As a staff member at New Schools Network (NSN) with a career history in the world of special educational needs, I’m all too aware of the current crisis that’s facing some of our most vulnerable children. Starting as a teaching assistant in a special needs school, working closely with teachers, parents and carers on the frontline of the SEND sector, I later worked with a charity providing SEND law support before joining NSN - working with special free schools.
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Since 2010, New Schools Network has supported thousands of groups – comprising teachers, parents, charities, businesses, arts and sports organisations, and others – as they have navigated the complex free school application process. The knowledge and expertise NSN has accumulated, not only of the application process but beyond into pre-opening and once open, has made NSN the leading provider of support for those committed to demanding something better for the children in their community.
Responding to the news that 2021 students will receive teacher awarded grades Unity Howard, Director of the New Schools Network, said:
Although opening a free school in the midst of a global pandemic is undoubtedly challenging, pre-opening activities remain deliverable. Furthermore, there’s no need to increase your workload. NSN can say this from experience, having supported Section 10 consultations through the Delivery Programme.
Here are some of reflections on what you need to do to effectively deliver a Section 10 consultation during lockdown:
Over a decade ago, New Schools Network started to support groups applying to open free schools. The free schools programme welcomed with open arms parents, teachers, charity groups and other new providers, that aimed to play a part in ensuring their local communities could access high quality education, no matter their background. Fuelled by innovation, the pioneers set up free schools not because they desired to be part of a political agenda, but because they knew real families, real children deserved better.
Free Schools in the media
The research, commissioned to mark ten years since the first free schools were approved to open, covers pupil attainment, popularity with parents, and teacher workforce.
Findings show free schools are the top performing type of school at GCSE; that 16-19 free schools are the highest performing post-16 providers; that free schools are more popular with parents than the closest neighbouring schools; and that free schools are more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted.
The first 100 days within an open school is a hectic and intense period for Principle Designates, but a fantastic opportunity to showcase the vision and embed the culture of a new school.
Sir David Carter offered advice to principle designates for their first 100 days after opening:
Being a leader – Instilling the vision
Every team needs a leader; for schools in pre-opening that’s the job of the Principal Designate.
As a leader, it’s essential to have a clear vision for your school that will help bring people together. By keeping the school’s aims at the heart of all stages of the process, from pre-opening until fully operational, the schools mission will not be forgotten. For a team to have clear sense of direction, it’s necessary that the Principle Designate models the culture they want instilled within their team.