Latest Norfolk free school bids submitted

The latest round of free school applications must reach the government today. Education correspondent Victoria Leggett looks at the groups known to be hoping to add to Norfolk's already diverse educational landscape.

Benjamin's School

What?

A school for four to 19-year-olds spread across five sites throughout the county. Aims to offer a creative approach to teaching which will see youngsters leading their own education and learning outside of the classroom as much as possible.

Who?


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Originally a proposal by the Benjamin Foundation, it has now been taken on by a team of parents, young people and supporters, including Benjamin Foundation founder Richard Draper.

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Benjamin's School wants to get young people excited about their education and keen to come to school in the morning.

Mr Draper, who put the final touches to the application on Wednesday, said: 'The whole essence is enormously child-centred. It starts with the interests of the child. We want them to explore the world and learn from it.'

The school would begin with around 500 pupils but should grow to 1,400 across the five sites by 2017. It also hopes to work with other schools around the county to support students who would benefit from a different learning environment.

Mr Draper said sponsors were delighted with the interest shown in the proposal and had been overwhelmed by the many offers by volunteers keen to get involved with the school from website designers to musicians and artists.

Thetford Free School

What?

A proposal for a school aimed at vulnerable pupils aged 11 to 16 in Thetford, which is being re-submitted following a previous unsuccessful application.

Who?

It is the idea of a group of nine local teachers, governors and education specialists hoping to re-engage with pupils with learning difficulties or behavioural problems.

The proposal failed to get the go-ahead following a submission last year but, with a new swathe of local support and tweaks to the application, headteacher designate Nico Dobben is hopeful of approval second time around.

He said: 'We've had about 10 letters from local firms supporting it and a letter from Thetford Town Council which we've included. It's fantastic and we hope we'll get through this time.'

The school would cater for around 80 pupils, in classes of no more than 12, and focus on teaching social, creative and economic skills as well as academic lessons.

All the pupils would be expected to carry out volunteer work and take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, while parents would be encouraged to get involved.

Lessons – 50pc of which would be outside the classroom – would be based on ability rather than age.

Easton College, in Norfolk, and West Suffolk College, in Bury St Edmunds, could also be involved in post-16 education

Future Free School

What?

An alternative education setting for pupils in Norwich who have been permanently excluded from mainstream school.

Who?

Led by Future Education, based in Norwich, which aims to replace its existing school – at risk of closure because of funding problems – with the new Free School.

Dennis Freeman, school manager, was feeling confident as he worked hard to ensure the application was completed in time for today's deadline.

Having received a letter of support 'in principle' from the county council, he believes Future will be able to prove to the department for education there is a definite need for alternative education in Norwich.

More than 100 families have registered their interest in the Free School.

Mr Freeman said: 'I can't say confident, because you can never be confident, but we feel we have got a lot of support. We've got what we think is a good bid and we think we have a strong case.'

The Future Free School would continue to offer the mixture of academic and vocational courses offered by Future Education at the moment: GCSEs in maths, English and science, and BTECs in countryside and environment, creative media production, and IT.

Sir Isaac Newton Free School

What?

A Norwich-based sixth form for 16 to 19-year-olds focusing on maths and science and aiming to get students into top universities.

Who?

Proposed by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital chairman David Prior and Ormiston Victory Academy principal Rachel de Souza, it has since won the backing of industry bigwigs including Andrew Stewart Coats, chief executive of the Norwich Research Park.

The team behind the sixth form bid want their free school to benefit students and staff across Norfolk by offering masterclasses for pupils and teacher secondments.

Mrs de Souza said: 'This provision is supposed to be a highly collaborative provision which would act as a resource for the rest of Norfolk to improve maths and science teaching.'

The academy principal, who would take on an executive director-style role, said supporters had been gathering evidence that there was a genuine interest in a specialist maths and science sixth form and was confident the proof was there.

Information evenings at the Open youth venue in Norwich had discovered there was lots of parental support for the idea, she said.

The group is unable to begin serious negotiations over potential sites until it gains government approval but has been identifying possibilities.

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