Plans unveiled by church network for first 'free school' in Southampton

Hampshire Chronicle: Billy Kennedy and Paul Woodman Billy Kennedy and Paul Woodman

Southampton schoolchildren could be attending the region’s first mainstream ‘free school’ by as early as next year, the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal.

Plans have been unveiled for the Hope Community primary school in Southampton – making it the first in the area to be set up independently with direct funding from central government.

They are the flagship policy of Education Secretary Michael Gove who has set aside public money to fund schools which can be set up by any organisation including charities, churches and parents where they feel their community needs one.

The Hope Community School bid is being led by members of the City Life church, part of the New Community church network who have put together the proposal for a one-form entry primary school to cater for children aged from four to 11 in the city centre.

It is in response to council figures that show a lack of school places in the city centre SO14 postcode to accommodate the number of school-aged children in the coming years.

According to the projected figures based on birth rates in the city there will be 71 children who live in the city centre in 2015/16 who will not have a place locally. A year later that rises to 119.

The council is currently consulting on expanding schools in the east of the city to cater for the extra numbers.

But those behind the bid say this will involve youngsters travelling some distance to get to school and children having the disruption of using temporary accommodation and converting spaces like music rooms and learning areas.

They say the obvious solution is to build a school in the city centre where it is needed, but that is not an avenue open to the Local Education Authority.

Billy Kennedy is senior leader at New Community who along with Paul Woodman, leader at the City Life church, is fronting the bid.

Mr Kennedy said: “Local authorities do not have and are not being given the funding to build new schools.

“However, that money is available by going down the free school route which is what we want to do.

“The city centre is in desperate need of a new school.

“There are more families in the city centre now who are living in flats, many of them will be reliant on public transport. Having their own school here in the city centre is what the community needs.”

So far they have lodged their initial plan with the Department for Education and now have until May to submit their detailed bid.

If successful the project could start this summer with a project team employed to indentify and acquire land within the postcode area.

The team can also then start employing staff and setting up a governance structure in much the same way as a board of governors operates.

The bid is also not starting from scratch as through links with the church they have linked up with the Hope Community school in Sidcup, Kent which opened last year.

The plan is to use their model as the basis for the Southampton school’s bid including their curriculum and structure.

Mr Kennedy said: “We are not the educational experts in this. It is our job to get the bid together and prove the community needs and wants a new school here.

“Churches have been setting up schools from day one, there is nothing new about that. The expertise comes in when the bid gets the go ahead.

“We want to give education to our children, it is a passion and a vocation of the church to work in the community and provide for their needs. We see the need and we are stepping up.”

The team are now planning open days and information evenings for prospective parents. They have also been holding meetings with councillors in a bid to foster a working relationship should the bid be approved.

“We are fully committed to working with the LEA in Southampton and other schools to provide the best for the children who come here. We also want to foster good links with businesses to really ground the school in the community and give them a broad curriculum and opportunities.”

He added that the school would employ fully qualified teachers – one of the main criticisms of free schools which, because of their freedom, can set their own policies.

Should the bid win approval the project team would start looking for parcels of land but in the short term the school could be run from Central Hall, which is owned by the City Life church.

Initially the intake would just be reception year children and increased each year as they go through the school. Within two years the children would hope to relocate to their purpose-built building.

n To find out more log on hopeschoolsouthampton.org or telephone 023 8038 5125.

Comments (14)

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8:56am Mon 3 Mar 14

Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says...

Please explain to me why this is good news.
.
It is a very dangerous pathway when we allow political dogma to dictate the structure and management of our education system.
.
If this goes ahead let us just hope for the sake of our children that the teachers and all staff are properly trained.
Please explain to me why this is good news. . It is a very dangerous pathway when we allow political dogma to dictate the structure and management of our education system. . If this goes ahead let us just hope for the sake of our children that the teachers and all staff are properly trained. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne
  • Score: 11

9:00am Mon 3 Mar 14

On the inside says...

Very bad news. Anyway, isn't wearing jeans with a jacket a sign of an a**se.
Very bad news. Anyway, isn't wearing jeans with a jacket a sign of an a**se. On the inside
  • Score: -1

10:04am Mon 3 Mar 14

From the sidelines says...

Oh brilliant!

A church school, to peddle ignorance and isolation. Just what Southampton needs.
Oh brilliant! A church school, to peddle ignorance and isolation. Just what Southampton needs. From the sidelines
  • Score: 2

10:20am Mon 3 Mar 14

Datarater says...

Excellent news. These churches really are helping the local community. Well done.
Excellent news. These churches really are helping the local community. Well done. Datarater
  • Score: 3

10:34am Mon 3 Mar 14

tootle says...

Would we need the extra school places if new/enlarged schools were put in place at the time of new developments being built. No new school/enlarged school no planning for flats might be the way to go at present.
Would we need the extra school places if new/enlarged schools were put in place at the time of new developments being built. No new school/enlarged school no planning for flats might be the way to go at present. tootle
  • Score: 0

10:40am Mon 3 Mar 14

Danae says...

Most schools are free.

If you can afford to pay you can do so; up to £33,750 per child per year within Southampton city region.
Most schools are free. If you can afford to pay you can do so; up to £33,750 per child per year within Southampton city region. Danae
  • Score: -7

10:42am Mon 3 Mar 14

HillsidePaul says...

I am sure These people are well intentioned but this is a terrible idea. We need education to be coordinated across the City for the benefit of all children. And local councils are the best people to do that.

Whilst it is right that children should be taught about all religious (and non religious) beliefs. Education should be secular particularly in an area with a high number of peopled other faiths. If this goes ahead it will divide, not unite local communities.

And before anyone wants to play the oppressing religious freedom button I would say the same about all faith schools including the existing ones.
I am sure These people are well intentioned but this is a terrible idea. We need education to be coordinated across the City for the benefit of all children. And local councils are the best people to do that. Whilst it is right that children should be taught about all religious (and non religious) beliefs. Education should be secular particularly in an area with a high number of peopled other faiths. If this goes ahead it will divide, not unite local communities. And before anyone wants to play the oppressing religious freedom button I would say the same about all faith schools including the existing ones. HillsidePaul
  • Score: 5

10:54am Mon 3 Mar 14

ToastyTea says...

Those **** pesky Masons.
Those **** pesky Masons. ToastyTea
  • Score: -8

12:08pm Mon 3 Mar 14

George4th says...

Given that the last Labour government set our education system back 15 years (and that's on top of the catastrophic failure of Labour's Comprehensives!) and dropped us way down the global education league tables, may I suggest that Labour supporters are in no position to make a comment!!
Given that the last Labour government set our education system back 15 years (and that's on top of the catastrophic failure of Labour's Comprehensives!) and dropped us way down the global education league tables, may I suggest that Labour supporters are in no position to make a comment!! George4th
  • Score: -3

3:37pm Mon 3 Mar 14

Paramjit Bahia says...

HillsidePaul wrote:
I am sure These people are well intentioned but this is a terrible idea. We need education to be coordinated across the City for the benefit of all children. And local councils are the best people to do that.

Whilst it is right that children should be taught about all religious (and non religious) beliefs. Education should be secular particularly in an area with a high number of peopled other faiths. If this goes ahead it will divide, not unite local communities.

And before anyone wants to play the oppressing religious freedom button I would say the same about all faith schools including the existing ones.
Are these people really "well intentioned" as Hillside P believes?

I don't know them so can't be sure, but links with God Brigade makes me highly suspicious.

Education of children should be the top priority, it must be properly funded and under full control of local authority, which should be employing well trained qualified teachers.

Brain washing of children with various unscientific myths should be completely banned.

Yes as tolerant society we should respect every indvidual's right to believe in any mumbo jumbo if he/she wants to waste his/her life following falsehoods, but these practices should be confined within the walls of places of worship. If those groups of society want their children to remain like themselves then they should either do it at home or take risk by trusting the process with their priests and keep fingers crossed while hoping the children will keep their legs crossed as a precaution..... Public money should not be spent on religious education.
[quote][p][bold]HillsidePaul[/bold] wrote: I am sure These people are well intentioned but this is a terrible idea. We need education to be coordinated across the City for the benefit of all children. And local councils are the best people to do that. Whilst it is right that children should be taught about all religious (and non religious) beliefs. Education should be secular particularly in an area with a high number of peopled other faiths. If this goes ahead it will divide, not unite local communities. And before anyone wants to play the oppressing religious freedom button I would say the same about all faith schools including the existing ones.[/p][/quote]Are these people really "well intentioned" as Hillside P believes? I don't know them so can't be sure, but links with God Brigade makes me highly suspicious. Education of children should be the top priority, it must be properly funded and under full control of local authority, which should be employing well trained qualified teachers. Brain washing of children with various unscientific myths should be completely banned. Yes as tolerant society we should respect every indvidual's right to believe in any mumbo jumbo if he/she wants to waste his/her life following falsehoods, but these practices should be confined within the walls of places of worship. If those groups of society want their children to remain like themselves then they should either do it at home or take risk by trusting the process with their priests and keep fingers crossed while hoping the children will keep their legs crossed as a precaution..... Public money should not be spent on religious education. Paramjit Bahia
  • Score: -5

6:26pm Mon 3 Mar 14

999medic says...

It's so sorry to hear people who feel this will have a negative impact on Southampton. Yes Sussex Student there were serious problems when the amalgamation occurred but the school has gone from strength to strength and they work very hard to benefit the community. Toasty tea you have no idea what your talking the church does not tolerate its members as masons. Para jist you talk about brain washing, let's not forget the recent closure of an Asian free school for preaching radicalisat to it students so no bias there then. Yes it's a Christian based organisation but I'm sure it will welcome those of all nationalities race and religion. All I can say people is if you think you can do better get off your backsides and join in let's see how many of you will last. Paul Woodman has more energy fight and dedication than all of you put together.
It's so sorry to hear people who feel this will have a negative impact on Southampton. Yes Sussex Student there were serious problems when the amalgamation occurred but the school has gone from strength to strength and they work very hard to benefit the community. Toasty tea you have no idea what your talking the church does not tolerate its members as masons. Para jist you talk about brain washing, let's not forget the recent closure of an Asian free school for preaching radicalisat to it students so no bias there then. Yes it's a Christian based organisation but I'm sure it will welcome those of all nationalities race and religion. All I can say people is if you think you can do better get off your backsides and join in let's see how many of you will last. Paul Woodman has more energy fight and dedication than all of you put together. 999medic
  • Score: 5

12:21am Tue 4 Mar 14

pap says...

I am not a fan of these kinds of churches. I've had a nose around their website; they use connect groups, basically a gathering of people at someone's house.

Can someone from the church confirm whether City Life have single sex or mixed connect groups? Do you use the cell growth model?

Invariably, most religious organisations eventually get onto tithing. City Life certainly make no bones about it.

http://www.citylife.
org.uk/Groups/92531/
City_Life_Church/Giv
e/Give.aspx

As such, I do worry that such free schools might be a "get em when they're young thing". Wouldn't send my kids there, that's for sure.
I am not a fan of these kinds of churches. I've had a nose around their website; they use connect groups, basically a gathering of people at someone's house. Can someone from the church confirm whether City Life have single sex or mixed connect groups? Do you use the cell growth model? Invariably, most religious organisations eventually get onto tithing. City Life certainly make no bones about it. http://www.citylife. org.uk/Groups/92531/ City_Life_Church/Giv e/Give.aspx As such, I do worry that such free schools might be a "get em when they're young thing". Wouldn't send my kids there, that's for sure. pap
  • Score: -4

7:56am Tue 4 Mar 14

thesouth says...

I thought all state schools were free???
I thought all state schools were free??? thesouth
  • Score: 0

11:04am Tue 4 Mar 14

ToastyTea says...

ToastyTea wrote:
Those **** pesky Masons.
I said d.a.m.n. it's hardly so rude it needs bleeping out.
[quote][p][bold]ToastyTea[/bold] wrote: Those **** pesky Masons.[/p][/quote]I said d.a.m.n. it's hardly so rude it needs bleeping out. ToastyTea
  • Score: 0

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