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The free school debate has been on going in Hackney for a while. Phillippa De’Ath gives a brief analysis, as to why this type of school could benefit from such an ethos.
Currently over 400 parents support the vision for the Hackney New School. Many feel that, while there are now three (Ofsted-rated) outstanding secondary schools in Hackney, there is room for a school that is a bit smaller, is focused on the development of the individual through music, sports and debating, and in which the parents can have more involvement and influence.
Primary school students have also helped to shape their application by telling the committee what they want- modern languages, music and a plan to achieve their career goals were all very popular features. Help in transition from primary to secondary will also be really important, with a summer school for new pupils to meet up and get a taste for the work ahead.
The Hackney New School will be a mixed, non-denominational, state (i.e. free to attend) school for children aged 11 to 19, with a strong focus on music. By building links with many organisations and businesses in the form of mentoring and work experience, and by fostering academic excellence and instilling self-belief (through debating, studying history and literature and taking part in music performance), HNS hopes to give its students the confidence and ambition to be part of the growth of enterprise in Hackney and the surrounding area.
The aim is to provide students with an excellent education in the foundation subjects, but with a longer school day also to encourage them to participate in debates, to read widely and to develop an interest in the history of science or political thinking. They will also all get the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.
There will be smaller classes and brilliant teachers from a range of backgrounds. Free schools are able to employ teachers from a variety of sources, such as Teach First or directly from academia, as well as traditional routes. Some subjects are notoriously hard to staff with teachers from the regular system, such as Computer Science or History. HNS will work with Hackney teachers and headteachers from other schools to interview new staff and make sure they’re the right fit.
The team send their application to the Department for Education on 20th February to open the school in Hackney in 2013.
They are also keen to hear from anyone who would like to get involved in the set-up of the school, if and when their application is successful.