Kingfisher Hall and Bristol Cathedral tell their story
Nick Clegg today gave a speech setting out new Liberal Democrat policies on Free Schools. Although supportive of the creation of Free Schools he was arguing for some limits on the current freedoms. Natalie Evans, Director of the New Schools Network, gave several interviews including on BBC TV News, where she argued:
“Free Schools are about raising standards, this is why the freedom to innovate is so important to their success. On a like-for-like comparison when judged by Ofsted, Free Schools are outperforming local authority run schools. More importantly, they are popular with parents who like what their local Free School is offering.
“These innovations could mean adding to the National Curriculum with bilingual teaching or more time spent on literacy and numeracy thanks to a longer school day. But they are also giving teachers the opportunity to look at the best curricula from other countries – from Japan and Singapore to America – and adapt them to suit the needs of their pupils. To remove these freedoms would be a backward step.”
Journalists visited several Free Schools to find out more about what is happening on the ground:
BBC 5 Live visited the Kingfisher Hall Primary Academy in North London with a Free School sceptic to speak with parents and the school's Headteacher Matthew Laban. Kingfisher Hall was set up in a deprived area to provide the area with much needed places and uses its freedoms to include elements of French in their curriculum. Listen to BBC 5 Live's report on Kingfisher Academy, from 36 minutes 50 seconds.
One parent interviewed said; "I couldn't ask for a better school. They're just very up-to-date with the teaching system, she [her daughter] was in another school...I pulled her out of it and got her into this one and I'm very happy."
The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4chose to feature a Free School in a Lib Dem constituency; the Bristol Cathedral Primary School which uses music to enhances pupils' learning. The Headteacher of the school said the Free Schools programme allowed them to create a "rich and diverse and exciting" curriculum.
When asked why she chose to send her children to the school, Caroline Withers replied; "We liked the ethos of the Headmaster, we really bought into what he said about Free Schools, how they can tailor it to the individual child's needs."