Free school story: Tyndale Community School

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Named after William Tyndale, the Oxford scholar famous for translating the Bible into English, Tyndale Community School is a primary school that has a focus on project based learning and building strong relationships with families.

Set up in 2013 by Chapel St Community Schools Trust, which also runs Atherton Community School, a free school in Lancashire, Tyndale is located in the south of Oxford, serving a diverse and in some cases deprived community. It has a 21st century Christian ethos, but the school is open to all and is attended by children of several faiths and none.

The curriculum at the school uses projects that stretch across different subjects to help pupils develop the skills they need to be successful. Each child’s progress is tracked through a portfolio of their work and added to as their time at the school continues. 

As part of this approach, children are given a degree of choice in what they learn about and how they do this, in order to take advantage of their interests and abilities. For example, when pupils in reception expressed an interest in butterflies, staff were able to make their project on growing and changing come to life by bringing in live caterpillars, which the class could observe as they turned into butterflies.

As the school develops its curriculum, it is incorporating good practice from around the world too. One of Tyndale’s teachers recently visited California to see how students at High Tech High, a pioneer of the ‘project based learning’ system, benefit from this approach. 

The school also uses a range of activities that help build up a sense of community and family in the school. For example, ‘family style’ lunches, where staff and pupils sit at the same tables and eat together, are used every day with parents and carers often invited to join in too.

Staff and governors also place a strong emphasis on involving parents and the local community in other aspects of the school, with family fun days, stay and play sessions and celebration assemblies taking place on a regular basis.