Free school story: Atherton Community School

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Atherton Community School is a secondary located in Wigan which has a focus on community service and charitable giving.

Atherton Community School is a small Christian-ethos secondary school in Wigan. It opened with a year 7 class in 2012 and the first year 12 students joined the sixth form in 2013. The school grew out of a partnership of local parents and community leaders supported by Chapel St – the school sponsor. Atherton puts a high priority on community engagement and giving students a strong sense of social responsibility is a key focus.

Every year, as well as achieving the highest academic standards, students are required to raise £15 for a charity of their choice and complete nine hours of community service. The first ever year 7 students in the school raised over £1,000 and provided 500 hours of community service in their first academic year. This included helping in care homes; gardening for neighbours; singing performances and helping out at Saturday clubs for primary school children.

This outward focus is balanced by a personalised approach to learning. Every student has a coach to provide extra input and support and students are partners in deciding on the themes for the project based learning element of their curriculum. This approach to learning involves using extended projects to teach a wide range of skills – especially those useful for future employment across all parts of the curriculum.

Students work in teams, not only to produce the final high quality project but also to critique and refine each other’s work.  So far projects have included:

  • A personal health project during which students designed a health leaflet. The best leaflet was selected and issued to local health centres.
  • The school parliament project saw every student drafting an individual manifesto before voting for the best. They also had chance to ask questions of two local councillors.
  • The Dragons’ Den project is still running but if the trailer is anything to go by looks like it will be exciting…