Even after several months of very little activity, having decided to take a break from our efforts, we are very aware that we are still receiving considerable interest about our proposed school. The one thing this tells us is that the desire for ‘another way’ is still very much out there. Not only do parents want a choice as to the kind of education they chose for their children, this area is crying out for more school places as our current schools burst at the seams. We have become increasingly aware that East Grinstead and surrounding areas are suffering a real school place crisis and plans are in place locally to expand local schools, putting increased pressure on already strained services.
We therefore come back to the starting point – there is a desperate need for a new school, as well as a fresh-thinking approach to educating the children of Sussex.
With some fresh blood amongst us – we want to hear from you! In order to build a case to create what is truly needed in this area, we need the views of the people that are closest to this – local parents.
Please can you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you believe is needed in this area, and what is important to you as parents. A few things to consider:
1. Do you believe there is a school places crisis in this area
2. Have you been personally affected by this (siblings in different schools, not receiving first choice school etc.)
3. Is the need for a Steiner School, or would a free-thinking, child-centric approach taking the best from State and Steiner suit the needs of your children
4. What is the most important factor to you in the choice of school for your child(ren)
Please include your postcode, how many children you have, and their current ages
As you know, one of the main drawbacks with our last application was that the DfE required us to find an experienced state secondary head to join our project team, even though secondary classes would not be introduced for a number of years. This we have been unable to do, which has effectively brought our project to a halt.
The political situation regarding new free schools continues to evolve, and approval for alternative projects is not becoming any easier. One reason is that the criteria that applicants have to meet are made stricter with time, and compliance becomes much harder to demonstrate. Much of this arises from the perceived need to deliver comparable conventional data even when using a non-conventional system for key areas such as pupil assessment.
So, reluctantly, the Steiner Academy Sussex Weald team has decided to cease working on this free school application, at least for the time being. It has been a fantastic project which has achieved a great deal in terms of public support, and even acceptance from the DfE of significant sections of our application. Each one of our dedicated team has put in a great deal of time and effort over the last three years, and we would like to thank every one of them at whatever stage they were involved. Also, thank you to all of the very many prospective parents and others who registered their interest with us, and for the huge fundraising efforts without which we could not have got as far as we did. We are truly sorry that our efforts have not brought a new school into fruition.
As we enter the new year we are still standing as a strong team with a vision to make Steiner Academy Sussex Weald a reality. We are still very much alive behind the scenes and hope to be able to submit a revised application 2016. However we do still have a real opportunity for a state school teacher with senior leadership experience to join our team. If you know anyone who might fit the bill please do get in touch.
After great thought, and discussion, and following some extremely useful advice from a senior educationalist, we have made the decision to postpone our re-submission until the next round, and not to apply with the May deadline. The rationale behind this is two-fold.
1. Required changes to our application: We have received some valuable input from a retired senior teacher on various aspects of our application and with this in mind we would like the opportunity to re-shape and further strengthen it in areas that have previously been scrutinised by the DfE. In order to do this fully, we need more time than the May deadline would offer. We have some fresh approaches to be worked through and absorbed, and this cannot be done in the time available. In addition to this, one of the potential faults in rejected applications we have heard about elsewhere has been repeated re-submission without significant change to the application; this is something we need to avoid. The DfE has been evolving the Free Schools application process over the last 5 years and has added extra conditions which earlier Steiner Academies have not had to deal with. Talking with others who applied at the same time as we did, everyone has reached the conclusion that May is not the time to reapply.
2. We must complete our core team – and this requires us to find a secondary school teacher with senior leadership experience. Without this person our application will not be progressed any further by the DfE. We have said it before, and say it again, if you have connections with anyone who has this experience, please do get in touch.
There is a risk that, with the current political climate, the likelihood of further submission opportunities may change, but without being able to meet the two points above an application now could easily be counter-productive.
We cannot do this alone – we know there is a need for this school and we are working hard to make this a reality. We are extremely grateful for the recent donations and other offers of support we have received, and we will be back in touch when things become clearer.
When the time comes to reignite and regroup, we will be arranging a public meeting to share with you our plans for the re-shaped application, discuss and debate all aspects of the proposed school, and expand further on the ways you can help us make this a reality for the children of the Sussex Weald.