Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Free School Freedoms Are Enticing Teachers: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Free School Freedoms Are Enticing Teachers: News

Article excerpt

Almost 60 per cent of approved applications are from school staff.

Nearly six in 10 of the free schools approved by the government to open next year are being led by teachers, making school staff the fastest growing group of successful free school applicants.

Last week, Downing Street and the Department for Education announced that 102 schools had been approved to open from September 2013 and beyond - a 50 per cent increase on the number due to open in 2012. Of these, 59 are being led by teacher groups, with the government claiming that the profession is turning to the policy in a bid to run schools as they see fit.

Announcing the latest wave of free schools, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the message from the first two years of the policy was "clear and unambiguous". "Free schools work and parents and teachers want more of them," he said.

Among the most recently approved is the Riverside Cooperative Free School, a teacher-led secondary that is planned to open with a capacity of 1,800 pupils in one of the most deprived areas of Barking and Dagenham, East London.

The project is being led by Roger Leighton, headteacher of the Sydney Russell School in Dagenham, who will act as executive head of Riverside when it opens in 2013. He said that the attraction of being able to set your own school days and term dates, and introduce new teaching innovations, was the reason for backing the project. He believes it will lead to more teachers opting to open free schools.

"I really do believe more teachers will start up their own schools. I certainly wouldn't be surprised," he said. "In the first round there was a lot of suspicion about the Toby Youngs of this world creating middle-class playthings. But in terms of a route to spread your own unique way of doing things, it's actually a very, very enticing vehicle."

Mr Leighton added that many educationalists are not happy with methods used in some of the most prominent academy chains, and he claimed that free schools offer teachers a way of applying alternative models of teaching.

Rachel Wolf, director of the New Schools Network, a charity that helps prospective free school groups to make applications, said that the number of teachers getting involved should act as a wake-up call to teaching unions. …

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