‘No frills’, low-cost private school in Durham has just six pupils, Government database says

Janet Downs's picture

The Independent Grammar School Durham (IGSD) opened in September 2018 promising low-fee, ‘no-frills’ education.

Despite its name, the school, founded by Professor James Tooley, a long-time advocate of for-profit schools, is not a secondary grammar school.  It’s a small non-selective primary school with capacity for 65 pupils in converted accommodation in a church.

Before it opened, the Economist wrote that pupils at IGSD would have the ‘cachet of attending a private school’.     But it appears that Durham parents aren’t seduced by this appeal to snobbery.  Government records* show just six pupils have enrolled, the Times reports today.   

Pupil numbers have now doubled, says founder

Professor Tooley told the paper the number of pupils had since doubled to twelve.  But the school wasn’t in any danger of closing – a ‘private individual’ had provided sufficient funding for it to remain open for at least three years.

Government records* say IGSD provides education for pupils aged 4-9.  This contradicts the school’s website which says most pupils are expected to learn Latin by the end of Year 6 (age 11). 

The school’s ‘no frills’ education will include lots of ‘repetition and rote learning’, its website says.  The back-to-basic curriculum of maths and English will be ‘enhanced’ by using Core Knowledge UK materials.  These are a series of textbooks listing what children should learn during primary school based on a sequence devised in the USA and rehashed for the English market by Civitas. 

Core Knowledge UK has been used successfully in some English schools such as those run by Knowledge Schools Trust, formerly West London Free School Academy Trust.  But it was not so successful at Cuckoo Hall Academy, Enfield, or Grindon Hall Christian school which was once led by Christian Gray, the present head of IGSD.  Cuckoo Hall is in special measures and Grindon Hall was judged inadequate under Gray’s headship.       



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John Mountford's picture
Mon, 11/02/2019 - 13:57

Janet, your readers MUST follow the writings of Nancy Bailey, a long-standing blogger from the USA, if they want to get a flavour of what Core Knowledge UK really represents. It is not a pretty picture. This article offers an appropriate introduction to the topic. Readers should be prepared to experience cognitive dissonance as they dig deeper.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 12/02/2019 - 09:35

Core Knowledge UK isn't quite the same as Common Core which is like a US national curriculum (and it's controversial).  Core Knowledge UK is based on the Core Knowledge sequence devised by E D Hirsch in the USA c1988 (Gibb is a huge fan). It would be impossible to critique this adequately in a comment - look out for a future article.

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