Why do you promote the sciences so strongly?

By Annette France, Chair of Governors of the Cheshire Free School   Why do you promote the sciences so strongly? This is a question I regularly faced as a headteacher, and it is true that I have long been passionate about the STEM subjects. I have three principal reasons for promoting these subjects so vigorously which cover many people’s motivations: 1. Solving the major problems for the future: With the greatest respect to all the other professions, it is only those with scientific, engineering and technological skills who will help to solve the biggest problems which face our world in the future. For example: cures for major medical problems, including more-effective antibiotics; alternative and cleaner fuel sources; innovative approaches to design and manufacturing…….. 2. Promoting women and their achievements: The WES (Women’s Engineering Society) website www.wes.org.uk is very clear about the discrepancy in numbers of women in engineering in particular (Figures obtained from a variety of sources and updated January 2016). Many of the statistics quote on this site are very positive and should be encouraging to female students eg in a survey of 300 female engineers, 84% were either happy or extremely happy with their career choice and engineering students are second only to medics in securing full-time jobs and earning good salaries – more of this below. There are very positive signs such as the very small gender difference in uptake in STEM subjects at GCSE, but only 20% of Physics A Level students are girls, a situation which has not changed in the last 25 years, and the proportion of women studying engineering and physics has...

The PBL Course in Medicine

Having submitted our application, we are now waiting to see whether we will be offered an interview by the Department for Education. We should hear about this before Christmas. Meanwhile, please keep your fingers crossed for us. It will help us enormously in our application if we have substantial evidence of demand, so please continue to spread the word. The more people who register interest, the more likely we are to be successful. Meanwhile, we are offering the problem-based learning course in medicine that Dr Vim Jesudason has developed for sixth-form students at local schools. The PBL course will start on Tuesday January 13th at Frodsham Parish Hall, Church Street, Frodsham (next to Costa Coffee) from 5.30 – 6.30pm. It will cost £5 a session. Parking is available behind the church hall, or in Eddisbury Square, a little further up Church Street. You can find out more about the course, and express an interest in enrolling, at pblcourse.co.uk. – This is the same course that we intend to offer at the free school, but please note it is only suitable for students currently taking A levels in Biology and Chemistry, who are aiming for admission to medicine, veterinary or dentistry degrees, or biological sciences at...

Our application has been submitted!

We have finally submitted our application to the Department for Education, after months of hard work. You can see the Chester Chronicle article here. We are immensely grateful to all the parents who have supported us by registering an interest for their child, and also to the professionals from local colleges and independent schools who have given their time and expertise to us freely. We still need people to register an interest, so please spread the word! The more people who register support, the more likely we are to succeed in the next stage of our application. We hope to hear in a month or two whether we will be invited to an interview at the DfE in...

A milestone

The last few weeks have been really busy for us. We were still working on ‘evidence of demand’ by attending the Cheshire Game and Country Fair at the Cheshire showground at the end of August, but mainly by doing a large mailshot. We sent many letters by post, and hand-delivered others, and these have resulted in more registers of interest. However, we still need to gather evidence of demand. We stand a much better chance of succeeding in our application if we have many more than the minimum number of registrations. In addition, we needed to finalise the application. We needed to draw up a very detailed education plan, right down to the numbers of teachers we would need, a draft timetable, and details of policies and procedures. And all this needed to be tightly budgeted with all the various costs of the proposed free school included. We already had a strong team of supporters on board, but ideally we needed a couple more. We were delighted in the last couple of weeks that an excellent bursar from a local independent school volunteered to give us help, and also a Vice Principal from a local college. Both of these people are kindly giving help and support in their free time, and we greatly value their expertise. The final application was well over a hundred pages long, and we needed to get two copies to the Department for Education by midday on Friday 10th October, together with several spreadsheets. In addition we needed to email the documents to the DfE. Just printing and packaging the documents took several hours as...

More ‘evidence of demand’

  We have continued to gather ‘evidence of demand’. A lot of this has been at supermarkets in the locality – especially Asda at Ellesmere Port, Morrisons at the Bache, Tesco at Broughton and Sainsbury’s at Boughton. Everywhere we have been delighted with the support from parents and the enthusiasm with which many people have kindly registered interest. We have also been to the Denbigh and Flint Show, which was a huge success, and the Cheshire Game and Country Fair where we did very well despite the cold and sometimes wet weather over the Bank Holiday weekend. We are about half-way to our target number of registrations. We need 1000 students aged 11-15 to register interest, or parents of students in this age group. The most important age group we need to attract is students who will be in year 9 or year 10 in September. Please remember, THIS DOES NOT COMMIT YOU TO ANYTHING. So please ask your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to register interest – all you are saying is that you agree with the ethos of our proposed school and that you would like it to gain DfE support. We have also delivered flyers in many areas – especially Higher Kinnerton, Llay, Lavister, Rossett, Dodleston, Elton, Upton, Mollington and Hoole. We are also working on the detailed paperwork we need for our DfE application. We have to give details on governance, vision, educational plans, targets, finance, and many other areas. I am sure you will realise that we need detailed and credible plans if we are to be granted significant sums of public money to...

Gathering ‘evidence of demand’

We had a busy week gathering evidence of demand for the free school last week. On Monday we were at Morrison’s at the Bache, distributing flyers and meeting some very enthusiastic people. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we were at the Cheshire Show in glorious sunshine. We were amazed by how many people expressed an interest in the proposed free school – 97 people registered an interest in 2 days! This is really encouraging, as we need to have 1,000 people registering interest by the autumn when we take our proposal to the Department for Education. We do hope that our supporters will spread the word to their family, friends and other contacts. Please remember that ‘registering interest’ at this stage does not commit you to...