In 2015, the University of Birmingham will open a secondary free school on its Selly Oak campus, creating the first secondary University Training School in the country.
In starting a new school, Birmingham joins other universities including Cambridge, Exeter and King’s College London, who all currently oversee free schools.
As a University Training School, the school will become a centre for teacher training, ongoing teacher education and research, which will inform national policy and practice. But this doesn’t mean that pupils will be ‘guinea pigs’ for students, with the school’s Principal, Michael Roden, insisting that it will be, “a training school for teachers, not an experimental school for children” with classes taught by highly qualified teachers and talented trainees learning alongside them - a model used successfully in teaching hospitals.
By linking with the university, students at the school will benefit from the use of its facilities, alongside a £23 million new building. Though the school’s main focus will be excellence in traditional, academic subjects, it will also have a strong emphasis on character development, supported by the university’s renowned Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. Additional time for enrichment and personal development will be provided for through a longer school day, running from 8.30am until 4.30pm, with staff paid extra for delivering these sessions. Staff renumeration will reflect the school's emphasis on delivering an extensive enrichment programme designed for all students and delivered by all staff.
In total, Roden, who was formerly Headmaster at at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Kings Heath – one of the UK’s top selective state grammars - says that the school is aiming to provide, “the kind of education that will rival any type of school.” The Admission Policy has been designed to ensure as many children as possible can benefit, the school will admit children from across Birmingham by drawing on catchment areas located in the city’s fastest growing, and in some cases most deprived, areas.
Since being approved by the Department for Education, the school has been overwhelmed with interest from parents, with over 1150 applications for the first 150 Year 7 places and 820 applications for the 200 Lower Sixth places on offer in September.