What is a free school?
A Free School is an independent, state-funded school set up by members of the community who are filling a need within that community to add to the local family of schools. Our schools are in areas where there is a shortage of places.
Why are you opening the schools and not the local education authority?
The law changed so that local authorities were not allowed to open schools, and the only way a new school could open is as a free school. However, we are in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council because we believe that they should have a role in supporting the school. In turn, we are filling part of the need for places in each town.
Who are you?
We are a group formed from a variety of educational organisations including the University of Hertfordshire and Longdean Secondary School in Hemel Hempstead.
Do you charge if I send my child to one of your schools?
No, education at our schools is free. In line with other local schools, there will be small charges for lunch and some after school activities.
Who pays for the school to be built?
The Education Funding Agency funded the building or refurbishment of each school.
Who pays for the school to be run?
The Department for Education funds the school directly. In state schools, the funding goes to the local education authority, which retains part of the money to fund central education services, and passes the rest to the school. In a free school, we receive the total amount direct to the school, and this allows us to choose where we buy our services, some of which will be from Hertfordshire County Council.
Are you a faith school?
No, our Community Free Schools are not faith schools, and we welcome children and families of all or no denomination.
What happens if the Government changes?
The school will not lose funding, and your child’s education will not be at risk.
Who runs the schools?
Each school has a local governing body, and the West Herts School Trust oversees those individual local governing bodies. These governing bodies are put together very carefully to ensure that the governors have the right skills to support each school. There are also parent governors and staff governors.
How do I put my child’s name down for one of your schools?
Our admissions are run through Hertfordshire County Council School Admissions process.
What year groups do you take?
The first two years we took one reception class and every September since we have added another year. September 2018 we will take pupils in reception, year one, year two, year 3 and year 4. The schools will be full in their seventh year.
Am I taking a risk sending my child to you?
No, we have excellent, experienced Principals in place to lead each school. They are from existing schools with a proven track record in providing outstanding education. That will be combined with support from Ofsted, the Department for Education and the education experts from the Trust.
How do you teach the children?
We ensure that every child has an individual education, no child will be left behind, and every child is stretched academically to ensure they perform to their maximum potential.
Do you employ qualified teachers?
Yes, all of our teachers are qualified to teach in primary schools.
How do we know your schools provide a good education?
Our schools are inspected regularly by Ofsted and the reports can be found on the Ofsted website, a link to which can be found on the homepage of this website.
How do you manage behaviour?
We have high expectations of each child, both behaviourally and academically. If a child isn’t quite reaching those expectations, then we work with them and their parents, to support them in reaching those expectations.
Do you take pupils with special needs?
Yes, we welcome children with special needs and support them with a qualified Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO).
My child is very clever, what will you do for them?
In the first term, we get to know your child’s strengths, and their day at school will be spent developing those strengths and stretching their learning in both areas of strength and areas that need support. This applies to every child.
Are your uniforms expensive?
No. You are able to buy the majority of it in local supermarkets. The exceptions are jumpers / cardigans which are available to buy from a local uniform supplier who won the tender to provide these items at a reasonable cost.
Do you follow the same school hours as the local schools?
The timings for each school vary and depend on the local community and their needs.
How big are your classes?
We take 60 children in each year group. Reception and Year 1 have just 20 children in each class. This is to allow the children to fully develop their basic learning and language skills before moving into classes of 30 in Year 2 and above. This is the model our sister school in Hatfield is successfully using.
Do you provide hot school meals?
We provide hot food at lunch times.
What if we receive Free School Meals?
You will continue to receive Free School Meals, meaning that there will be no cost for your child’s lunch. If you think you might qualify for Free School Meals, please click the link: Free School Meals information on HertsDirect.
Who will be in the classroom with my child?
Apart from the class teacher, there may be other people supporting the lessons. These could be a Learning Support Practitioner (teaching assistant), the Principal, a parent, and students from the University on placements. This is no different to any other primary school, and the children enjoy having different people helping them with their learning.
There isn’t much outdoor space for the schools in Watford, how will they do sports?
Both Watford schools have large playgrounds and both have access to playing fields.
Do your schools have nurseries?
Yes, the nurseries are run by Squirrels Day Nurseries, a private provider, and they accept the nursery vouchers the same way as any other nursery, so your child will receive a funded place. The nurseries are separate from the schools, but use some of our facilities such as hot meals.
Is there be childcare for babies?
Yes, as part of the private nursery, there is childcare from 8am – 6pm for babies and children up to school age.