Let’s start with the curriculum for years 7 and 8 because that’s all they will be offering at first. The core is the untried, untested English Baccalaureate offering English, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, Geography, French, Spanish/Latin. Years 7-8 will take these subjects as well as Philosophy and Ethics, Physical Education, Design, Enterprise, Computing, Drama, PHSE, Art and Music. Then it tells us ‘the core curriculum will be enhanced by opportunities to learn and participate in: Performing and Visual Arts, Leadership development (including public speaking & debating) and Enterprise opportunities’ A pretty full day, an exciting range of subjects.
Then a little further on it tells us that the core curriculum ‘will be enhanced by the afterschool sessions covering Sport, Performing Arts, Music, Critical Thinking, Duke of Edinburgh and other leadership opportunities’. So, doesn’t that mean everything outside the EBAC will be taught out of school hours? But students will have the ‘unique opportunity to learn from professional coaches – including professional sports coaches, musicians and actors.’ Not from qualified teachers?
The website makes it a little clearer. It lays out the core curriculum and lists the following subjects as being outside the normal school day of 8.15 to 3.15.
- Art, Music and Drama
- A range of sports, taking advantage of local facilities
- Public speaking & other LAMDA qualifications
- Further GCSE choices (e.g. Product Design, Food Technology, Sports Science)
All these opportunities are available until 4pm - that is for 45 minutes. And after 4pm? 'If there is sufficient demand additional supervised sessions maybe available after 4.00pm, for an additional cost.'
Nottingham Free School has as its banner ‘a science and creative arts specialist’, one that proposes to jam the arts, sport, computing, and anything to do with Design Technology into forty five minutes a day, and if you think your child deserves a broader experience you'll have to pay for it.
And in case we might wonder where all the 'football, rugby, cricket, and rowing' is going to take place the school will take 'advantage of our unique Arnold location to offer a wide range of sporting opportunities. which means they won't have any facilities themselves.I happen to believe that the EBAC and its supporters are looking to return to an educational golden age that never existed outside school stories written in the nineteen fifties imposing on teachers and students a curriculum that is hardly suited to the twenty first century. I think that depriving children of the chance to get involved in sport and the arts in the hope that the extra time can be translated into more exams passed in fewer subjects is an appallingly short sighted approach that will deprive a generation and undermine our culture. But I'm a playwright so I would say that wouldn't I? All I’d ask is that parents who are considering enrolling their children into this risky experiment should think back no further than to their own education, and without putting on rose coloured spectacles, or dwelling too long on those things that they didn’t go well, and ask themselves, do they really want their kids to miss out on all they took for granted?
I don’t doubt that the existing Torch schools are doing an excellent job for their pupils. I question whether they need to build a free school somewhere in Arnold. There are two existing schools here, embedded in the community, with structured plans to expand. Let them get on with the job.
Two things do still nag at me as I think about the confusing way that the Nottingham Free School group presents itself. Young people need to feel sure that that no-one is trying to be anything less than open with them. On their Twitter feed is this:
Nottingham Post article reinforces our message that we're providing choice for parents in Arnold, Sherwood,... http://t.co/yRoYesSd about 11 days ago
Click the link and it takes you to an article with the headline 'Headteachers claim there is no need to set up two free schools in West Bridgford and Arnold'. Their tweet isn't exactly untrue, but then the article doesn't exactly reinforce their message that 'we're providing choice for parents in Arnold.'
And if you look at the qualifications of the two leaders of the Torch Group Mr Jonathan Taylor lists MA(OXON). I know how hard it is to get a BA at Oxford. My daughter who went to Arnold Hill worked hard for hers. I also know that to get an MA(OXON) you don’t have to do any work after your first degree, all you have to do is leave your name on the university books for seven years and pay them thirty quid.