Getting off to the right start

A new book of essays concerning the considerations and issues involved in starting a new school has just been published

‘Establishing a New School – Getting It Right from the Start’ by Woodard Schools and SSAT, the Schools, Students and Teachers Network, is a newly published series of essays designed to help those who want to start a new school.

The book’s contributors include school leaders, operators and authorities from a wide range of contexts within the maintained and independent sectors, including schools which have opened in the last five years. Its aim is to support and inform those with a role in establishing new schools, from governors, headteachers, CEOs of multi-academy trusts, leading academics and commercial experts to policy advisers. Amongst the topics covered are: establishing in advance the education and business case for a new school; securing the engagement and support of communities and policymakers; and building the essential founding blocks for future success and sustainability.

The publication has been released ahead of the forthcoming general election in order to explore, from the perspectives of those operating new schools within it, the educational environment in which the next government will develop its schools policy.

“During the office of the coalition government, fundamental changes have altered the landscape of education in almost revolutionary ways. This includes changes to the structure and control of schools, and it is this area that our publication covers,” explains Chris Wright, director of education at Woodard Schools.

This context includes the explosion in the number of academies created since 2010, in addition to the establishment of free schools and university technical colleges. The principles of parental choice and a belief in a consumer-led, rather than producer-led, education system has opened up the possibilities for a wide range of interest groups to launch new schools with very different characteristics.

At the same time, the new government will face a number of educational challenges. It is estimated that by 2021, the country will need 350,000 additional places in secondary schools and half a million additional places at primary level.

“Whether it is to give parents more choice, children a better education or society a more suitably qualified and skilled workforce, there is a growing appetite, need and opportunity to open a new school,” says Bill Watkin, operational director of SSAT. “Only this month, there has been a difference of opinion between the official Conservative line (advised by Policy Exchange) that suggests schools can be opened anywhere, and the opinion of shadow secretary for education Tristram Hunt, who has advised that new schools must be opened only in communities where there is an identified shortage of school places.

“The new Woodard/SSAT publication demonstrates that, wherever they are opened, and whatever the political and ideological context, the really important thing is the children, the need to learn from experienced and successful pioneers and the imperative to get it ‘right from the start’.”

Woodard Schools is a charity tasked with extending education, in accordance with the principles laid down by its founder, Nathaniel Woodard, in the 19th century. “The charitable objective of Woodard schools is the promotion and extension of education. As part of this, Woodard has a moral purpose to look outward and to work with the wider community to promote the use of the resources of Woodard schools. It is for this reason that we have worked in partnership with SSAT, to extend our outreach in service to the wider educational world,” explains Chris Wright.

SSAT is the hub of the largest network of schools in the country. It is an independent membership organisation for maintained schools, free schools, UTCs, studio schools and academies, whether primary, special or secondary. SSAT began England in 1987. Back then its role was to support and nurture the first City Technology Colleges. As specialist schools and then the first academies came into being, SSAT’s brief was extended to supporting them as well. That work laid the foundations for its activities today: leadership and teacher CPD programmes, thought leadership and research and a network of school leaders and teachers.

“As members of SSAT, schools enjoy the confidence of knowing that they are part of a wider network that is shaping an education system fit for the 21st century,” says Bill Watkin.

The publication is free to download from the Woodward and SSAT websites.

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