Since the Ockley base of Scott-Broadwood School closed, a group of us have been working on an application to set up a free school in Ockley.
What is a free school? Like the name suggests, a free school is free to attend. However, the funds come from central government, rather than the local authority, so county borders do not apply. This makes it easier to market the school to pupils and parents in West Sussex as well as Surrey. Given the number of new houses being built in Broadbridge Heath, there is a shortage of school places currently just over the border into West Sussex. The new Ockley School would be ideally placed to provide additional school places.
The proposal is for Ockley School to be an infant school (as it was before). The school will have a strong forest school and agricultural bias, so it provides a more holistic approach to teaching. After all, children can learn by counting the number of seeds they plant: educational research shows that many young children learn better in an active environment rather than in the classroom.
The financial team, lead by Dick Thomas, has produced various spreadsheets to show that Ockley School could be financially viable. Separately, Jo Page has been doing great work on researching the local need for school places.
I have been working on setting up partnerships with local schools, businesses and charities. We’ve had a fantastic welcome from a number of independent schools in the area, which are all happy to add the new Ockley School to their ‘outreach’ programmes. This would give us access to theirs sports, arts and IT facilities as well as shared days out etc. We have links to a South African charity that educates children on conservation. We even have the support of the National Farmers’ Union.
So how can I help, I hear you say!? Well, first we’ll be doing more fund-raising this year, organized by the ever-efficient Bea Milne, starting with the summer fair (we’ll need maypole dancers and a maypole please). The more support the better! Separately, we need to provide evidence that there are enough children locally who would come to the new school. So we’re preparing a flyer to show parents of babies and toddlers in the area. If you think you can help us by speaking to parents at local parents/tots events or nurseries, or if you have children who might attend the school, please do get in touch.
But most of all we need the Department for Education to confirm when we can file the free school application. So far all we know is that it will be ‘early 2018’. Last year it was in March, so we’re hoping we’ll have the date soon. Perhaps an email to our local MP to see if he can find out the date wouldn’t go amiss?
Jo Summers email@example.com