website it explains new year seven pupils undergo a five week induction programme which sees them attending four clubs a week, after which they can choose other clubs or drop to three a week.

Mr Jones said pupils in years seven and eight are still expected to complete three hours of after-school clubs a week, year ten will now have to take just one a week.

Mr Jones, who is the school’s third headteacher since its launch in 2011 has also stopped overseas and residential trips during term time, and said that all sports fixtures must take place in the last two periods of the day.

In a letter to parents, he said: " I know that the pupils get a huge amount out of these activities, but organising them takes up a great deal of the staff’s time. I’d like the staff to be able to focus on what it is we’ve hired them to do, which is teach your children."

Mr Jones told the Evening Standard that these changes were "minor" and had been welcomed by parents.

The school's founder Toby Young admitted: " I think the secondary school was trying to do a little bit too much in replicating the kind of extra-curricular programme you would find in good independent boarding schools, and at the same time hoping to get outstanding academic results. That’s a little bit too ambitious."

Mr Young's own position has come into question recently due to the fact that he is no longer listed as a governor. However Mr Young said as the school has grown into a multi-academy trust, including West London Free School Primary which launched last year and Earls Court Primary, launching in September, he became a director of the trust that runs the school rather than a governor, and is also CEO of the trust.

In his letter, Mr Jones acknowledged that the changes to the school's curriculum had been initiated by Dame Sally Coates, the former head of Burlington Danes Academy in Shepherd's Bush, who stepped in to "keep an eye" on West London Free School and assist the school as it searches for a new headteacher.

Toby Young confirmed her role on Friday May 9, saying: " Dame Sally Coates has very kindly agreed to keep on eye on the school this term and help us recruit a new head.

" It's not a formal role. Rather, she's acting as a mentor and adviser to the acting head and the senior leadership team. So far she's been brilliant and everyone at the school is very impressed.

" With Dame Sally's help I'm confident we'll find an excellent new head."

August 22, 2014