What exactly is a free school?An independent state funded school. The money comes from central government and approval is given by the Secretary of State for Education (currently Michael Gove).
What is the difference between a free school and an academy?Once established, a free school becomes an academy. The term free school refers to how the school is set up.
What involvement will the local authority have once the school is open?As with all academies, our school will have a degree of independence from the local authority. For example we will have more control over our budget and curriculum than a maintained school. This allows us the flexibility to make decisions like offering an extended day, or providing smaller teaching groups for children who need extra support.
However we intend to work closely with Barnet Council and build close relationships with other local schools, so that our pupils and staff can benefit from the wide experience and expertise that exists within the Barnet education community.
What happens if there is a change of government? Are schools that began life as free schools secure?Although the free schools programme was initiated by the current government, it builds on the previous Labour government's academies policy. Once we are open, we will be an academy, and there will be no distinction between us and other academies that came about in different circumstances. Labour have stated on the record that they have no intention of abolishing academies.
How and when will Ofsted come to inspect the school?The school will be subject to the same Ofsted inspection regime as all other academies, and will undergo a pre-opening inspection before September 2013. We will also be subject to a pre-opening inspection by the Department for Education.
How will you ensure it’s an outstanding school?We believe outstanding schools are the result of great teachers, good discipline and the support of parents and the local community, and we are confident that our school will have all three.
We have recruited an exceptional headteacher, Mick Quigley, who was rated outstanding by Ofsted in a previous headteacher role. Together, we will appoint a team of teachers who display a passion for their subject and a desire to share with their pupils a life-long love of learning. All of our teachers will be qualified to PGCE level or equivalent.
We are committed to the principle of continuous professional development, and so will ensure that our staff are given the time and training they need to maintain outstanding levels of performance.
What are your plans for a sixth form?We plan to open a sixth form at the earliest opportunity, and certainly by 2018, ready for our first intake of pupils.
Can you fill up for some of the later years from day one? If not, why not?Our approval from the Department for Education is based on the school beginning with the September 2013 Year 7 intake, so we aren't able to offer places to children who are older than this year group.
Will you teach in mixed ability groups for all subjects?Our intake of 150 pupils will be divided into six mixed ability tutor groups of 25, and will initially be taught in these groups for all subjects.
After the first term, pupils will begin to be set by ability for Maths, English, Science and modern languages, and as they advance through the school this setting will be implemented for other key subjects. This will allow us to stretch the most able, encourage and enthuse those in the middle who might otherwise be overlooked, and give extra support to those who need it.
We will also create an individual learning plan for every pupil, which will include ambitious, measurable targets for them to work towards.
What are your plans for providing pastoral care?At the Archer Academy we live by the principle that every child matters, and have put pastoral care at the heart of our plans for the school.
Experience has taught us that children who are in need of extra care are often the last ones to ask for it; and that while some pupils are happy to push themselves forward and ask for help, others try to disappear into the background when they're experiencing difficulties at home or school.
We will therefore work hard to ensure that there are no invisible children at the Archer Academy. Our small tutor groups of just 25 children and nurturing house structure will make it easier for issues to rise to the surface, and we will equip our teachers and support staff to recognise and manage any issues that our pupils may be experiencing.
Children develop at different rates and have individual strengths and aims. We aim to support our pupils to discover and develop their personalities, interests and confidence, ensuring that they can each achieve their personal potential. As well as supporting them, we see our role to work in partnership with parents so that we can collectively nurture our young people.
What are the principles behind your curriculum?Our curriculum is rooted in our desire to provide our pupils with an education that is relevant to life in 21st century London (and beyond!), and that will fully prepare them for adult life. It will be a broad, balanced curriculum, based on the national curriculum, and will be delivered in a way that is both engaging and challenging.
Whilst academic attainment clearly matters, and is a high priority for the Archer Academy, we recognise that exam results are only one part of what school leavers require to be successful adults. The labour market is changing, and is placing an increasing emphasis on analytical and creative thinking. We will respond to this by ensuring that core problem solving skills are incorporated into all aspects of our teaching.
In line with the 2011 Wolf report, we also recognise that Maths and English are absolutely fundamental skills upon which all learning and success depend. We have therefore made these subjects our specialisms and placed them at the heart of our curriculum.
We also strongly believe that every child should be challenged to fulfil their own potential, and will develop individual learning plans for each of our pupils. These will allow us to make sure that we stretch the most able, give extra help to those who need it and don't allow those in the middle to become overlooked.
On a practical level, we believe that teaching is a two way process – done properly, it is about involving, encouraging and enthusing children, rather than simply imparting information. We don't want passive learners; our lessons will be stimulating as well as informative and will require our pupils to roll their sleeves up and join in.
What do you say to the criticism that you are contributing to the dismantling of state education by setting up a free school?We understand that the establishment of free schools is a contentious issue and we acknowledge the concerns that some people have about the impact such schools may have on state education in some areas.
The Archer Academy has been set up by local parents in response to overwhelming demand and support from the community, to address a real gap in the provision of mixed, non-selective, non-denominational secondary schools in our area.
Before agreeing to pursue this path, we explored a wide range of other ways of increasing this kind of provision, including lobbying the council to open a new school, and asking existing single-sex schools to consider becoming co-educational. It was only once these routes had been exhausted that we decided to try and create a new school under the free schools initiative.
From the very beginning, we have worked closely with the local authority and other local schools to ensure that our plans complement theirs. We are committed to being part of the community of local schools and to collaborating with other primary and secondary schools in the area. Our headteacher Mick Quigley has strong relationships with local headteachers as a result of his time at Barnet's Children's Service, and intends to work in partnership with other local schools for the benefit of the whole community.
We're also happy to state on the record that we will not be using the opt-outs that free schools are given regarding staff and curriculum. We are actively choosing to follow the national curriculum, to only employ qualified teachers and to adhere to national pay and conditions for our staff, even though as a free school we are not obliged to do so. The Archer Academy will seek to complement and support state education, not to undermine it.