New Free School Plan for TootingWritten by Wandsworth Conservatives Friday, 09 December 2011 14:36
The Michaela Community School is due to open next September and will have as its head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh, who shot to national prominence last year when she spoke out about failings in the modern education system.
The new secondary school, which has already been approved by the Department for Education, will admit 120 pupils each year.
As well as being led by Ms Birbalsingh, who has been teaching in state schools in London for more than a decade and was formerly deputy head at a secondary school in Southwark, the school is being supported by a number of high profile backers with acadamic, literary and charity backgrounds.
Among these is Dr Anthony Seldon, a political historian and commentator, who has written critically acclaimed biographies of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and is headmaster of Wellington College, one of England's most famous and historic independent schools.
Another important backer is Dr Tony Sewell, director of the London based charity, Generating Genius, which aims to help children, in particular black and mixed-race boys from working class backgrounds, to achieve educational success and to go on to university.
The school will offer its pupils a ‘distinctive’ education based on a traditional ethos more often found in ‘better private schools’. It will provide a ‘knowledge-rich curriculum, prioritising academic subjects, and it will instil self-discipline and a strong work ethic in pupils’.
The aim of the school is to create "a shining example of what is possible in the inner city, becoming one of the best schools in the country, renowned for academic excellence and capable of instilling extraordinary ambition in all its pupils, no matter what their background.
"Like our better private schools, the Michaela Community School believes that children at secondary school need less choice and more guidance than is currently given in many of our state schools. We also believe they need more tradition in terms of rules and routines. Pupils will be required to move out of the way of adults, stand at assembly, have a perfect uniform, and obey. Obedience is not a word that we will shy away from as it is this concept that will see our pupils through to having successful lives in the future.”
The long term plan for the Michaela Community School is to open many schools in London's poorer districts, to give disadvantaged children the opportunity to access an excellent education.
The announcement that the school is set to open in Tooting has been welcomed by the council's education spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey, who said: "This is exciting news for Tooting and will ensure that parents have even greater choice when it comes to selecting a secondary school for their children.
"Ms Birbalsingh is an inspirational figure and I'm sure the school she leads, with the backing of so many accomplished supporters, will be precisely what many parents are looking for in a secondary school. We welcome this extra choice and diversity and wish the school and its pupils every success."
The school is named after a teacher who passed away earlier this year, who was valued and respected for her "old-school values".
According to one former pupil, she was "an excellent teacher, truly interested in academic success, unperturbed by the storms of modern-day educational reform. She embodied traditional, disciplinarian attitudes, giving us boundaries in which to be creative and revolutionary".
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