British think-tank launches low-cost private schools


Brian Micklethwait reports on Samizdata that the British free-market think-tank Civitas is nurturing the development of a chain of local and affordable private primary schools, called the New Model Schools.

A look at their curriculum reveals that their approach is similar to that of the classical Christian school movement in the US. They will be drawing on proven techniques for teaching basic skills, using direct instruction rather than the "child-centred discovery approach" favored in state schools. Storytime will draw on the best of Western culture -- "Bible stories, classic myths and legends, and other traditional tales" -- to build cultural literacy, including a basic knowledge of history and geography. Discipline will be grounded in Judeo-Christian ethics:

The New Model School has no problem with the idea that there are immutable moral laws and that, even with well-behaved children, there will always be a need for sensible rules....

The New Model School will be Christian in ethos, and will treat Judaeo-Christian ethics as an authoritative set of principles to be aspired to, rather than simply as one lifestyle choice among others.

During "reception year" -- for six-year-olds apparently -- the children will be in school three hours a day. By the end of the year, they will have learned phonics and high frequency sight words, and will be able to read a complex sentence. They will also be able to add and subtract two-digit numbers.

Their approach to education means you don't need extensive and expensive facilities like a pool or a computer lab or a campus. Local school organizers will be responsible to find an affordable place to hold classes. The aim is to keep the cost per pupil for reception year below £1000 (about $1800) a year.

The only thing I see missing is a hands-on component, something Regent Preparatory School (my son's school) provides through nature studies and art and music classes. This aspect of learning is emphasized in classical Christian schools influenced by the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason.

It is wonderful to see a think-tank going beyond simply making recommendations for government action and instead stimulating and guiding private action to fill a glaring societal need. As these schools are established and prove their worth, they should create pressure for public schools to drop the educational fads they've been embracing. In the meantime, British society needs the kind of educated citizens that these schools should produce if it is to have any capable civic leadership in the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 1, 2004 11:41 PM.

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