Mlitary "Free" schools

Discussion in 'ACF' started by woopert, Jun 18, 2010.

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  1. woopert

    woopert LE Moderator

    I was listening to radio 4 this morning and they had a teacher and a parent on that wants to set up a Free (i.e. free of LA control and set up by a group not otherwise in the state sector) school as announced under the new Govt policy. They also had some union hack on that was spinning the usual dit about them depriving communities of the equality and diversity uptopia if schools were set up by parents that sought to recruit kids of a similar background. His view was that it would be the end of a great socialist experiment which could not possibly be allowed because, you see, the past 13 years haven't ended and although Labour lost the election that shouldn't be enough to actually stop them from governing and a new government shouldn't be allowed to press forward its own ideas. That would just be wrong.

    Anyway, I digress.

    It got me thinking about US style "Military Schools". As a discussion point, the "Free School" concept now makes this kind of provision possible. We have similar institutions in the UK in the form of St Eddy's school and Welbeck, but they aren't anything near "state" or "open" in their intake for various reasons.

    Under the Free School concept it would be possible to consider opening a school whereby the ethos is broadly “cadetship” with an expansion of the CCF concept into the entire school day. Perhaps the school could contain 3 or more Houses, with students electing to join an Army/RN/RAF house, wear the uniform of the House’s parent service (in line with CCF dress regs) with a significant emphasis on extra curricular activity based on combining the CCF and the daily syllabus with community based citizenship.

    The funding would be per capita, which means finding the capital funding and a location. A number of authorities are considering moving from a 3-tier to 2-tier system (the 3 tear has first schools for 5-9 year olds, middle school, for 9-13 year olds and the high school from 13-18, whereas the 2 tier system has primary and secondary beginning at 5 years and 11 years respectively). In other words, growing from a small to large school could be possible by looking to take over surplus middle school building stock where authorities opt to go to super-schools of 2000 kids plus.

    The school could follow the National Curriculum, but free of local authority interefering it could be built on an ethos similar to the military. Choices of subjects would be down to the school which could include greater emphasis on the classics, and providing a proper education where the kids learn rather than “experience”. Because there is freedom from LA control, aspects such as formal leadership development could be included in the syllabus so that instead of the CCF being an extra-curricular add-on it is fully integral to the school day and a key part of its culture. Obviously it would not be a feeder to UK armed forces, and would not have any obligation to join up and neither would it be a pre-ATR/RMAS establishment but it could offer an excellent grounding and development for those wishing to join up.

    I think where I am coming from is that I got a shock in my OTC days when I discovered that many of my colleagues from schools that were better than mine (which was just about every grammar or independent) had a much more rounded education than me and knew more than me. I had to do a lot of cultural catching up because when I was at school it was a tick-box exercise even then (and I’m talking over 20 years ago). There is an opportunity, I think, to address this gap.

    What do you say on this? Is it feasible? Could it be done? What would be the pitfalls?

    You won’t be seeing the “Woopert Military Academy” any time soon, but it has got me thinking.
  2. I am Govenor at a school that has just moved from being infant and junior to primary,an administrative nightmare with no great assistance from the LA so we already see ourselves as slightly independent.

    We no doubt will be debating the 'free school' concept shortly and if our school were an older age group I would certainly be proposing some of ideas above.

    Certainly if a school opened in our area, based on the lines of Welbeck , I would be advising that we became a feeder school with a joined up curriculum
  3. It's certainly possible; a few things to bear in mind:

    a) free of local authority control is not synonymous with free of state control. These schools will be answerable directly to the SoS (or in practice, serpants from DfE. No probblem for now, but how would this withstand a change of administration to one more authoritarian?

    b) where would you put it? In a garrison town? Or would you hope to find somewhere with a more settled population, but still a similar ethos?

    c) not too sure about trends towards middle schools. They're being phased out in some parts of the country, which is a shame, as the 13+ break point is much better for boys.

    Love the idea though - good luck in finding like-minded people in your area to do the work of setting it up, and help find those all-important backers (and a site!)
  4. I went to one of the MoD "military schools" from mid-1970s to mid-1980s - QVS rather than DoYRMS. Two years in primary, where it was "stand by your beds" every morning and fairly regimented, then another six in secondary where things were progressively loosened. At least by the 1970s they'd renamed A,B,C, and D Companies into Wavell, Cunningham, Trenchard, and Haig Houses.

    At 17, I went from a single-sex boarding school to University. The nearest anyone in my family had been to Higher Education was my mum's time at a Teacher Training College. Big culture shock - women, booze, self-planned study rather than a fairly "institutional" environment. I scraped through first year at university, the two other guys on the course didn't (not that it stopped them from senior roles in engineering; one went back after a year and is now a Squadron Leader, the other is head of something for Orange)

    QVS is now co-ed, and IMHO seems to have improved dramatically. I went back for the 100th anniversary, and what was noticeable amongst my cohort was that we had all been institutionalised to some extent - we coped well with certainties and timetables, coped less well when the boundaries were removed. Yes, we had self-discipline, but it could have been better developed.

    (The Forces did well though - I was looking at a photo on Facebook, and noting that of the twenty or so faces in one picture, two had gone on to command a battalion, at least four more had made field rank, and none of our parents held a commission.)

    While we had dress uniforms, Colours, and parades; the ceremonial side was limited. Normal school hours were in normal-ish school uniforms (granted, the uniforms came through the military system; I've had a pair of "Shoes, Man's, Highland" since I was nine years old...) and were largely...normal. Certainly it was no stricter than the young GB's school dress regulations.

    I agree with almost everything except the classics part :) Our mob all decided that arty-farty stuff was for wimps, so three-quarters of my sixth year went off to study engineering... (even with my Higher grades in Economics and Latin) Maths, Physics, and English were our mandatory subjects; the choices were "either Chemistry or Biology" (everyone did two sciences), "either Economics or Modern Studies", and between Languages and Woodwork/Metalwork/Technical Drawing.

    We had a broader education than most; I was shocked at university when I discovered that there were people who had never done first aid training, and couldn't swim, or read a map, plan and conduct training, or even sew on a button. It just hadn't occurred to me that you wouldn't be self-sufficient at 16 or before. Primary kids travelling to BAOR were expected to be picked up and put on the plane, but with Secondary kids it was "You're a big boy of 12 - here's your passport, plane ticket, and rail ticket to Edinburgh, off you go". I'd even been the geeky "not good at games" type, and I was still far fitter than average.

    I look at the school where our kids go, and I'm impressed. They start early with values, and standards, and discipline (i.e. in Primary 1), but it's practical and sensible. I look around the school and see lots of leadership development, although it isn't overtly formal or mandatory. They work hard at the "broader life skills" stuff for all the kids, and it shows. While it costs, it's still cheaper than full-time nursery care... (in this city, about 25% of all kids go to a fee-paying school; you'll see a builder's van next to a Maserati in the carpark).

    I don't think it has to be a "military" free school to achieve the effect you describe; just a damn good school. It needs good teachers - the type that the kids can respect both professionally and socially; and they need to be leaders, not just managers. It also needs to involve the parents - not just one or two, but all of them have to feel "welcome" on school grounds, and part of the wider organisation.
  5. I went to Trinity in Hull, I think it might fit the description of Free School. It was run within the State Comprehensive system, yet independant of their control, but one had to pass a tough exam to enter. The house system held sway (Port and Starboard). The school was founded in 1787, and run as a Naval Style College with upper house and lower house, rank and fag system both in place (the custom of fagging for an upper house boy was still going on when I was there). The school was able to compete with most public schools from an academic standpoint. We had our own sailing facilities, customs, traditions (square rig with weskit and ducks for upper house boys). Chaps from all over the UK attended, the only fees charged where for boarders, I was fortunate (or not) to actually live in Hull so I attended at no cost.

    Pupils would be flogged frequently, excellent character builder!

    I loved every minute of my time there, and received an excellent, well disciplined education.





    Will send my brats there when I move back.