West London Free School

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West London Free School
241 King Street
Hammersmith, London, W6 9LP
Coordinates51°29′44″N 0°13′52″W / 51.4955°N 0.231°W / 51.4955; -0.231Coordinates: 51°29′44″N 0°13′52″W / 51.4955°N 0.231°W / 51.4955; -0.231
School typeFree school
MottoSapere Aude
FoundersToby Young, Cosmo Lush, Justin Tooth, Suzie and Ed Hobart, Kathryn Cooper, Chris Wieszczycki, Tim Waters, Simon Hugill, Mustafa Erdem, Charlie Ben-Nathan, Stefan Bojanowski
Department for Education URN136750 Tables
HeadteacherClare Wagner
Age11 to 18
Colour(s)     Navy blue

The West London Free School is an English free school for girls and boys aged 11 to 18. It was co-founded by Toby Young and opened in 2011.[1][2]

It is located in Hammersmith in west London and was the first free school of its type in England to sign a Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State for Education.[3]

The West London Free School offers children a classical liberal education and is a music specialist school, with more than half the pupils learning a musical instrument. Its production of Sweeney Todd in the summer of 2015 enjoyed a short, sell-out run at the Bush Theatre.[4]


The school was formally opened by Mayor of London Boris Johnson in September 2011 and is currently home to 600 pupils. It received over 1,000 applicants for its last 120 places, making it one of the most oversubscribed taxpayer-funded schools in England.[5]

The school's first headteacher was Thomas Packer, who served in post from September 2011 to January 2013, before becoming Education Director of the charitable trust that set up the school. Sam Naismith, a former England hockey coach, was then Headteacher from January 2013 until May 2014.[6] Dame Sally Coates, ex-principal of Burlington Danes Academy, looked after the school while a permanent head was chosen.[7] Hywel Jones was appointed as headteacher from September 2014 to December 2017. Jones was formerly an assistant headteacher at St. Mary's Catholic School in Bishop’s Stortford.[8]In January 2018, Clare Wagner became the school's headteacher.

The school was inspected by Ofsted in 2013 and 2017 and judged to be good.[9][10]

In 2013 the West London Free School Primary was opened, starting with two Reception classes of 30 pupils each.[11][12] In 2014, the West London Free School Academy Trust opened the Earls Court Free School Primary, which is currently co-located with the West London Free School Primary, but will move to Earls Court in 2020.[13] In 2016, the Trust opened the Kensington Primary Academy.

The secondary school is based at Palingswick House on King Street in Hammersmith. In May 2014 the Trust purchased an office block on nearby Bridge Avenue for £9.25 million. This building is now Franklin House, the school's sixth form.[14] Initially, the secondary school was based in Cambridge Grove, Hammersmith, before moving to its current location, with the West London Free School Primary and Earls Court Primary Free School also sharing the Cambridge Grove site.[15]

GCSE Results[edit]

The school posted its first set of GCSE results in August, 2016. Seventy-seven per cent of the pupils obtained five GCSEs marked A* to C, including English and Mathematics. Thirty-eight per cent of all the GCSEs taken were marked A* or A, with 63% marked A* to B. In Mathematics, 85% of pupils achieved A* to C, with 37% getting A* or A. In English Literature, 79% of pupils achieved A* to C, with 44% getting A* or A. One hundred per cent of pupils who took all three sciences achieved A* to C, with 75% getting an average grade of A* or A. One hundred per cent of pupils who took Music achieved A* to C, with 57% getting A* or A. One hundred per cent of pupils who took Art achieved A* to C, with 33% getting A* or A. Ninety-five per cent of pupils who took RE achieved A* to C, with 67% getting A* or A. The Best Eight score for the cohort is 5.9.[16]


In addition to criticism of the free school concept generally, the West London Free School was criticised in The Guardian for planning to make its permanent site Palingswick House in Hammersmith, a building then occupied by a number of community groups.[17] Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter added his voice to the criticism, arguing that "local people are against the plans", and stating that the school was "ousting 22 charities and a school for severely disabled children in its rush to open".[18]

In response, Toby Young pointed out that Palingswick House was listed for disposal by Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council long before the West London Free School came into existence and, had the school not subsequently bought it, it would likely have been sold off to a property developer and possibly demolished. There hasn't been a school for disabled children in Palingswick House for at least 50 years.[citation needed]

Opponents of free schools have also challenged perceived shortcomings in freedom of information access related to the development of free schools including the West London Free School.[19]

Peter Winter, the ex-headmaster of Latymer Upper School, criticised the proposal to base the West London Free School at Palingswick House, a neighbouring property, on the grounds that increased traffic to the area might threaten pupil safety.[20]

The school has been accused of being unrepresentative of the local community, but these charges have been denied by Young, saying that approximately 25 per cent of the pupils are on free school meals.[21]


  1. ^ The West London Free School has crossed the Rubicon The Telegraph
  2. ^ The Free School The Independent article
  3. ^ School information London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham
  4. ^ http://www.westlondonfreeschool.co.uk/overview/our-vision.html
  5. ^ Paton, Gaeme (10 April 2013). "Nine-in-10 of Coalition's free schools oversubscribed". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  6. ^ Anna Davis (6 May 2014). "Toby Young's free school loses another headteacher". Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  7. ^ "Dame Sally to the rescue: headteacher helps flagship free school whose head suddenly left". Get West London. 19 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  8. ^ Anna Davis (15 July 2014). "Toby Young: 'Letting children run wild and play is romantic rubbish that entrenches inequality'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  9. ^ "West London Free School" (PDF). Ofsted. 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  10. ^ Tiplin, Matt (2017). "Short inspection of West London Free School" (PDF). Ofsted. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Welcome to the West London Free School Primary". West London Free School. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  12. ^ "West London Free School announces primary plans". GetWestLondon. 10 January 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  13. ^ Alix Culbertson (22 November 2013). "Toby Young's Trust gets permission for free school at Earls Court". GetWestLondon. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  14. ^ Anna Davis (8 May 2014). "Toby Young's free school buys £9million office block". Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  15. ^ "Dame Sally Coates Steps In at West London Free School". HammersmithToday. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  16. ^ "West London Free School GCSE Results" (PDF). 25 August 2016. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  17. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan (17 January 2011). "Free school plan comes at a price for voluntary groups". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  18. ^ www.andyslaughter.co.uk, February 16th, 2011 Retrieved March 2012
  19. ^ Murray, Janet (15 February 2011). "Anti-free school campaigners seek more transparency". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  20. ^ Hodges, Dan (24 February 2011). "Private school head does not want West London Free School as a neighbour/". Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  21. ^ September 4th, 2014 Retrieved September 2014 2012

External links[edit]