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A group of parents and teachers want to set up a Free Primary School in Braunton

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: October 11, 2012

FREE SCHOOL: Karen Mitchell is at the forefront of a move to open a free primary school in Braunton.

FREE SCHOOL: Karen Mitchell is at the forefront of a move to open a free primary school in Braunton.

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A SMALL group of parents and teachers is hoping to set up a Free Primary School in Braunton.

It would be funded by the Government and would be free of local authority control.

Depending on interest from the community, the members hope to open the 120-place school in September 2014 with year groups from reception to Year 4. It would then develop into a full primary school as the pupils progressed.

Mum-of-three Karen Mitchell, 38, of Barton Lane, Braunton, is one of those at the forefront of the move.

She has followed the progress of North Devon's first Free School, Route 39, on Torridgeside, and is interested in a different choice of education for her children.

She said the proposed Free School in Braunton was not an alternative school.

"It is a Government-backed scheme and the school will broadly follow the National Curriculum for English, maths and science but it will be taught in a more creative way by teachers who have the passion and the same aspirations we have," she said.

Arts, music, sports and languages will be an important part of the curriculum.

One of the school's main aims is to enable pupils to spend more time learning outdoors.

Karen hoped the children would spend at least 50 per cent of their time outside, learning in a more creative way, rather than sitting in a classroom reading from a text book.

There are five group members behind the idea and they want to get their message out to other interested parties who might like to join a steering group. They are particularly keen to hear from anyone with school finance or other financial experience.

Once the steering group is up and running, the members will approach Devon County Council for advice.

They will also be conducting two open days where people in the community will be consulted for their views.

If all goes well and there is enough interest, the group aims to make an application to the Government some time between the end of December and the beginning of January.

The group is looking at a couple of potential sites.

Karen said: "Our plan is that all children at the school achieve above national average standards and we believe that teaching them in a more creative way will help to do that."

The Journal asked the head teachers of the village's three existing primary schools to comment on the idea.

Karen Crutchfield, head teacher of Caen Community Primary School, said: "There are more children expected in Braunton but the county council has already prepared for the future numbers in the village within the existing provision.

"We have three highly successful schools – four if you include the secondary – in the village already. Of course people must have choice but there is quite a lot of choice already."

Steve Morgan, head teacher of Kingsacre Primary School said: "Braunton is a thriving and growing community, which is part of what makes it such a great place to live and work.

"It is also fortunate in having three good primary schools and a good secondary school which work closely together. While census data does suggest that the demand for primary places will rise in the next few years, Devon County Council has already planned and set in action a scheme to increase capacity in the village to provide places for any extra children and also to take account of any future fluctuations in numbers that may arise due to changes at RMB Chivenor.

"I don't know a great deal about the Free Schools Programme, having only heard about this bid last week. But I'm sure that the group behind it will have plans to look closely at data, discuss feasibility with the county council and talk to myself and colleagues in the Braunton Learning Community as they move the process forward towards an outcome that is in the best interests of all the children in the village."

For more information about Braunton Primary Free School e-mail braunton freeschool@yahoo.co.uk or search for Braunton Primary Free School on Facebook.

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  • primaryed1999  |  October 19 2012, 12:50PM

    Very shortsighted comment from someone who clearly has no idea about the educational climate and the clear need for more primary school places in Braunton. How about a home truth for you- If we followed your advice there would be children in Braunton with no school to attend in a few years, as the local authority will not be building any more schools. Is that a better option? No I think not. I agree budgets are overstretched but does that mean we abandon the next group of 4 year olds looking for a new school? I think it is clear that this school is NEEDED! Well done to Karen Mitchell and the group, who sound like they are trying to provide a choice for parents in Braunton whilst fulfilling a real need in the locality. Good luck!

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  • casobserver  |  October 14 2012, 1:00PM

    "They are particularly keen to hear from anyone with school finance or other financial experience." I bet they are, and anyone with that experience might tell Ms Mitchell a few home truths about the nature of primary School finances in the area, and how the creation of an unneeded Free School will create more pressure on already vastly overstretched budgets, all to help keep Michael Gove's faltering, ideologically driven bandwagon rolling blindly on.

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