Free schools consultancy

Creating your own unique school

I have hands-on expertise of working with, developing and creating new schools. As the lead architect on JCoSS, one of the UK’s first parent-promoted schools, I worked closely with the parent group, the JCoSS Trust, the school community and consulting partners to nurture and deliver the school’s vision for learning. This role has given me unique insight and expertise into the issues and steps in creating a free school.

With a new school such as JCoSS, the challenge is to translate the education vision into an affordable, sustainable environment for learning. Free schools are not just building projects with design as the ‘end’ result. As my client Jonathan Fingerhut noted, a new school is many projects in one – there are the premises, the accounting, the legal aspects, liaison with statutory bodies, the publicity and the building. The key is to have a strategic approach which joins the educational strategy with the need to accommodate and market the school.

Design is in fact a useful tool - it's an integral part of setting up a new school. Of course the school building needs to provide practical, cost-effective space, but the learning environment also needs to be welcoming and inspirational as it plays an important, visible role in starting, nurturing and sustaining the school community, and attracting teachers, parents and students. Having a well-located site is critical to a free school; a well-considered brief will be the DNA of a successful free school. We helped to support the parent group through many of these aspects with a clear and collaborative process.

The bigger picture

From my experience reviewing schools at CABE, I understand the specific needs and challenges of individual schools across the country. This overview in combination with my own experience in practice led me to establish a conference for New Schools Network. I also developed on-line guidance for the first wave of free schools. The New Schools Network conference was an important opportunity for new schools to discuss their concerns and ambitions while learning about the key aspects and responsibilities of setting up a school such as site and design, governance, project management, marketing and planning.

A personal understanding

I have familial ties to free schools as my cousin Maya Roth is one of the founding members of the Uncommon Charter School in Brooklyn. I am keen to draw on Maya's experience as a school founder; she found the process of creating her own school to be relatively smooth and methodical. Out of my own interest I have carried out research on charter schools to find out what we can learn from in the UK particularly with regard to creating low-cost school buildings. The charter school system in the US is by no means perfect. I understand the pit-falls of new schools as well, and where new schools need to be particularly careful.

How I can help you

I have been working with free schools to provide advice on the educational design aspects of setting up and creating a free school. I can help you to navigate the complex process of creating a school to ensure that your project is a success.

"Jennifer showed real understanding and empathy with the vision and ethos of the JCoSS project and its trustees. Her enthusiastic and passionate input and advice really enhanced the design process enabling ultimate success."

Jonathan Fingerhut
Founding Chair
The JCoSS Trust

A member of the Places and Spaces Consortium:

© 2010 Jennifer Singer
Education Design Ltd
Registered company 07481198

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