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Woodard Schools and SSAT, the Schools, Students and Teachers Network, have co-authored a publication, Establishing a New School and Getting It Right from the Start, which contains a series of original essays designed to help those considering starting a new school.

The publication is free to download on the Woodard website; please visit our page on Educational Research for details.

Establishing a New School and Getting It Right from the Start brings together the insights, experiences and expertise of school leaders, operators and authorities from a wide range of contexts within the maintained and independent sectors. In doing so, it draws on the expertise both of established ‘exceptional schools within Woodard, as well as some of the most successful new schools to open in the last five years.

Its purpose is to support and inform those with a role in establishing new schools: from governors, headteachers, CEOs of multi-academy trusts, leading academics, commercial experts, to policy advisers. The report contains a wealth of ideas, strategies and practices that will help them ‘get it right from the start’ in order to deliver the very best education for the pupils they will serve.

Amongst the topics covered are: establishing in advance the education and business case for a new school; securing the engagement and support of communities and policymakers; and building the essential founding blocks for future success and sustainability.

The publication has been released ahead of the forthcoming general election in order to explore, from the perspectives of those operating new schools within it, the educational environment in which the next government will develop its schools policy.

‘During the office of the coalition government, fundamental changes have altered the landscape of education in almost revolutionary ways. This includes changes to the structure and control of schools, and it is this area that our publication covers’, explains Chris Wright, Director of Education at Woodard Schools.

This context includes the explosion in the number of academies created since 2010, in addition to the establishment of free schools and university technical colleges. The principles of parental choice and a belief in a consumer-led, rather than producer-led, education system has opened up the possibilities for a wide range of interest groups to launch new schools with very different characteristics.

At the same time, the new government will face a number of educational challenges. It is estimated that by 2021, the country will need 350,000 additional places in secondary schools and half a million additional places at primary level.

‘Whether it is to give parents more choice, children a better education or society a more suitably qualified and skilled workforce, there is a growing appetite, need and opportunity to open a new school’, comments Bill Watkin, Operational Director of SSAT.

‘Only this month, there is a difference of opinion between the official Conservative line (advised by Policy Exchange) that suggests schools can be opened anywhere, and the opinion of Shadow Secretary for Education Tristram Hunt, who has advised that new schools must be opened only in communities where there is an identified shortage of school places.

‘The new Woodard / SSAT publication demonstrates that, wherever they are opened, and whatever the political and ideological context, the really important thing is the children, the need to learn from experienced and successful pioneers and the imperative to get it “right from the start”.’

Woodard Schools – one of the largest providers of education outside the government and the Church – is a charity tasked with extending education, in accordance with the principles laid down by its founder, Nathaniel Woodard, in the 19th century.

‘The charitable objective of Woodard schools is the promotion and extension of education. As part of this, Woodard has a moral purpose to look outward and to work with the wider community to promote the use of the resources of Woodard schools. It is for this reason that we have worked in partnership with SSAT, to extend our outreach in service to the wider educational world’, explains Chris Wright.

SSAT, the Schools, Students and Teachers Network, is the hub of the largest network of schools in the country. It is an independent membership organisation for maintained schools, free schools, UTCs, studio schools and academies, whether primary, special or secondary. SSAT began helping transform education in England in 1987. Back then its role was to support and nurture the first City Technology Colleges – the initiative that first proved the value of employers and schools working together to drive up standards.

As specialist schools and then the first academies came into being, SSAT’s brief was extended to supporting them as well. That work, underpinned by its ‘by schools, for schools’ ethos, laid the foundations for many of its activities today… the innovative leadership and teacher CPD programmes, the commitment to thought leadership and research and, of course, the network of school leaders and innovative teachers which still drives all that SSAT does.

‘As members of SSAT, schools enjoy the confidence of knowing that they are part of a wider network that is shaping an education system fit for the twenty-first century’, confirms Bill Watkin.