New Abacus Belsize Free School to push Mandarin and outdoor learning

The headteacher of Camden’s newest free school has outlined her vision for the first time – and revealed she thought “long and hard” before taking on the job.

Abacus Belsize Primary School’s newly-appointed principal Vicky Briony said Mandarin classes and “outdoor learning” – with reading, writing and maths work spilling out into the playground – will be at the heart of the school’s ethos when it opens in September.

And while she values working closely with Islington Council in her current post, as deputy head of Highbury Quadrant Primary School in Highbury, she said she will relish the “freedom” of running a school away from local authority control.

“I really thought long and hard before applying for the job because free schools are unknown,” she said. “But with the current way things are going, how much local authority involvement will there be in schools in five years time?

“It’s great to have that freedom to offer things like Mandarin and outside learning.”

Ms Briony said Mandarin lessons will begin at reception, with the school placing great emphasis on early language acquisition, alongside its desire to take education outside of the classroom.

“Thirty-eight per cent of businesses want their graduates to be able to speak Mandarin, but only four per cent of schools offer it,” she added.

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