Torch Academy Gateway Trust already runs several successful schools across Nottingham. When local parents approached them about the idea of starting a new secondary school in the area, they decided to use their expertise to establish a free school.
Located in the Sherwood area of the city, Nottingham Free School opened in September 2014 and has a specialism in science and the creative arts. Like many free schools, it operates an extended school day in which students have eight lessons followed by a session of either study support or an extracurricular activity. Continuing the link with local parents, some of these activities are run by those with experience in the creative arts, such as puppetry or creative writing.
Parents are also invited to attend regular ‘Parent Forums’ to help them better understand the different aspects of school life. For instance, the last forum was on the theme of homework and was aimed at helping parents understand and then support their child when doing homework.
In keeping with the schools’ specialism, all students take part in music and singing lessons each week, delivered by specialist musicians or vocal coaches. This allows all students to learn an instrument, with a choice of either the guitar or the pBone, a plastic alternative to the trombone, on offer.
Housed in a renovated textiles factory, the school uses the history of its unique building to influence the curriculum: sports day will include sports and activities that would have been played by the Victorian labourers that worked in the original factory and they make use of the sports pavilion used by the workers.
Now oversubscribed, the school is proving popular with parents. When full, it will cater for 600 students, with work already underway to allow the school to grow each year.