'Flexitime' school that rewrites the book on teaching

Michael Gove has put all his faith in academies – but there is an alternative

Education Secretary Michael Gove was yesterday busy spelling out his vision of tough targets and better test results to improve the performance of state schoolchildren.

Today an entirely different vision will be spelt out at a top level conference in London.

Welcome to the world of flexitime schooling which will see a child in Spain educated through Skype from the UK and a mother who splits her son's education between home teaching and school.

Hollinsclough Church of England primary school in Staffordshire is the first in the UK to introduce a part-time policy for pupils.

The school's approach, which will be explained by its headteacher Janette Mountford-Lees to a conference organised by education consultancy CfBT, aims to jointly address the issue of families who want a less rigid school timetable and the low number of children in the school's rural catchment area.

Mrs Mountford-Lees will show how it works at the conference, due to be attended by officials from the Department for Education in a bid to encourage other schools to adopt a similar practice.

When she first arrived as headteacher in 2008, Hollinsclough was – like many other rural village primary schools – struggling to survive. There were only five children on the roll and it was in danger of being closed.

"Then one day a mother came in and said could she send her child here for just two days a week," she said. "I couldn't see why not."

She checked the legal position and there was nothing to stop her enrolling part-time pupils – all they had to do was to come in once every 10 days as a minimum.

Now she has 11 full-time pupils, 10 part-timers and as many as 15 to 20 families coming in to join the school's learning "hub" – which arranges events such as simulations of archaeological digs and arts activities for children.

The school's motto is to provide what the parents want for their children, said Mrs Mountford-Lees. "I recently asked them what they would most like and some of them said for their children to learn Latin." She is now trying to arrange for a private tutor to come in and provide the classes.

Home educators also say it is difficult to arrange for their children to sit exams such as GCSEs when they reach secondary school age because they have to be attached to a school or learning centre to sit the exam.

Hollinsclough, despite being a primary school, is considering erecting a sort of conservatory made out of hay bails – so it does not resemble a formal school to youngsters who have been put off mainstream education – where they can take their exams. It could therefore become the first primary school to be registered as a GCSE examination centre.

As for the Spanish family, at present they are arranging to provide lessons via the telephone – but hope to set up a skype communication to make it easier.

Bina Widdowson, who brings her four-year-old to the learning "hub" and is one of those seeking Latin lessons, said: "What is going on here is something special. It's not just a willingness to accept people part-time, it is a willingness to employ a different philosophy of life. They treat children as human beings, not just as someone who has to perform so the school can do well in league tables. There is a love of children here."

Mrs Widdowson will be accompanying Mrs Mountford-Lees to today's conference to give her support. Sue Middleton, whose six-year-old son Russell is home-schooled but travels from Sutton Coldfield to Hollinsclough two days a week for art and science lessons, is full of praise for the school, too. "It is well worth the one-and-a-half hour's drive each day to get to Hollinsclough," she said. "None of us (parents) are good at everything and I welcome Hollinsclough providing a lot of our son's art and science education just as I'm sure other parents may appreciate input on music and French."

Since it became a flexitime school, Hollinsclough has attracted interest from all over the world – including Spain, Australia and the United States.

The school arranges classes in different subject areas on the same day each week so pupils who come in for particular lessons do not fall behind the school's full-time pupils.

The full-timers and part-timers appear to mix well, too. As Mrs Mountford-Lees puts it: "If you play with your cousins on a Friday, you don't expect to have to play with them all the rest of the days of the week, too."

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

KS1 Primary Teacher Supply Halifax

£130 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Are you an inspirational, ent...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Maths Teacher required for ...

Lower Key Stage 2 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education and recruitin...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Group: Being the UK market leader, Ran...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit