Free school story: Route 39 Academy


Route 39 was started by a group of local parents in North Devon who were frustrated by the lack of a local school choice in their area. It’s a rural community, with most schools a long bus ride away and many also underperforming.

They set out to build something different and, with the help of a former Headteacher, have developed an approach which gives pupils a personalised education. All pupils receive a personal mentoring session each week and classes are organised by ‘stage not age’, to allow pupils to learn at their own pace.

This approach means that the school has moved away from the format of traditional lessons, with a combination of workshops, larger lectures and personal study time being used, depending on what pupils are learning.

The use of an extended day – the school is open from 8.30am to 5pm every day – means that Route 39 offers pupils opportunities to pursue wider interests.  Extra classes in GCSE Mathematics and GCSE Photography are already on offer, even though the school has only started with pupils in Year 7 at the moment.

The school’s Fellowship Programme brings local business people, artists and professionals into the school to give pupils a range of interesting and inspirational mentors, and show them the unique character of the rural area they live in. The programme also includes some big names too, with acclaimed children’s author Michael Morpurgo and Hollywood actor Dominic West amongst those who have committed to give up an afternoon each year to support the school.