Free school ‘no social experiment’

Date published: 22 January 2014

PHOENIX Free School, which will open in Fitton Hill in September, “is not a social experiment,” according to project leader Affan Burki.

Prospective pupils and parents and a group of local residents attended a meeting last night to find out more about the school, which was given the go-ahead by the Government in May.

Mr Burki told the 30-strong gathering at Hill Top Medical Centre — close to where the school is set to open — “Our whole approach is proven and tested.”

Most of its teachers and instructors will be former military personnel. But Mr Burki, who recently resigned his commission in the Royal Corps of Signals to concentrate on the project, said: “We are not a military school. The playground will not be a parade square and we will not be a recruiting ground for the Armed Forces.”

But the school will embody Army values of discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment, he confirmed.

“The Army, Navy and Royal Air Force are more than just a job. They are a lifestyle and we would like to pass that on,” added Mr Burki.

Free Schools are state-funded but free from local authority control.

Optional subjects will be offered as extra-curricular activities. Mr Burki also stressed that parents would be expected to get involved.

“I want you to actively contribute to the school. If you are not willing to do that, I suggest you find another school,” he said. “I am not talking financially. If you have a talent, come and spend some time at the school and give back to the community.”

The teachers, who each have a degree in the subject they teach, will not be required to have qualified teacher status, though most applicants do.

Kevin Gough, from Bardsley, is thinking of applying for a place at the school for his 10-year-old son Fletcher: “The thing I like is people will put a lot more effort into getting the school to run better,” he said. “Perhaps the only reservation is that it has not been done before. You do not know what hiccups you will encounter on the way.”