‘Strictest school’ gets green light for new secondary

New Michaela school in Stevenage one of 22 new free schools announced today

Catherine Lough

Michaela Community School, founded by Katharine Birbalsingh, has got government approval to open a new school in Stevenage

A school described as the "strictest" in Britain was given the green light to open a new secondary school as the Department of Education approved 22 new free schools today.

Michaela Community School in Brent, North London, was founded by headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh in 2014.

The new Michaela Community School Stevenage will be a mixed 11-19 free school, opening in 2023 with a planned intake of 180 Year 7 students.

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Eventually, it will provide 1,260 school places as part of a newly formed academy trust, including MCS Brent, which was judged “outstanding” by Ofsted in 2017.

MCS Brent’s website states that the new school will continue Michaela’s ethos of strict discipline and direct instruction.

“This new secondary school will follow the highly successful model established by Michaela in Wembley Park, which, since opening in September 2014, has built a reputation as one of the most highly performing schools in the country,” the school's website says.

The Michaela 'tradition'

“Michaela will continue this tradition of academic excellence, high standards and exceptional outcomes for students in Stevenage by bringing the values and advantages of a private education to young people of all backgrounds.”

Education secretary Damian Hinds confirmed today that 22 new free schools have been approved to open in areas of low educational attainment, creating an additional 19,000 school places.

The new free schools include BOA Stage and Screen Production, a specialist 16-19 college set up by Birmingham Ormiston Academy. The college will offer vocational and technical qualifications for students seeking a career in film, TV or theatre production.

The new Shireland CBSO Music School, serving the Black Country and the West Midlands, will work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to provide young people with an elite musical education.

The list of new schools announced today includes one voluntary-aided school. Mr Hinds approved, in principle, a bid for funding to open Hampton Waters Roman Catholic Voluntary-Aided School in Peterborough to meet demand from parents in the city – the DfE said it is working with proposers to identify suitable sites for a further two bids.

Two new maths schools will also proceed to the next stage of development. Ofsted has found that maths schools enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential.

Mr Hinds said free schools helped to raise standards and had "revolutionised education" overall.

“Many parts of the country have already taken advantage of the free school programme and have reaped the benefits. A great education is the key to unlocking every child’s potential, so today we are announcing 22 new free schools so more young people – often in the most disadvantaged areas of the country – can benefit from a great free school opening in their area,” Mr Hinds said.

Luke Tryl, director of the New Schools Network, said: “Today’s announcement is great news for families across the country. These approvals mean that some of the areas most desperately in need of greater educational opportunity will soon have innovative and successful new schools opening their doors to the community.”

However, campaign group Humanists UK criticised the fact that six of the schools were faith schools. The group said it was a "missed opportunity" to back inclusive education.

The list of approved schools

  • Branston Locks Primary School, John Taylor Multi-Academy Trust, Staffordshire
  • Waterside Primary Academy, Greenwood Academies Trust, Nottingham
  • New House Farm CofE Primary School, Derby Diocesan Academy Trust, Derby
  • Tower Road Academy, Cabot Learning Federation, South Gloucestershire
  • Brook Mead Academy, The Mead Educational Trust, Leicester
  • Star Leadership Academy, Star Academies, Salford
  • Edgar Wood Academy, The Altus Education Partnership, Rochdale
  • Bluecoat Trent Academy, Archway Learning Trust, Nottingham
  • Trinity Academy Barnsley, Trinity Multi-Academy Trust, Barnsley
  • Bluecoat II, Cranmer Education Trust, Oldham
  • Northampton School, Northampton School for Boys, Northamptonshire
  • River Academy, Maiden Erlegh Trust, Reading
  • Beauchamp City Free School, Lionheart Academies Trust, Leicester
  • Outward Academy Middlehaven, Outward Grange Academies Trust, Middlesbrough
  • Chilmington Green Secondary Academy, United Learning Trust, Kent
  • Michaela Community School Stevenage, Michaela Community School, Stevenage
  • Shireland CBSO School, Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust, Sandwell
  • Manor Drive Secondary Academy, Four Cs MAT, Peterborough
  • Callerton Academy, The Gosforth Federated Academies Ltd, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • King's Leadership Academy Wigan, The Great Schools Trust, Wigan
  • BOA Stage and Screen Production, Birmingham Ormiston Academy, Birmingham

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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