A new bid is being made this month to get the government to back a radical free school plan, designed to get 500-plus Norfolk children learning in the great outdoors.

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Benjamin’s School was rejected earlier this year when ministers chose a host of new free schools across England.

But its backers are having another go - and are confident that it will be second time lucky for the scheme, which would have bases at five unnamed locations in Norfolk.

Supporter and sponsor Richard Draper said the “essence” of the idea had not changed, but more work was being done to meet the criteria for free school bids.

And he said there were already 200 children signed up - with parents “eager” to see the school for four-19-year-olds get started.

The deadline for the new bid is January 4, and Mr Draper - who is also chief executive of The Benjamin Foundation, which is not linked to the free school - is urging more parents to come forward to support it by December 31.

He said: “We are very hopeful. When I spoke to the Department for Education, one of the messages I got back was that there is a feeling that there hasn’t been enough innovation through free school applications.

“They also said they felt there was no reason why this application should not succeed.”

He added: “Following the last really disappointing ‘no’, we have heard some heart-rending stories of children who are missing out on a suitable education.

“There is lots of parental support for this.”

Benjamin’s School would be Britain’s largest split-site school, with bases in Norwich and the north, south, east and west of the county.

The bases, which have not yet been made public, would be used as “launching pads” for the students to get out to farms, fields, nature reserves, theatres and factories to learn.

The school’s name is a tribute to Mr Draper’s late son Benjamin.

Mr Draper added: “We have to be able to identify that there are appropriate sites, but we cannot enter into negotiations until we have permission from the government.

“All we can say is that we are committed to providing five appropriate sites in the five areas of Norfolk we would be looking to cover.”

● To find out more or to register an interest, visit www.benjaminsschool.co.uk or email benjaminsschool@gmail.com

8 comments

  • TWR- maybe, but there is more to learning than observing , questioning and investigating-there is the matter of a bit of hard work. Balance is important and I concede that at the moment schools have turned into league table factories but ladling funding into unaccountable free schools is not the way to solve the problem. I am opposed to free schools and academies on the principle that they take tax payers money,are not fully accountable and may pander to the whims of marginal groups. Plus I see them as a back door to privatisation and we already know that in some cases funding meant for children's education goes on inflated salaries for senior management. Maybe if Gove remembered a nature walk or a bit of field work we might see them being back on the curriculum. All I can say is that a life time in the countryside did not teach me algebra. chemistry or French verbs

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • “launching pads” for the students to get out to farms, fields,factories to learn." Well it will save a bus fare to Bernard Matthews? What will the teachers do all day while their 'interns' are busy plucking turkeys..walk around the fields?

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    Rhombus

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • When I said “anything that will inspire children to observe, question and learn has to be welcomed” I did not exclude the fact that that learning will involve hard work, harder for some than for others, but I would emphasise the word ‘inspire’. It may be idealistic but I would far rather see people who undertake the work required because they want to and enjoy learning, not because they are forced to, leading to a lifelong aversion to education which can be passed down generations. I accept your concerns regarding rear entries to privatisation but, without a fair sample of evidence, this seems like a somewhat paranoid reaction. I also note that, according to the school ethos and curriculum intents stated on their website pupils will have the opportunity to learn 'algebra, chemistry or French verbs' in an appropriate environment. Nowhere does it suggest ‘a life time in the countryside’.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012

  • What about a floating school?....serious comment...no humour....should get past the censors.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • Another folly of tax payers money being begged for to fund Free school pet projects for people with an obsession-be it outdoor schooling or religious schools. The great majority of parents send their children to state schools where they have to conform to timetables and attendance and league table demands.It might not be perfect but it is education paid for out of tax and most people involved do their best. If schools are mind numbing then there should be scope to work on all of them to improve the experience of all children, not just a few who belong to a pushy clique . There is no place for kids on farms, they are not playgrounds. The Benjamin Council should be working with the Field Studies Council to address the state of field work and field trips in English schools-which has been severely affected by the restrictions of the National Curriculum and by the demands of risk assessment and staffing. it could also help schools to organise out of school trips to nature reserves etc. Plus, what are kids going to learn in the countryside and from whom? Countryside kids learned from doing jobs, watching people working or walking about with older people who knew what they were talking about, not dancing around saying "hello clouds , hello clouds " like some latter day Fotherington-Tomas.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • Boots I’m surprised! They have every right to apply for funding and the idea of an outdoor based education is no folly. You said as much in your last paragraph, cynical as it may have been. The national curriculum has stifled creativity in teaching and learning and anything that will inspire children to observe, question and learn has to be welcomed and if this sort of education is not available to all it has to start somewhere.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • The farms, fields, nature reserves, theatres and factories are the places to learn, not stuck inside some mind numbing classroom 6 or 7 hours a day.

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    Catton Man

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

  • Fracking el, there were many mind-numbing factories when I was wee lad.Poor teachers and the self serving elite are to blame for the sub-standing education that's being dished out to the masses nowadays.

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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