The New School at West Heath: Difference between revisions

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*To change educational law so that all children have the same rights to achieve the skills, knowledge and behaviour that will give them a good start in adult life.
*To change educational law so that all children have the same rights to achieve the skills, knowledge and behaviour that will give them a good start in adult life.
*Does not meet many of the criteria of the British [ National Boarding Standards] set by the government that all boarding schools are supposed to legally abide by.
While forbidden by the school rules; much of it is being done and in many cases encouraged by underage children, some as young as 11, it is ''totally ignored'' by the boarding staff who [[turn a blind eye]] to it. Some of the staff also smoke on the school site.
===Violence and bullying===
Violence and bullying are common-place. Staff are trained in the "Team Teaching" method of de-escalation and intervention, which is ''intended'' to ensure that all students and staff are responded to with dignity whilst keeping everyone safe, however this is often useless in a violent situation, most staff being unqualified to ''stop'' a fight, only capable of attempting to prevent one occurring and there have been numerous times where both boarders, day students and staff have had to visit hospital as a result of violence at the school.
When violence occurs, pupils are encouraged by the Head of Care not to bring matters to the attention of the police and "get the school in trouble" - The Police cannot pursue criminal charges without the cooperation of the victim. In the (quite numerous) instances when police have been called as a result of violence at the school, the school has actively worked to prevent the police pursuing any criminal charges, the Head of Care writing "letters of protection" to protect bullies and thugs who harm others from prosecution.
Usually physical violence is met with only one day of suspension - a day where the student does not have to attend school. This is widely regarded as a "day off" or a holiday. Facts and logs of events are toned down or changed (for example, unprovoked attacks have been distorted to be present as provoked, and so "both their fault") to avoid possible police criminal charges or negative publicity.
Students are given keys to their boarding rooms, however the key system allows ''any'' member of staff to open a student's door for their room whenever they wish. Often staff go inside students' rooms without asking their permission, sometimes without even knocking - and there have been several incidents of staff entering students' rooms after they have been explicitly told ''not'' to, sometimes when students are undressed.
Boarders' home addresses, telephone numbers and other confidential personal details are kept in clear view on noticeboards inside the "staff office", a small closet-like room in each boarding house. This room is kept locked under most circumstances, however it is often left open, and also boarders are allowed in this room when they need to make a phone call to family or friends, they are allowed in this office unsupervised - obviously, there is easy potential for students to read and remember, or write down other pupils' personal information. Many of these "offices" also have large windows for seeing inside the office, making it possible to read straight from the list without even needing to get inside (which needs a master key - these also often go missing).
Much of the boarding staff are untrained in any kind of care, some having no formal qualifications, even the most basic secondary-school [[General Certificate of Education|GCSE]], to their name. The daily handover books where details of each student in each boarding house's day is written down (to minute detail, such as whenever a student goes outside) have often been accused of [[bias]] by students; for example staff have been known to antagonise students deliberately then write down - after students react, not even necessarily seriously - that it was completely unprovoked so the students get punished the next day. A clique culture exists between some of the staff, and information is '''not''' on a "need-to-know" basis as claimed by the school - staff often gossiping about the day to day activities of students, treating their difficulties at home or school in a manner such as reality TV programmes for their own entertainment.
==See also==
==See also==

Revision as of 15:00, 6 July 2006

File:The New School at West Heath.jpg
The Old School part of the school buildings.

The New School at West Heath (often referred to simply as The New School) is an independent school for children for whom mainstream schooling has broken down, for varying reasons. While many are not mentally or physically disabled, many have been through harsh circumstances and suffer from related things such as emotional trauma, which fits with the school's motto, "Rebuilding damaged lives." The school is based on Ashgrove Road, Sevenoaks, England on 31 acres of parkland for its use, all of which is on lease from Mohamed Al-Fayed, who has contributed almost £3 million GBP towards the school. Its current Principal is Valerie May. The School is a registered charity with the Charity Commission (Registered Charity Number 1069677, West Heath 2000 Ltd, Company Registration Number 3571239).

File:Mohamed Al-Fayed and Valerie May.jpg
Valerie May & Mohamed Al-Fayed.

It is quite famous for being the school Diana, Princess of Wales spent her child education at, as well as her sister Sarah (now Lady McCorquodale). It was then called West Heath Girls' School and was a very exclusive girls' school with around 100 boarding pupils.

It was founded in its current form on 14 September 1998 and at the start the school had around 30 pupils. At the time it was named The Beth Marie Centre (for traumatised children), this was a relocation from its previous premises in the centre of Sevenoaks.

Boarding began in the year 2000.

"The school is becoming a real living memorial to the life of Diana, Princess of Wales and her companion Dodi Al Fayed." --Valerie May, Principal

History and grounds

The old school house was originally built in the 18th century and was the home of the Elliot family.

It became a school in 1932, at the time being West Heath Girls' School, a very exclusive girls' school with around 100 boarding pupils. Both Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales and her sister Sarah (now Lady Sarah McCorquodale) spent their childhood education there. Other notable alumni include Tilda Swinton, perhaps best known in the UK for her role in Constantine as the archangel Gabriel and as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia.

In the 1990s, the school got into financial difficulties due to falling numbers of pupils attending the school, and was put into Receivership in 1997 - coincidentally on the very day the Princess died.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund wanted to buy the school at first, but decided against it, and Mohamed Al Fayed stepped in to buy West Heath for £2,300,000 on the 20th May 1998 as new premises for the Beth Marie Centre. He had previously seen for himself work being done by the Centre's founder, Valerie May, in a collection of portable buildings. Al Fayed later pledged to contribute a further £550,000 towards equipping the school and visits frequently, continuing to show his support for the school.

"I am surprised that the Princess Diana memorial fund, with all its millions in the bank, did not show a greater interest in this project," Al Fayed said in a statement. "I believe it to be a far more fitting tribute to her work than putting her name on tasteless souvenirs." [1]

(The Fund has previously been criticised by others for allowing sponsorship of products like margarine tubs in Diana's name.)

The school was founded in its current form, with Valerie May as Principal, on the 14th September 1998 and at the start the school had around 30 pupils. Boarding began in the year 2000, and there are six boarding houses, each named after one of the Trustees (see Management, below); Sleep, Sissons, Astor, Ruth, Hunniford and Esther.

As well as the Old School a more modern teaching block was built to increase the classroom capacity and overall space for the school.


Founding patron: Mohamed Al-Fayed, of Harrods fame and father of the late Dodi Al-Fayed, Princess Diana's partner.

The school is governed by a board of nine Trustees/Patrons (who are the tenants of the Al Fayed Charitable Foundation):

School management:

General information

Unlike many schools, Ofsted inspection documents are not available online. Ofsted inspection, Policy, syllabuses, schemes of work and National Curriculum documents can be made available on request to the Head of Education, Chris Moffet (

  • Criteria of students - 11 to 19 years old, female or male.

Possible disabilities include: Acute stress disorder, Addiction, Affective spectrum, Agoraphobia, Anorexia nervosa, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), Asperger syndrome, Autistic spectrum/High functioning autism, Avoidant personality disorder, Bipolar/Bipolar spectrum, Bulimia nervosa, Conduct disorder, Developmental delay, Clinical depression, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Epilepsy, Exhibitionism, Gender identity disorder, Genetic disorders, Hysteria, Nervous breakdown, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), Oppositional defiant disorder, (ODD), General anxiety disorder (GAD), Impulse control disorder (Kleptomania, Intermittent explosive disorder, Pyromania, Pathological gambling, Trichotillomania), Emotional or behavioural difficulties, Pathological demand avoidance (PDA), Panic attacks, Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), Self-harm (SH), Separation anxiety disorder/School refusal, Selective mutism, Semantic pragmatic disorder, Social anxiety (Social phobia), Tourette syndrome, and other various mental health problems.

However many of the disadvantaged students have never had the opportunity to get a formal Statement of Special Needs (SSEN) for various reasons.

  • Costs - £15,790 p/a (per annum) for day students, £42,972 p/a for residential (boarding) students.
  • Class size - 8 maximum.
  • Funding - The school has no state school status, however it is indirectly funded through the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) of individual students, Social Services, Health authorities, bursary, or self-funded. Each student has an annual review each year to determine if their needs are being met and what changes if any need to be made in their education. Recently the school has had to cut back hard on funding due to less charity donations than previously, and Al-Fayed ceasing to fund the school.

It received some money from Children In Need in 2004, and teachers and students have also partook in fund-raising activities for Children In Need as a whole, for example sponsored silences, head shaves, makeup-for-the-day and so on.



GCSE grades:


GCSE grades [2]:

  • Number of students aged 15: 20
  • Students achieving 5 or more GCSE passes (A*-C): 0%
  • Students failing to achieve at least one entry level qualification: 20%
  • Average total GCSE point score per 15 year old: 121.3 (for comparison, the nearest non-Special Educational Needs school, Sevenoaks School: 498.2)


GCSE grades [3]:

  • Number of students: 31
  • Students aged 16 achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*-G: 89% (unpublished which of this is passes, e.g. A*-C)
  • Average total point score per 16-year-old: 23.8 (for comparison, the nearest non-SEN school, Sevenoaks School average: 66.8)
  • Pupils with Special Educational Needs: 100%


Key Stage 3 tests [4] (not GCSE):

  • % students achieving level 5 or above in English test: 0%
  • % students achieving level 5 or above in Maths test: 22%
  • % students achieving level 5 or above in Science test: 0%
  • % 15-year-olds achieving 5 or more grades A*-C: 4%
    • 1998-2002 decrease in % of 15-year-olds getting 5 or more A*-C: 17%
  • % 15-year-olds achieving 5 or more grades D-G: 32%
  • % 15-year-olds failing to achieve at least 5 G grades: 64%


GCSE grades [5]:

The New School at West Heath's GCSE grades in comparison to all other schools in Kent and England as a whole in 2000). Crown copyright, Department for Education and Skills.
  • Students achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C: 33%
  • Students failing to achieve at least 5 GCSE passes: 67%
  • Students failing to achieve any GCSE passes: 17%
  • Pupils with Special Educational Needs: 100%
  • Pupils with SEN with statements: 61.9%
  • Pupils with SEN without statements: 38.1%
  • Number of students: 42


GCSE grades [6]:

  • Students achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C: 21%
  • Students failing to achieve at least 5 GCSE passes: 79%
  • Students failing to achieve any GCSE passes: 11% [7]

Post 16

As well as the school teaching students from Years 7 to 11, the school operates a section allowing students to get "support" from the school while going to college - the school itself does and cannot afford staff to teach A-level quality subjects itself. Many continue boarding at the school while going to college from there. Due to many of the students living far away, once they start a College course while staying with the Post 16 section of the school, it is very hard for them to move to another college if they change their mind and wish to stop boarding at the school. Often students are given the option of abandoning their college course and the qualification they have worked for a year on, or moving to another college and leaving the school. Most students just cannot afford their own transport and Local Education Authorities (LEAs) work on a yearly basis and will not help pay for transport if a student wishes to leave the school.

Fund a Child's Education (FaCE)

The New School has set up a fundraising drive, FaCE (Fund a Child's Education) to enable it to help enable children in need of the school to move from its very large waiting list of potential students. They appreciate any help, be it a donation, fundraising by a coffee morning, or corporate sponsorship.

Educational Rights for the Individual Child (ERIC)

ERIC, or Educational Rights for the Individual Child, is a campaign and support group for the families of children whose mainstream education has broken down.

Under the 1988 Education Act, children experiencing difficulties which prevent them from attending school are not entitled to a full-time education as a statutory right, and the amount of education they receive is at the discretion of the Local Education Authorities (LEA). It may be as little as three hours of home tuition each week, or part-time attendance at a special unit.

Whatever the amount of time offered, it is rarely full-time. This means that the National Curriculum, or even a broad curriculum, cannot be followed. Not surprisingly, few qualifications are achieved by these children unless they are lucky enough to gain a place at a school such as the New School at West Heath.

The stated goals of ERIC are:

  • To support for families and others who are concerned about a child in distress who has no statutory right to full-time education.
  • To create awareness of this problem and to highlight the weakness of current legislation.
  • To change educational law so that all children have the same rights to achieve the skills, knowledge and behaviour that will give them a good start in adult life.

See also

External links