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Opening a new free school in Liverpool/Cheshire. Advice sought

(23 Posts)
RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 18:06:21

Hello all!

I am an experienced teacher looking to move to Liverpool/North West to open a new free school. I'm looking to open a small school with the focus being on excellence through challenge and creativity. My aim is to ensure that students can access a creative education, with less pressure and more focus on enjoyment, leading to an excellent set of examination results tailored to the child's needs. There will be a focus on G&T students and the more able as I have found that these students are often under-assisted and under-funded.

Basically, in order to begin the process, I need to find an area in which a school is felt to be required or needed. I'm currently in Brighton but am originally from Warrington, and am not au fait with the areas around Liverpool/Cheshire, but was wondering if any Mumsnetters could point me in the direction of areas where they know school shortages are a real issue. Once I have an area, I can then garner support from parents and begin my application on the basis of "genuine need for a school in the area".

This is only my second post so please accept my apologies if this is in the wrong place!

All help and assistance would be appreciated.

PirateSmile Sat 05-Mar-16 18:10:36

Knowsley is said to be 'failing' pupils so I'm sure some parents would welcome an alternative.

PirateSmile Sat 05-Mar-16 18:12:17

You may find this article interesting.

RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 18:16:05

Thank you - I had read about the low quality of education in the area and feel like I could make some difference in the area. This is very helpful.

MayhemandMadness Sat 05-Mar-16 18:21:39

What age range?

soapboxqueen Sat 05-Mar-16 18:22:48

Funnily enough I'm also sent up a free school but it will be a specialist provision in the North East.

How do you intend to focus on G&T if you can't select by academic ability?

RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 18:22:58

It would help for me to say, wouldn't it!

11-18 is my aim; I find that secondary education is suffering the most at the moment from the recent changes to education.

I am currently Head of English at a secondary school.

RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 18:26:39

I intend to make it a focus of the school; I won't be selecting students on ability but will create a curriculum that is suited to students of all needs but allows G&T students to also progress at a level suited to their needs. The new GCSEs are extremely limiting when feeding down to KS3 and I'm finding that I could do a lot with some focus on a creative curriculum with high-ability students but in many schools, these are the students who get the least attention and care, even though they stand to do the best.

admission Sat 05-Mar-16 19:08:13

Whilst you might be very aufait with the subject matter for 11-18 pupils, I question whether you really understand the logistics and the sheer volume of issues you have to face that are non-teaching to get a free school off the ground.There is a significant time lapse between being able to put together an idea to submitting the detailed plan and getting approval. And that is without the issues of a suitable building.
Across Wirral, Cheshire area there is a reasonable balance of places to needs and a number of speculative free school plans based on science and business have failed to get past the starting point. So I think you have a very long way to go before you even get to the school being more than an idea.

ImperialBlether Sat 05-Mar-16 19:11:12

Good luck in Knowsley! I think you're crazy going into a geographical area that you know nothing about, to be honest.

RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 19:17:21

Thank you for the lesson! I already work in a free school so completely understand the time lines and logistics of setting up - I've been an integral part of it for over a year and followed my school's journey over four years from conception to reality, so the timeline is nothing new to me, nor is the work. I've seen first-hand the amount of hard work that has gone into our school in addition to being a key part of proceedings re: curriculum design, site selection, staffing, marketing/PR and communication with parents in the area, Ofsted, liaising with exam boards, cross-curricular plans and the like.

I've already made contact with New Schools Network and have been to local events to learn more from them, too.

You've made quite a lot of assumptions about me; for example, you have no idea of my timeline, and so your inference that I don't know much about the process seems quite presumptuous. I'm sure that there are many have-a-go-headteachers out there looking to set up, and there have been many posts like mine over time, but if you have anything helpful to offer, perhaps composing a post that seems quite flippant and rude isn't the best way to go about it.

For the thread - I do not intend to set up for at least two years and at the moment, as stated in my original post, I am just looking for suitable areas of need at the moment. I have a five-year plan ahead of me, by which time I'd intend to be up and running with a Year 7 cohort of approx 30-60.

You can rest easy - I've done a lot of hard work and research and am well aware of the road that lies ahead.

Thanks for your insight re: the area; that information is really key to me and very helpful, though I have done some research and it seems that Knowsley and the like is in need of a different quality of education, so I'm going to take that back to my NSN advisor as a jumping-off point.

RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 19:20:20

I do know the area - I grew up in Warrington, and my partner grew up in Liverpool. I intend to make the area my home but won't be moving there for another year or two. Hence making inquiries now regarding whether it's a non-starter before I even move, as my partner and I have a few places in mind.

The intake doesn't worry me; I've worked in some of the most deprived areas of the UK in my long career.

RebbyPee Sat 05-Mar-16 19:23:00

Can I also add that I'm not here to have my idea and ambition criticised negatively - I'm looking for constructive feedback. I know some mums are against free schools, and you're entitled to that opinion, but I'm not your enemy.

I have an ambition and an idea; I'm at the very start of a very long journey - I know that!

merlottime Sat 05-Mar-16 20:51:23

Sorry, but as a parent I would be very dubious about opting for a new school where the head has no experience at senior leadership level - head, deputy or assistant head. You may be fantastic but I would want to know that someone has experience of school leadership, not just at a departmental level. Maybe apply for SLT positions in the area while you are researching your proposals?

Bolognese Sat 05-Mar-16 21:27:18

I am all for free schools, exactly for the ideals you express. Would also support you if I lived in your area.

Two things spring to mind. Have you considered how you could afford to run the school. A cohort of 30-60 does not bring in enough government funds to support a school.

Secondly, how will you be able to provide 'G&T students to also progress at a level suited to their need', if your admissions are mostly deprived children needing remedial help?

RebbyPee Sun 06-Mar-16 08:21:07

Hi! Yes, I completely understand this. I do have experience at SLT level, but it is my aim to have further experience in the next few years. I'd also ensure that the team around me were experienced. Saying that, the head at my current school went from HoD to headteacher and the school's Ofsted is the best in the city.

RebbyPee Sun 06-Mar-16 08:25:49

Hello! Thanks for this; it gives me some things to think about. My current school opened on govt funding with a cohort of 60 but maybe I need to rethink my numbers. That's helped me see I was being under ambitious, so thank you!

Secondly - I don't believe deprivation equals needing remedial help. I started my career in Gosport and was often saddened by the number of gifted and able students who were left by the wayside because all of the focus was on the lower achievers.

My aim would be to ensure that all students can access the curriculum to a level reflective of needs. I'm not opening a special school, where most students in need of remedial education would likely go. It's more that I'm thinking of creating personalised curriculums, with G&T specialists in addition to the regular teaching staff, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all curriculum. So G&T students might be taught in a more seminar-style classroom environment, but low-ability kinaesthetic students may follow a curriculum that allows them to learn a trade alongside their studies. I hope this makes sense. The idea is already evolving thanks to your feedback, so thanks smile

soapboxqueen Sun 06-Mar-16 09:48:03

I really don't think the qualifications of somebody who has managed to set up a whole school and already has experience in education is going to be an issue for most parents. If it were there would be far more parents complaining about heads in ALL schools and refusing to send their children.

soapboxqueen Sun 06-Mar-16 09:49:35

How have got on with the new schools network? I've put off applying for their development program because we are struggling to prove numbers and it was needed for their application form.

bojorojo Mon 07-Mar-16 00:24:17

Interestingly it is the pupil premium children where the educational attainment gap is widest. In fact most high ability children do well in most decent schools. It is the low and middle achievers who do less well. Hence the focus on them. Who uses the term "remedial" these days. In addition, good schools focus on all the children.

If you have read Sir Michael Wilshaw's comments, the sad fact is that there are not enough talented SLT to go round. This and the shortage of teachers means schools in the North, in particular, are severely challenged. You may be able to import good teachers by robbing Peter to pay Paul, but don't bank on it.

Personally, I don't think schools are just about results. Or even a tailor-made curriculum with loads of talented teachers for the already gifted and talented. I actually think good quality sports teams, high class drama and music, a huge range of extra curricular activities and an aporoach that gives the best to all children is equally important. A tiny school with a modest curriculum and basic sport/drama/music would not float my boat. My mum was invited for Christmas lunch at her local free secondary school. A lovely lunch from the chef was followed by entertainment from the singularly not gifted or talented children. It appears they are all in the local grammar school.

merlottime Mon 07-Mar-16 08:08:03

I am really gobsmacked that you think you have the right attitude to lead a school when you refer to 'remedial', and have such a patronising attitude to non G&T students eg 'learn a trade'. Good schools offer more vocational subjects through BTECs alongside GCSEs, but in none of the schools that I have come across have these students been referred to as 'low ability' in such a blatant way. maybe you would feel more at home in the private sector where you can select by ability?

hellsbells99 Mon 07-Mar-16 08:54:19

Op, they were trying to open up a new school in Chester for 14-18 year olds but I believe it has run into funding problems for the actual premises.

eyebrowse Mon 07-Mar-16 10:34:59

Would it be possible to teach yourself in one of the low achieving schools already in the area to start with and see if you can improve an already existing school? Then you would know the area well before starting a free school if you still thought that was the best route.

I have relatives in an area which had a similar free school and despite being the sort of parents who I would have expected would go for this school they decided against because they were worried about the lack of qualified teachers. I think you would need to make sure you do have qualified teachers to have a chance of success but given the shortage of teachers for the foreseeable future you would also need to make sure that you would offer your teachers a decent work/life balance

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