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'Free school' eyes up farm museum site as base
COGGES Farm in Witney has been revealed as the potential site of a new 60-pupil ‘free school’ run by home-educating parents.
Details of the planned location were published on the group’s website, although parents behind the proposal said no site had yet been confirmed.
Last month, we reported mums in West Oxfordshire wanted to open the county’s first ‘free school’ offering a less formal education to four- to 16-year-olds. If approved by the Government, the school would be state-funded but outside Local Education Authority control.
The former Cogges Museum is currently being transferred from Oxfordshire County Council to a charitable trust, which wants to restore it as an active smallholder farm, offering volunteering and training.
Judy Niner, of Cogges Heritage Trust, said: “Cogges Farm is going to return to being an active farmstead open to the public.
“There is space there, and we are looking at different uses that are appropriate, fit together and are going to help us achieve our vision.
“The free school is one of a number of possibilities, and we are having to weigh them all up against each other to see what offers the most appropriate mix of uses to have at Cogges.”
Mum-of-two Louisa Nutt, 43, one of the parents behind the proposals, said last night: “No site has been confirmed.
“We are currently working on our proposal – which needs to go to the Department for Education in January – at roughly the same time as we will hold a meeting for potential parents, governors and people who want to become involved.”
She added since the idea was revealed in the Oxford Mail at the beginning of December, she and other mums had been contacted by parents interested in the plan.
Ms Nutt said it would become the first Steiner Waldorf school in Oxfordshire if approved. There are 1,000 such schools worldwide, based on the theories of Austrian educationalist Dr Rudolf Steiner and claiming to offer “unhurried and creative learning” to let children explore their artistic and emotional sides.
More formal teaching methods would be introduced for teenagers preparing for GCSEs.
Ms Nutt said: “The idea is that the child marks their own progress and looks at what is wrong and what is correct.
“The principle is the child’s work is never defaced by any adult.
“The child can change it, but the adult has no right to say ‘that is not correct’ or ‘that is spelt wrong’.”
A public meeting about the proposed new free school will be held at 2.30pm on Sunday, January 23, in St Mary’s Church, Witney.