A revolutionary new school has kicked off in Doncaster – within the confines of the Keepmoat Stadium.
The XP School, the town’s first ‘free school’, which allows pupils and teachers to break away from conventional teaching methods, has enrolled its first 50 youngsters who are currently based in classrooms in the ground’s East Stand.
The school opened its doors to two classes of 25 year seven pupils last month – with hundreds more set to sign up over the coming years until the roster reaches 350.
The project is the brainchild of founder Gwyn Ap Harri, pictured far right, who said: “The feedback we have had so far has been very positive. The children are loving it and the parents are very supportive. These are early days but we have big plans for the years to come.”
The school, which is Government funded like the town’s other secondary schools, is open to 11 to 19-year-olds, with a new crop of youngsters coming in each September.
There are six teachers and three learning co-ordinators, under the leadership of former Campsmount head Andy Sprakes.
While students still learn conventional subjects like science, English and mathematics, a much looser, less structured curriculum and innovative teaching methods mean the XP School is far removed from the average secondary school.
Mr Ap Harri added: “The kids have just come back from climbing a mountain in Wales and we have classes outside too. “We want to focus on and develop our pupils. Rather than separate subjects, we have ‘expeditions’ lasting up to 16 weeks which cover the same topics in different ways.”
Pupils do not wear traditional uniforms – choosing instead to wear branded school clothing if they want.
He added: “The children are here five days a week and it is really purposeful, hard work.
“We have got pupils from a whole cross section from across Doncaster and everyone is really enjoying what we are doing.”
Two hundred parents have already attended an open evening and there is a waiting list at the school which is due to open in a new permanent building in Lakeside next year. Work on the project is expected to start soon.
A different and new approach to learning
A free school is a non-profit-making, independent, state-funded school which is free to attend but which is not controlled by a local authority, in this case Doncaster Council.
To set up a free school, founding groups submit applications to the Department for Education.
Groups include those run by parents, education charities and religious groups.
Ongoing funding is on an equivalent basis with other locally-controlled state maintained schools, although additional start-up grants to establish the schools are also paid.
Free schools are subject to the same Ofsted inspections as all other maintained schools and are expected to comply with standard performance measures.
There are currently 174 free schools in England with another 120 approved to open this year – making up one per cent of all English schools.