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Philosopher AC Grayling will ‘help define the DNA’ of new Camden free school

AC Grayling. Picture: PA/Anthony Devlin. AC Grayling. Picture: PA/Anthony Devlin.

Sunday, February 3, 2013
8:00 AM

Philosopher A C Grayling is expected to find out next month if his plans for a new free school in Camden have met the first round of government approval.

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The professor, master of the independent undergraduate New College of Humanities in Bloomsbury, has joined forces with Bellevue Education to set up New School of the Humanities.

The proposal was submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) in early January and a response from the DfE is expected in the next three to four weeks.

It was one of more than 250 proposals for new free schools submitted to the DfE before the January 4 deadline.

If successful, the trust behind it will be invited for an interview with the DfE about its proposal some time between March 4 and April 12.

Tom Legge, new schools director at Place Group, which is advising Bellevue and the New College of Humanities on its bid, said: “We are very hopeful, we believe we have put in a very strong submission.”

Bellevue owns eight schools in the UK and two boarding schools in Switzerland.

The New College of Humanities – an exclusive university which opened to 60 students last September – is the brainchild of Prof Grayling and charges £18,000-a-year, twice the standard British university tuition fees.

It offers an impressive range of lecturers, including Booker prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson and the Princeton history lecturer Sir David Cannadine.

If the proposal for the new free school makes it to the DfE interview stage and is approved, consultation will then be carried out before a funding agreement from central government is agreed.

It is hoped the school could be opened in 2014 with 100 pupils in Year 7 and the founders hope to attract 740 students by 2020 who will be taught the national curriculum, with an emphasis on the humanities.

“The idea behind the school is to serve the need in the local area, specifically south of Euston Road,” said Mr Legge. “A C Grayling has worked very closely with us in defining the vision and the vision becomes the DNA for the school. It will offer a classic liberal education with a focus on humanities.”

He continued: “The one thing that the free school system does give you is the freedom to innovate. If you look at the admissions policy on the website, it is anything but elitist.

“The bottom line is that, as with any free school and academy, there is no selection and no one is paying a penny to go to this school.

He confirmed that Prof Grayling would play a hands-on role at the school.

“Will AC Grayling be present at the school and taking part in the life of the school?” said Mr Legge. “Absolutely, he will.”

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