Chalk Talk: A creative new free school that may convince us of their worth
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 19 July 2012
Education Secretary Michael Gove's free schools initiative has been taking quite a buffeting of late. There was the case of the free school – in Suffolk – that had only signed up 37 pupils for the start of the September term as part of a three-year intake. Then a hard-hitting report from the Royal Society of Arts warned that the scheme was like an "unguided missile" – not necessarily providing primary school places in the areas that most needed them.
Step forward, then, the sponsors of the Plymouth School for the Creative Arts, which last week was given the go-ahead by the Government. It is in an area, like many others in the country, which will need extra primary places by 2013. It is also specialising in an area of the curriculum that many involved in education believe has been neglected by the focus on league tables and teaching to the test in primary schools.
The backers of the project, Plymouth College of Art, have already launched initiatives in the city for excluded youngsters, which show it is possible to regain their interest in education through the arts.
The school aims to equal the performance of the city's grammar schools at GCSE level.
It will take children from the age of four right through to 16 – and then offer them places at the college if they are interested.
Professor Andrew Brewerton, principal of Plymouth College of Art, is adamant it will not be a "hippy-style" free school but will focus through arts on literacy and numeracy.
Its submission shows that focusing on creative arts does not mean just a diet of dance and drama and such things. Teaching about food, it argues, can be creative. "It is nutrition, health and culinary art," it says. "It is craft and economics, design and entrepreneurship.
"Food is history and geography, it is culture and language in performance... Cuisine is teamwork and business and mathematics, applying laws of chemistry and biology and physics."
Need I go on? It does display a creative approach to the curriculum, has influential supporters like The Tate Gallery and will provide something completely different to the rich tapestry of schools in the area.
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