Dream job is no pig in a poke

13th June 2003 at 01:00
Want to head a school with classes of 18 where the pupils grow their own organic food?Warwick Mansell has your answer

DO you yearn to escape the tyranny of tests, targets and tables? Do class sizes of 18 appeal to you?

If so, Park school, a progressive prep in deepest Devon, where the children grow their own organic food, look after a collection of animals and have a tree house to play in, may appeal.

Park, which is set in the idyllic grounds of Dartington Hall, near Totnes - and where on a still day you can even hear the regular "toot-toot" of the South Devon steam railway - is seeking a headteacher.

As the advertisement in last week's TES said, they want someone who is excited by "pigs and poetry, maths and mud". So anyone tiring of the less life-affirming aspects of state education might wish to consider it.

While critics of England's testing regime lament that "you don't fatten the pig by weighing it", the 48 pupils at Park fatten the school's collection of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs by feeding them. The same applies to the chickens the school keeps. But the animals are definitely not kept for eating: all food served in the school is vegetarian and organic, with much of it grown on-site. The parents choose how much they pay to the school, with fees ranging from pound;736 to pound;1,097 a term, and keep overheads low by helping out with chores.

The school, built on the banks of the River Dart, is part of the Human Scale schools movement. It was one of two schools to replace Dartington Hall, the progressive establishment which closed in 1987.

Lesley Loach, Park's headteacher, starts a new job in September. She said:

"In many ways, it's like schools were when I started teaching in the 1970s."

She emphasised that Park is regularly inspected by HMI, has modern equipment and teaching techniques and follows government initiatives such as the literacy and numeracy strategies.

But it allows the children to embark on lengthy cross-curricular projects, including recently compiling a picture book on the river Dart.

Mrs Loach said: "It is a wonderful school. The only tears we usually see are from children who do not want to go home at the end of the day. They are very happy here."

There may be one catch, how-ever. The salary will be pound;21,500 - well below the level paid in the state sector, and Mrs Loach said this had been a factor in her decision to move to a nearby state primary.

But she said she would be sad to leave and hoped to be able to return, perhaps as a volunteer, one day. Anyone interested should call 01803 864588.

Friday, 10

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