At the proposed Michaela Community School, we have appointed a deputy and a curriculum director. We are soon to appoint our teaching staff. It is very exciting. We plan to teach a "knowledge-curriculum", which is relatively rare in the state sector. This will place emphasis on academic subjects, ensuring that pupils spend more time on these. But even art and music will benefit, with the usual one lesson of exposure each week being doubled. We have an extended day which will allow time to include Latin and Mandarin, but also financial literacy and media analysis for those pupils who prefer them.
Some people accuse us of wanting only high-achieving pupils because we plan to concentrate on English and maths. In reality we want to address the fact that 20 per cent of British school-leavers are functionally illiterate and innumerate. Nearly half of our children leave school without five GCSEs including English and maths. Our goal at Michaela, even with our mixed ability intake, is that not a single pupil should leave us without a solid grounding in those basic subjects which will allow them to negotiate their way through the world. Everyone needs to know how to write a CV or how to look a word up in a dictionary, and it is disappointing that so many believe that to do so is somehow an "academic" endeavour, a skill that only the privileged few should acquire.
Still, this is an exciting time for education in Britain. Some local primary heads support the idea of choice and recognise that they are the gateway for some families just to know our school exists. So whatever their politics, they are open-minded enough to tell them about our existence. We are grateful.
One of the teachers on my steering group recently said to me, "I don't want to say that Michael Gove has given me a new lease of life, but in a way, he has. He has allowed us teachers to be true professionals, to take control of a project and be responsible for it. I'm just so inspired."
For those of us in education who like to think outside the box, the free school movement has transformed our lives. We hope our school has a lasting impact, in particular on the more disadvantaged families. One thing is for sure: Michaela graduates will never interrupt meetings by shouting, no matter what their personal or political beliefs, because at Michaela they will learn that such behaviour only reflects badly on the perpetrator. If only all of us could be so lucky.