Oldham free school staffed by ex-military personnel approved

Tom Burkard Director Tom Burkard said the DfE had originally misunderstood the school proposal

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A proposal for a free school staffed by former armed forces personnel has been approved.

The Department for Education (DfE) turned down plans for the Phoenix Free School in Oldham, which aimed to "keep kids out of gang culture", last year.

But school director Tom Burkard said that decision was overturned after the proposal was resubmitted.

He said "a breakdown in communication" meant the DfE originally misunderstood the plan, but that had been rectified.

"One of the difficulties we had was that everyone has the impression that because all the teaching staff are ex-forces, this is going to be something like a boot camp," he said.

"Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

"They assumed we would be taking people who had come straight out of the military and had no experience in schools.

"In fact, virtually all the people who have applied to us have qualifications and experience in education."

New schools

Plans were first revealed for the secondary school staffed by former servicemen and women in September 2011.

The plan's authors claimed the school would "keep kids out of gang culture".

Government officials said at the time of the initial rejection that they would be working with Phoenix Free School to help it submit another proposal.

The institution is one of five free schools in Greater Manchester and Cheshire approved for opening in 2014.

A school for autistic children aged four to 19 run by the National Autistic Society has also been given the go-ahead.

Free schools are state-funded schools independent of local authority control.

A DfE spokesman described them as: "[Having] the freedom to decide the length of the school day and term, the curriculum, and how they reward their teachers and spend their money."

There are already 81 free schools in the UK, with a further 109 in the pipeline.

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