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Two years ago I wrote about proposals for the Holyport College in Berkshire – a free school for boarders. It is one thing to have a vision – another to make it a reality. But after three years of hard work, on Friday the building was “topped out” in a ceremony with its new pupils. The school will open later this year with 50 boarders. When it is full it will have 225 boarders. There will also be day pupils (rather more).

Priority will be given in the applications to children in care. That offers a quite transformational opportunity for the children concerned. There will also be bursaries for other disadvantaged children. Other boarders will pay £3,850 a term. There will also be the “extended day” option at £1,000 a term:

Children can be dropped off at breakfast to join the other boarders, and leave in the evening after homework and a sociable supper with school friends. The cost of this will be £1,000 per term.

Cllr Simon Dudley, the deputy leader of Windsor and Maidenhead, has been crucial in this project – as has his wife Sue. The Home Secretary Theresa May has also been strongly supportive.

Part of Cllr Dudley role’s has been pulling the community behind the venture. Free schools are the real community schools – coming from the bottom up.

There is a sponsor that is well established in the educational sphere:

Eton College is our sole educational sponsor and therefore brings its educational and pastoral expertise to Holyport College. Eton is supporting the school by taking a leading role on the Governing Body, helping to shape the school ready for opening in September 2014. At a practical level, once the school is open, Holyport pupils will be able to use some of Eton’s facilities, particularly for sport and also to join in educational activities at Eton (for example attending speaker meetings in the evenings and working on specific educational initiatives for the benefit of pupils of both Colleges).

This is the first boarding school in the free school movement. I hope it will be the first of many. Others can take some encouragement from the example.

 

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