The independent, fee paying, Hindu, Swaminarayan School in Neasden is considering becoming a free school. The school for 4-19 year olds currently charges between £2,600 and £3,600 per year according to the pupil's age. A few scholarships are available for those unable to afford the fees. The Swaminarayan is rated as one of the top performing independent schools in London and emphasises the 'best of English education combined with Hindu tradition'.
The Swaminarayan School was founded in 1991 and is housed in the former Sladebook High School building in Brent field Road, opposite the Swaminarayan Mandir.
The school's admission information states:
In order to qualify for entry, a child must reach a certain academic standard in the Preparatory School entrance examinations in English and Mathematics. He/she will have to pass an oral and written examination. Although Kindergarten/Nursery children are not tested academically, an informal interview is arranged between the parents, Head of Nursery and Head of Preparatory School. Assessments of the following areas will be carried out: child’s spoken language, vocabulary, nursery rhymes, ability to listen to instructions, solving simple puzzles, social skills and hand-eye co-ordinations are carried outFree school status would mean that the school would become directly funded via the Department for Education. It was the first 'all-through' school in Brent combining primary (or Prep as the Swaminarayan call it) and secondary departments, and was followed by the Ark Academy and Preston Manor. I doubt that the school could keep the admissions procedures if it becomes state funded - nor should it.
I understand that some parents are concerned that direct funding would result in class sizes becoming larger and I am not sure whether the regulations allow for some residual fee charging to enable school class sizes to be retained. Parents, particularly those with several childrem, will save a considerable amount of money if the bid is successful.
I asked the Principal to comment on the reports about a possible free school application and also on rumours that the school might buy the neighbouring Centre for Staff Development when Brent Council vacates it next year.
Mr Mahendra Savjani, Principal of Swaminarayan School said:
There were rumours several years ago when Brent Council was looking for school sites that the Swaminarayan may move to Harrow but these reports were denied. Brent is expecting a shortage of secondary school places in the future as the swelling primary school population moves through the system.The Swaminarayan School is considering applying for Free School status. Whilst we have not found a site, we would wish to locate to a site in the heart of the Hindu community. The excellent education that the school provides at present will be open to all.
The previously independent fee paying Batley Grammar School converted to free school status last September with much flag-waving from the government. LINK
Brent Council has decided that it will actively seek free school partners to address the shortage of school places.
There are a considerable number of small fee paying prep schools in Brent that might consider a similar move. St Christopher's in Wembley upset parents a few years ago when it announced at short notice that it would be unable to run a Year 6 class the following academic year because numbers were not viable.