It is now a year since I set up the Radlett Free School Project website as a vehicle for discussion about the possibility of establishing a new secondary school for Radlett and Shenley. Over that time I have personally had discussions with many local people who are concerned about the issue of secondary transfer, as well as with local Councillors and owners and neighbours of possible sites for such a school. I have also been helped by a small number of enthusiastic people, all parents of young children who see this as a real practical solution for their own children.
Our conclusion is that we should go ahead and try to make it a reality. We have recently conducted a survey of parents whose children are attending the primary schools in Radlett, Shenley and London Colney in Year 3 and below. The results of a representative sample (of 100 families with over 200 children between them) are clear: 62% said they would definitely consider such a school for their children, 36% said they would want more information on the school and only 2% said they definitely would not be interested.
So here is the outline of our basic plan:
Location – we could not find a suitable site in either Radlett or Shenley but have identified part of the Harperbury Hospital site as our preferred location. The site is being redeveloped over the next 2/3 years providing an opportunity for a new school to be built there. The existing buildings will need to be demolished and rebuilt within the same “footprint” as it is within the Green Belt. Ideally we would want new environmentally friendly buildings with solar heating, solar panels for electricity etc.
Transport – we want to encourage as many students as possible to walk or cycle to school so would aim to establish footpaths and “greenways” from Radlett, Shenley and London Colney to the school. We would probably also need some school buses but would strongly discourage the use of cars for transporting students to and from school.
Admission rules – we want a local co-educational, comprehensive and non-denominational school open to all, based on their proximity to the school. This means the school will predominantly serve families in the Parishes of Aldenham, Shenley and London Colney. It will also of course comply with legal requirements for admission of SEN pupils, siblings and so on.
Numbers – we plan for three-form entry (90 per year) with the facilities to expand to four form entry (120 per year) in the future. In 2011 the total applications from the three Parishes to state secondary schools was 270 so this would represent around a third of all local secondary students (although we estimate up to a further 100 students applied to private schools, many because they could not get places at their preferred state schools and such families could in future apply to the new school).
Curriculum – we plan a “traditional” academic education including the new “English Bac” at GCSE level. Our Sixth Form will also cover all main academic subjects, including sciences and technology. We hope to be able to arrange exchanges with other local schools and colleges in St Albans for more specialist subjects at Sixth Form (this is already common in the area). The school is likely to become a specialist school in one or more subject, again, as for all other secondary schools in the area. The school will have some sports and music facilities and will aim to share facilities with other local schools to provide a wide range of such activities.
Timing – Our target is to make a formal application to open a Free School next June (2012) and we hope to open the doors in September 2014, which means being ready for the first student applications in October 2013. The first year would have just 90 students and when they move up in the following year there would be 90 more. It will therefore take six years to have a full school with around 600 students. However, this timetable is highly subject to change!
So, we are now at the stage where we need to build up the expertise of our Steering Group to be able to develop our application. We are looking for a number of professionals, including teachers and other educators to assist in the creation of our school’s curriculum but also accountants, lawyers and marketing professionals to develop the business plans.
We would also like to hear from anyone who would like to be part of the “PTA” for the school starting to raise funds and spread the word about our plans. We believe this new school is a real possibility but we have a long way to go to make it happen and will need continuing support from as many people as possible.
If you think you can help please contact Clive Glover on 01923 853483 or Emma Eaves on 01923 850237