Issue 95 is out now
Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

13th January 2009

Great Oaks Small School opened unofficially nine years ago when Liz Baker and a friend found themselves home educating their children. Two years later, with five students, they attended the Human Scale Education course on “How to Start a Small School”. Here's what happened next.

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

13th January 2009

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

13th January 2009

In 2006 the school moved to a large farmhouse, near Ramsgate, Kent with a barn, ripe for development. “We hope this will become our permanent home,” says Liz “It is light and airy and we have lots more space, with the capacity to grow to encompass all the secondary age groups.” The school has 16 teenage pupils, 10 part-time teachers, a couple of chickens and dogs. Several of the students are currently working towards various A-levels. Demonstrating the hands on nature of study at the school, one of their projects for the business studies course is to make their own soap as a by-product from the biofuel they are producing to heat the building. “We cover everything that a national curriculum would cover, but not in a prescriptive way,” says Liz. “And we are immensely proud of all our students. Most have gone on to either college courses or employment, two have places at university this autumn.”

Liz explains how Great Oaks fills a gap for those who do not fit into the current system, “These are not the badly-behaved kids, they’re the ones that get overlooked in mainstream school for whatever reason. Some have got learning difficulties or sometimes they’re the victim of bullying, sometimes they’ve had chronic illnesses and missed a lot of school and some have had traumatic events in their early years.” There is a curriculum bias towards environmental science and art and although GCSE, AS and A level courses are available Great Oaks hopes to develop Open College courses in the future. The school also plans to provide spaces for Junior school pupils from age 11 this September. greatoakssmallschool.co.uk

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