Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Setting Up a Free School

Since the introduction of the free school concept in the UK, the idea has really caught on with parents and organisations who want to take better control of their children’s education. Religious groups have welcomed the opportunity to incorporate their religion’s teachings into the curriculum, and community groups, charities and parents have been enthusiastic about giving their children a wider choice of school experiences. If you’re considering setting up a free school, what should you do?

Firstly, you need to work out if you can afford the funding. The way to do this if you don’t have the backing of a charity or a religious group is to approach potential sponsors in your area. Those with businesses relating to the education sector would be a good place to start. Once you have secured funding, make sure you find yourself an accountant as soon as possible to stay on top of the finances.

Next, you will need to find a suitable site for the school. You will need to have figured out how much interest there is in your school and have a rough idea of the numbers you intend to attract before you start looking for somewhere. Some free school organisations have had brand new buildings built from scratch, but others have moved into community spaces or even vacant offices.

Your school will need to be kitted out with enough equipment for each child, and this should tie in with the curriculum you intend to teach. The first place to start is with some good quality classroom furniture, such as desks, chairs and drawers at a suitable height and size for the age group that will be using it. After this, you can start thinking about more specialist equipment such as science desks fitted with gas taps, art and technology benches and sports equipment.

The curriculum is extremely important and you should discuss this with the parents of prospective pupils to see what people want their children to learn about. You need to make sure you incorporate the main subjects (literacy, numeracy and science) into the timetable, but the way you teach them and the angle you approach them from is up to you. You may decide that the school will specialise in one specific area, such as sport or foreign languages.

Working closely with a mentor can be really helpful, as it’s not necessarily easy to set up a brand new school from scratch if it’s never been done before. You’ll be dealing with the education of the children of your community, so it’s vital that you get it right and know how to overcome any teething problems you may run into.

Dawn Siddle has been following the free school movement for several years and is fascinated by its success thus far

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