The teachers giving lessons in life beyond the classroom

Two enterprising pioneers are setting up a free school that doesn't forget the students when they leave.

For years teacher Kay Johnston watched while youngsters slipped from school to the drug and gang culture or a life on the dole.

"Even those who came from supportive families found it a little bit hard," said Mrs Johnston, who has taught in south London comprehensives for several years.

"For those children who don't they were completely at sea. You see them falling foul of the law and even being killed."

Now she and a fellow teacher, Anne Broni, head of maths at a south London boys' school, are planning to set up their own "free" school to combat the problem.

Every pupil at the school – which is to be set up in the Lewisham area – will be given their own mentor to encourage them to learn a skill so they can get a job when they leave school or university.

They will also be guaranteed three months' work experience upon leaving school so there will be no need to go straight on to the dole and the streets.

The two teachers are adamant that their school – which is being branded as a "nursery to industry" school – will be very different.

It will take youngsters in at nursery level at the age of three providing them with specialist teachers in all the different subject areas from the age of seven – instead of having just one classroom teacher for every lesson.

The idea is the same as that pursued by TV chef Jamie Oliver in his recent television programme, Jamie's Dream School, where he garnered a range of celebrities from different walks of life to enthuse hard-to-teach pupils with their subject expertise.

At least Mrs Johnston and Ms Broni can claim to have thought of that first. Mrs Johnston first pursued the idea five years ago when she approached Croydon Council for support to establish the school.

"They said they would only be interested if it was a private school," she said, "so they didn't have to pay for it."

However, she revived the idea when Michael Gove, Coalition Education Secretary, outlined his flagship "free" school proposals – allowing parents, teachers and faith groups to set up their own schools with state aid.

"There's nothing political about what we're trying to do," she said. "It's just that it's the only way to get support for it."

The school, which will be called Diaspora High School – has as its creed that it is "a school for reception pupils to 19-year-olds which offers stability, progression and excellent academic courses running alongside high quality vocational studies".

The two teachers are planning to open their school next September by taking youngsters in to the reception class and the first year of secondary school.

No class will be of more than 25 pupils and the school will gradually build up to maximum capacity in seven years – eventually offering A-level classes.

Every child will learn a language from the moment they start and the duo believe that – by offering a education from three to 19 – they will offer a continuity that is often missing from the state sector.

However, it is the secondary school that will offer the most radical proposals.

Mrs Johnston and Ms Broni are already scouting the neighbourhood for mentors who will befriend pupils and help them plot their way through their career paths. And these mentors will help in providing work experience later.

"It could be anyone – plumbers, engineers, doctors," said Mrs Johnston. "They will operate as a second or third parent – depending on whether the child comes from a single parent family. They will be made aware of the youngster's performance throughout their schooling so they can help them along."

The school is also planning to operate a skills audit of parents – so they can tap into expertise in the community to help out as mentors. This will then be used in special "enrichment classes" where those with skills will offer training to out-of-work parents so they can get off the dole.

"For instance, a qualified electrician could offer training to another parent," said Mrs Johnston. "Someone who's a brilliant cook could pass those skills on."

The youngsters will go out on work experience during the last two years of compulsory schooling – but the key to the school's success is the offer of three months' work in their chosen vocation immediately after they either leave school or university.

Interest in the idea has been overwhelming from parents.

"I walk around with leaflets in my bag about the school," said Ms Broni, "and people say 'that's a fantastic idea - we really think it's great.'"

With all the controversy the "free" schools policy has engendered with critics claiming the schools are only for "pushy parents", Mrs Johnston said there had been only two voices raised against it.

"It is something that's different," she said. "They are opening more all-aged schools but in the end they just spit the kids out at the end of their schooling, too. "We just want to get the youngsters away from the benefits culture and where that leads."

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Latest stories from i100
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 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Foundation Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...

Psychology Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Psychology An en...

Geography Teacher

£19200 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?