Super sized secondary schools under way

You may have seen in the headlines and news recently about the Government’s plans to introduce a new type of school, namely the super or titan school, as it’s being called.

The news story broke as a result of a freedom of information request, and has attracted significant attention and interest since.

At the forefront of people’s minds are questions about the impact, benefits and disadvantages this new type of school will have for pupils, parents, staff, and the larger community.

Issues we’ll explore in greater depth in this article.

Nick Gibb MP referenced Shanghai as an example of successful practice when asked about the model for super schools by the TES.

He remarked that one of Shanghai’s top state schools, Shanghai High, has more than 3,000 pupils, while equally pointing out, however, that very large schools may struggle to attract parents.

Figures released suggest that 17 local education authorities will have super schools with at least 12 forms of entry, with a smaller number of schools having 16 forms.

The average number of pupils will be 2,000, while two of the new super schools will be able to accommodate up to 3,00 pupils.

Accommodating thousands of pupils and staff calls for creative thinking when it comes to a school’s design and layout.

Speaking to the TES about their new school building in Southampton, the headteacher said that “it’s a figure of eight with a central community area, so there are no dark corridors and the pupils won’t get lost easily.”

If we consider how sizeable current school buildings can appear to pupils in transition from primary to secondary, then a super school’s scale is likely to be even more intimidating.

Southampton’s proposed central community area is absolutely necessary in a school with thousands of people, creating an area where people can gather and come together will hopefully give balance to the impersonal and cold nature of very large buildings.

Super schools are in the pipeline across the country with a wide geographical dispersion.

Clearly, larger schools require more staff, which will have a positive knock-on effect for the economy at local level, and increased prosperity which should  filter across the community.

 For pupils, a super school is in a much better position to offer a broader curriculum, as the head teacher of a Devon college points out, as well as being able to bring together pupils and students with different qualities and attributes.

Super schools have been conceived as one of the answers to a growing population, presenting an increasing demand and pressure for school places.

As competition and demand shows no sign of abating, particularly for places in popular schools, we’re reminded of the ‘postcode lottery’, a system which has left parents frustrated and disappointed at their lack of options.

On the face of it, where there is a super school, there will at least be greater choice.

Lorraine Clarke Reilly

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