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The Good Life

At the Small School in rural Devon, staff teach what they like and academic work stops at lunchtime. Could you be its new head? Warwick Mansell reports.

A SCHOOL in Devon is offering a rare chance to forsake the rat-race and live the Good Life; although the re-wards are admittedly more spiritual than financial. The Small School, in the village of Hartland, near the county's north coast, is a non-fee-paying, 11-16 secondary with 30 pupils. It grows much of its own vegetarian food, owns the village greengrocers, and gets its students to cook their own meals and do the cleaning.

Academic teaching is restricted to the mornings, with staff deciding which subjects they want to teach and several parents also joining in.In the afternoons, teachers are free to indulge their creative sides, volunteering for lessons ranging from pottery to climbing, conservation and gardening.

And every summer at half-term, the timetable is suspended as staff stimulate the youngsters' sense of adventure with camping trips, dramatic productions and the like.

Acting head Sue Clarke said the post, which has come up after former head Caroline Walker stood down to finish her master's degree, offered the ideal escape for a senior teacher tired of red tape and targets. Pupils do sit GCSEs, and all six o its 16-year-olds got five good grades last year. Miss Clarke said: "There must be many teachers out there fed up with the hoops they get asked to jump through. There is none of that here: there's very little bureaucracy, and the size of the school means you can develop proper relationships with the pupils, making teaching so much more meaningful."

The salary of pound;9,000 is only one tenth of that recently secured by the new head of London's largest comprehensive. However, already there are encouraging signs that the post will be filled: three applications have been received after the job was ad-vertised in the newsletter of the small schools movement.

The school is run from a converted Methodist church and is 15 miles from Bideford, the nearest town. As pupils do not pay fees, the school survives on donations from parents, trusts and foundations. Its annual budget is just pound;70,000.

Its egalitarian principles mean the head is paid the same as the school secretary or rank-and-file teachers, including Miss Clarke. She said:

"Living on this type of wage is a challenge, but it's not impossible.

"I've taught in large comprehensives in the Home Counties, and there's no way I'd go back."

Anyone interested in the post should contact Sue Clarke on 01237 441672

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