Here, we will try to answer some of people’s most frequent questions.
In June 2010, the government invited groups of parents, teachers, charities and local communities to develop proposals to set up a new type of school: a ‘Free School’. Where the Department for Education believes that a proposed school meets a local need and will be successful, a new Free School is set up. Applying is a rigorous process: prospective Free School groups must be able to provide evidence of parental demand and genuine need in the community and have a high quality proposed curriculum and good financial plan in place.
Free Schools are funded by the government, so parents do not pay anything to send their child to a Free School and groups running Free Schools cannot make a profit.
Although the government funds Free Schools, because they are a type of Academy, they can do things differently from other state schools. For example, they can follow a different curriculum, or change the length of the school day. Just like any other school, though, they are still inspected by Ofsted to make sure they achieve high standards.
Free Schools must be open to pupils of all abilities and cannot be academically selective.
The Citizen School will be funded on the same basis as local schools, through a per-pupil formula. The Department of Education also gives an additional ‘pre-opening grant’ to help the school to set up in the first few years.
The Citizen School will set our own school day to include time for greater focus on the core subjects of English, Maths and Computing, as well as citizenship activities and community engagement. We will use community organising methodologies to root our school in the local community. We will use the freedoms to shape the curriculum to ensure that our students are as successful as possible.
Like all state schools, the Citizen School will be inspected by Ofsted to ensure that children are making excellent progress in the school. The school will also be inspected before opening (the ‘pre-opening Ofsted’) and within the first two years of opening to ensure excellent outcomes for children from an early stage. We will employ highly-trained and qualified teachers in the school and will encourage local people to work in the school or be involved in the school community.
Citizenship (developing leadership and collaboration) is core to our vision and how our school will address the issues faced by children in our community. As Professor Peter Mortimore, former Director of the Institute of Education, writes:
In 1950, 84% of the electorate turned out to vote but only 65% did so in 2010. A survey of first-time voters carried out for Radio 1, just before the last election, reported that 30% did not believe their vote would count and 20% felt they did not know enough about politics to make a decision. Despite these comments, however, more than half claimed they would vote if they could do so online or using text messaging. And, from the 15.5 million votes cast during the last series of the X Factor, we know young people like voting.
So can politics be revitalised simply by installing better voting technology? My answer is ‘yes’ if politics is defined as – and limited to – voting for a government every five or so years but ‘no’ if it lives up to its true mission. Politics is about ‘people power’ and must surely encompass groups of citizens taking collective decisions on behalf of their society based on justice, equality, fairness, safety, sustainability and the need for cohesion.
Our school will be an institution that places leadership at its heart. It will be a school where children, parents/carers, staff, neighbours, can work together to make our life chances better.