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  • Gina McCabe

Reigniting the founding vision and ambition for free schools.

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Our school blue print is the result of a collaboration between Place Schools Trust and the Innovation Unit to develop and evaluate a radically different school design process.












In 2019 the New Schools Network (NSN), an independent charity which aims to support groups setting up free schools within the English state education sector, called on the Department for Education to encourage the growth of more small innovative trusts in the free school system as well as recommending that more community groups be involved. This call was a response to the recognition that the free school system has moved away from its original vision of empowering parents, teachers, charities and businesses to set up new schools in their local communities. Instead it has largely become the domain of a few dominant multi academy trusts. You can view the full New Schools Network report here - Free Schools: The Next 10 Years. At the same time Innovation Unit, a social enterprise founded by global thought leaders in education, began working with NSN to explore ways of radically expanding the portfolio of free schools in England to include school design driven by ambitious sets of purposes and ambitions for all children. And that's where Place Schools Trust came in.


"The process, afforded us the opportunity to delve deeper into some of our existing plans, opening them up to critique and reflection."


The aim of the partnership was to test a process designed to support groups in the most 'hard to reach' areas to create new innovative free school proposals, and ultimately create a blue print for others to refer to. The process, afforded us the opportunity to delve deeper into some of our existing plans, opening them up to critique and reflection. The Innovation Unit in turn had the opportunity to test their process with an existing group, and to gain valuable insights and feedback on how it might work in the future. We are proud that the resulting Place Schools Carlisle Blue Print and Typical Day info-graphics found on our website will now be used to support other teams in their design process and ultimately contribute towards reigniting the founding vision and ambition for free schools.


"Our blueprint is an active and organic piece of work, always open to reflection and change, and helping us not to lose sight of our vision."


For us, the blue print has provided the architectural structure for our first school, and for future schools. Some parts may never change, others will in response to the needs of an ever changing world, and the local communities in which our schools operate. Whatever happens, our blue print will always remain an active and organic piece of work, always open to reflection and change, and helping us not to lose sight of our vision'


Working with the Innovation Unit felt good. Not least because it was inspiring to work with people who have such a range of different experiences and knowledge. But also because it means we have started as we mean to go on; working with others, influencing wider change, and opening ourselves up to be reflective and reflexive about our values and plans. In fact, the very outcomes we wish for our students.





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