Free school story: Stone Soup Academy

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Stone Soup Academy opened in Nottingham in 2012, and is one of the first five alternative provision free schools in the country.

The school, located in the heart of the city alongside architect firms and banks, caters to pupils who are not thriving in mainstream schools, and who have often been previously excluded or are at risk of exclusion.

The idea for Stone Soup came from a social enterprise of the same name. These roots can be seen in the ethos and curriculum of the school which, alongside maths and English, has a creative arts and enterprise focus.

As part of their curriculum pupils are able to access courses in textiles, graphic design, joinery and music production, which provide a creative outlet to help students focus on their learning. Supplementing this, the school actively encourages enterprise and the development of work skills. Every pupil that enters the school is given a suit, which they can then wear to the work placements and interviews that the school supports them in getting.

Perhaps the most exciting outcome of this dual focus on creativity and enterprise is the encouragement that pupils get to begin their own businesses, and become entrepreneurs. Students have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the school’s senior staff, and, if they do so successfully and professionally, receive a small sum of money to start their enterprise. Through this process pupils have sold t-shirts, which they have designed and printed, to local shops.

In the Ofsted report that the school received in early 2014, following their ‘Outstanding judgement’, inspectors highlighted on how this creative approach helped pupils to embed their English and mathematics skills:

‘Students successfully apply their literacy and numeracy skills in a range of contexts, for example, writing songs or film scripts and calculating the finances related to marketing the clothes they have designed.’