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Green school seeks sponsor

Ceri Williams reports on an ambitious project that aims to show schoolchildren the value of ecological sustainability

A science teacher is seeking sponsors to set up a self-sustaining school where pupils will grow their own food and even make the ink and paper they need for their studies.

Merlin Southwell, is looking for a philanthropist or business to donate pound;250,000 to help start the school. Students would keep animals, run a market garden and sell the produce to the public.

The "New Model School" would be at the heart of a community of artisans and business people who would share their expertise with the pupils.

Children at the school would get practical experience of technical drawing, woodwork and painting by developing energy-conservation projects using wind turbines and solar heating.

Mr Southwell, a science teacher for six years at Reepham technology college, Norfolk, said he wanted to teach youngsters the importance of ecological sustainability.

"The children may also make their own paper and ink as a one-off learning experience - and then use it. It would make them realise we take so much for granted."

The school would initially cater for around 12 children, aged 11 to 16, and all learning would be based on practical projects applied for days or even weeks at a time.

Mr Southwell said the fees were still undecided, but hoped the school would become self-supporting and any charges would only cover extra specialist tuition.

"The gist of it is to learn by doing - the present-day system stuffs kids full of knowledge to pass exams, but so much of it is not relevant to life," he said.

He thinks that youngsters should be taught how to face issues like global warming and the fact that oil supplies could run out in less than 40 years. The school would question consumerism and promote "spiritual awareness".

Pupils would wear sensible clothes rather than a uniform, and designer labels would be discouraged.

Geography, religion, literature and art would be studied as one integrated subject and would take place through long-term projects.

Specialist lessons in music would be given, as would sports such as table tennis and lawn tennis.

GCSE exams and other qualifications would be taken at the appropriate time for each individual pupil, he said.

Anyone who wants to help sponsor Mr Southwell can email him on merlin.southwell@btinternet.com

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