Could Geri Halliwell spice up the free school debate?
So it turns out that what Geri Horner (née Halliwell) wants, what she really, really wants, is to lead a free school. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the former Spice Girl said that she was in an "exploratory stage" of starting a school dedicated to the arts and business. But what might such an institution look like? Move over, Mystic Meg: TES has had a look in its crystal ball, and these are its predictions for what will happen in the Spiceworld of the future...
- A balanced curriculum
Announcing the launch of the free school, Ms Horner insists that her institution will have a broad and balanced curriculum. "Too much of something is bad enough, but something's coming over me to make me wonder: too much of nothing is just as tough," she explains of the decision.
- Hearts and minds
After getting the runaround from the Department for Education over her application, Ms Horner corners Nicky Morgan at an education conference in an exchange that is filmed and quickly goes viral. "Who do you think you are? Who...some kind of superstar?" Ms Horner demands of Ms Morgan. She pleads about her school application: "You have got to swing it, shake it, move it, make it."
- Looking for a leader
Ms Horner advertises for a headteacher in TES, but warns that it will require someone to hit the ground running and that she will not tolerate any references to her former life as a pop star. “If you want my future, forget my past. If you wanna get with me, better make it fast. Now don't go wasting my precious time. Get your act together, we could be just fine."
However, Ms Horner adds that she will be very involved in the day-to-day running of the school and will not tolerate personality clashes with the head after similar issues in other free schools. "I won't be hasty, I'll give you a try," she tells applicants. "If you really bug me, then I'll say goodbye."
After promising to give her students a gap year at 16, Ms Horner attracts financial backing from entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and announces that her school will be known as the Virgin Institute for Vocations and the Arts. Although Sir Richard's backing only lasts for the first two years of the school's life, Ms Horner says she has no plans to change the school's name afterwards, insisting that it will be known as "Viva forever".
In what is hailed as an "unprecedented" move in teacher recruitment, Ms Horner promises above-average wages for teachers who pledge to stick with her school throughout their working lives. Asked by TES how she will implement this, Ms Horner promises to trust teachers, speaking directly to them to say, "And all that I want from you is a promise you will be there".
- Parental relations
A rare misstep for Ms Horner: when she is asked how she will deal with parents, her answer deals only with female caregivers. Saying that she will welcome parents at any time, she explains that her philosophy towards parents is: "Mama I love you, Mama I care, Mama I love you, Mama my friend."
- Entrance criteria
Viva will be open to all children in the local area, Ms Horner pledges, whatever their background: "Kung fu fighting, dancing queen, tribal spaceman, and all that's in between," she jokes.
- Answering the critics
After becoming the focal point for protests about free schools, Ms Horner says she has been accused of being "caught in a craze", but she urges her critics to think long-term about what free schools could achieve with co-operation. "It's just a phase, or will this be around for ever?" she wonders, philosophically.