The former Fire Station at Bethel Street. Picture: Denise Bradley

Former Norwich fire station to house Britain’s first free school specialising in maths and science

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
7.36 AM

A former city fire station is to house Britain’s first free school specialising in maths and science.

The Sir Isaac Newton Maths and Science Sixth Form Free School last night revealed it will be using the Bethel Street fire station, as it bids to send more Norfolk students to the best universities.

It is hoped students at the sixth form will move on to Russell Group universities, which include Oxford, Cambridge, York and Cardiff.

At least 100 pupils aged between 16 and 19 are expected to study at the school, which will offer other subjects as well as maths and science, when it opens next September.

Parents and prospective students gathered at Open, in Bank Plain, last night for an open evening, where they heard that a module on leadership will be offered at the school.

Rachel de Souza, executive principal, told the Evening News: “For most children from under-privileged backgrounds, going to the top universities has got more and more difficult over the years and we are geared towards getting people into the top universities.

“We are uncompromising about excellence. There’s no question you will have to be the best to be in. But what we think is social background is no barrier to that.

“We are really committed to finding the talent young, putting on Saturday schools, evening schools and summer schools so children are inspired to do maths and science and don’t lose that love of it.”

The fire station was built in 1934 and is owned by the Lind Trust, a youth-focused charity established by Christian entrepreneur Graham Dacre.

David Prior, chairman-designate of the new free school, said it was an “iconic building”.

Mr Prior, who is also Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital chairman, said: “It’s a fantastic site – the best location in Norwich, very central, good connections and close to The Forum.

“We are open to everybody in Norfolk and the building breeds excellence.

David Taitt, chairman of Hethel Engineering Centre, said it was important to help children realise what they needed to do to pursue a career in engineering.

He said: “For me, the success of the British economy is inextricably linked to the success of technology in industrialised companies and particularly the people who come up through schools and universities into the companies. We are an industrialised nation and if we let that go, we let it go at our peril. To keep it going is absolutely essential.”

He added: “There’s a skills gap. A lot of new technology companies do struggle to find the skills they need but this school is part of the process that will fill the gap.”

Guests also included Russian maths professor Alexandre Borovik, of the University of Manchester, who welcomed the new school.

He said it is important to have people that not just use mathematics but also create things by using it.

Professor Borovik said: “I feel there’s a good chance of the school being successful. Moreover, I believe every regional centre in England should have such a school.”