Magazine article The Spectator

Why Not Start Your Own School?

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Not Start Your Own School?

Article excerpt

Rachel Wolf, director of the New Schools Network, offers a step-by-step guide to joining a revolution in British education

Parents who can't afford to move into the right catchment area, let alone pay expensive fees, are often desperately worried about the local schools. Teachers are worried about schools too: brilliant teachers who have worked in some of the worst classrooms in the country know they can do better. Charities are longing to work where they're needed most. That's why in four months we at the New Schools Network have been contacted by hundreds of parents, teachers and charities who all want to set up new state schools. And their first question is:

' ow do we do it?'

The answer isn't simple. At the moment it's very difficult to set up a school. Unless there aren't enough places for the children in the area, it's rarely possible. But it doesn't need to be this way, and we want legislation to change. America, Canada and Sweden are inspiring examples. The new state schools set up there have boosted standards - pupils who would once have been more likely to go to jail than to college are now attending Ivy League universities.

While it's difficult to set up a new school at the moment, it's not impossible, and with any luck it'll be getting much easier soon under plans proposed by the Conservatives. Here are the first few steps to setting up your own school.

1) Make the case. Why do you want a new school? Is there nothing in your area? Are the local schools of poor quality? Are you looking for something which just isn't offered?

Under current rules you need to show that there aren't enough places in your area. Put a reedom of Information request into your local authority - how many pupils are being educated elsewhere? If you want a school with a faith ethos, then you need to show that ethos isn't catered for. How oversubscribed are the faith schools?

What will your school offer that doesn't exist? You need to make sure that if you had five minutes to explain to a parent why they should send their child to your school, you could.

2) Get support. You won't get a school if no one wants to send their child there. And under the current system, you have to convince the local authority that your idea will be popular.

If you want a secondary school, talk to parents at the local primaries. …

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