Why are Seckford not offering the same curriculum as Woodbridge for its Free Schools?
The Seckford Foundation claim that they are bringing their 400 years of experience to help them run their free school chain. Given Woodbridge Fees are £13,500 a year and the average funding for a Suffolk State secondary is £5,500 nobody expects the two to offer the same education.
However a lot of the extra funding is paying more for extra and better quality facilities and smaller teaching groups etc
The Foundation have presented their curriculum plans for their free schools as an “unashamedly academic curriculum”. It focuses on the English Baccalaureate which Sekford talk of as if it was a qualification. However the DfE say:
The English Baccalaureate was introduced as a performance measure in the 2010 performance tables. It is not a qualification in itself.
Seckford however describe the EBacc as if it was some kind of qualification.
The curriculum will be designed to allow pupils if they want to, to gain the English Baccalaureate, or EBacc. This was introduced by the Department of Education in 2010 and is awarded when pupils have achieved a GCSE grade C or better across a core of academic subjects: English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a modern language.
Woodbridge have as you would expect a detailed Options Booklet for Year 9 children and parents. What is fascinating is that it doesn’t mention the Ebacc at all.
On the subject of Languages the website suggests this is not compulsory but "encouraged" but the curriculum booklet has a different take:
At least one of the options must be a modern language. The study of modern languages after Year 9 is no longer compulsory in maintained schools and hence the opportunity to continue with two languages (or at least one) will ensure that pupils will be increasingly attractive to future employers. This is especially true of German, the second language of the EU. Fewer and fewer pupils nationally study this language, which makes those who do so increasingly employable.
Interestingly Secckford appear to be contributing to the trend of not making German available by not teaching it in their Free Schools.
Graeme Bruce need not have been so modest at the consultation meetings as the curriculum offered at Woodbridge is certainly broader than the free schools. This table from their website shows what is on offer in Y10/11
There is also the opportunity to study more languages as well as GCSEs in PE, Computing and Business Studies. Even Latin if you like.
In Years 7, 8 and 9 the Woodbridge Curriculum is described like this:
Opportunity to expand and dig
Solid foundations for success at GCSE and beyond are laid in these first three years so all pupils have opportunities to progress in English, mathematics and sciences, the humanities such as history, geography and religious studies, the creative areas of music, drama, art and design technology and all pupils take French. Lessons in ICT allow them to start working towards modules for the European Computer Driving Licence. In Year 8, all pupils take a second modern language (either German or Spanish) along with Latin, and they continue with all three languages to the end of Year 9. Physical skills are developed in PE lessons, a games afternoon and some of the activities under the aegis of the Seckford Scheme on Friday afternoons.
But we were told that Free School children would spend up to 50% of their time in Maths and English with other subjects “gradually” introduced.
This difference is striking. Woodbridge students are encouraged to broaden their horizons at this stage to see what they want to study for their Options in Y10/11 whilst the free schools have a narrow focus on English and Maths.
Incredibly ICT is “optional” in the free school and Computer Science is not mentioned. Both are available at Woodbridge.
The following table shows the Y7,8 and 9 Woodbridge curriculum:
So why this difference in approach on the curriculum? Strangely Woodbridge ends up looking a lot more like a “standard” Suffolk secondary in terms of its curriculum than its sibling free schools.
Perhaps the reasons lie in this answer from their website FAQs:
Will it be just like Woodbridge School but free?
No. Woodbridge School is one of the premier schools in the East of England and gains exceptional academic results as well as reaching a national standard in music, drama, sport and other activity. Woodbridge is highly selective.
The Free School will try and use some of Woodbridge School's approaches to pastoral care, and like Woodbridge will give importance to extra-curricular activity (things done outside class). The Head of Woodbridge School will be a Governor as will the Director of the Seckford Foundation.
Maybe the real reason for the clearly inferior curriculum is that Woodbridge parents might not be impressed that the Free School are getting much the same education that they are paying £13,500 a year for.