Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Running an Independent Sector School

Running an Independent sector school

I have been running independent sector schools for over 30 years.  We are still small; if I had more money I would have bigger buildings and more students.  Why do I do it?  I believe in it, it works, it’s value for money, and most important of all it gives young people a head start in their lifelong educational journey.
Over the many years that I have been managing Christian schools I have received plenty of flack, partly because of the system that we use; Accelerated Christian Education (ACE).  I am well aware that this system is not perfect.  Has the perfect education system yet been devised?  To quote the inventors of the system, “ACE is a system of education, it’s a tool, and you have to make it work.”  Which we do, we adapt and tailor the system to meet the requirements of our students; a system of education which in my opinion is better than most.
I have keenly watched the success of our students as they go into their chosen life pathways, I know, and they know that some of the success they enjoy is down to the hard work of our school staff as they have guided the students through their early educational journey.
Over the 2011 Christmas period I had the pleasure of meeting some of the older students who have since progressed to college and university.  It was good to chat with them and to ask some pertinent questions.  I think it would be useful to share this anecdotal information with a wider audience.
I asked one student how his first year at Canterbury University had gone. 
He responded, “I missed my London friend but the studies were fine.” 
I asked him for his opinion of our school system; here are some of his comments. 
“One of my uni modules is accounting, I had already done that subject that for my Intermediate exam with International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE), so of course I had that down as one of my options from the advanced level course.  However when I saw the stuff at University I had to laugh and I said I wish my school studies had been this easy!”
I asked him if there was anything else he had noticed about his uni studies.
He said, “The Algebra, as with accounts, I wish that the school stuff had been as easy as the university material.”
His final comment was, When you have been to a school using the ACE system a fundamental element that you learn is how to manage your study time and how to complete work within a given period. I am finding that my stuff gets  done whereas lots of other students seem to have problems completing work and bringing it in on time.  We all have the same amount of time, and I think some of them are possibly brighter than me, but what they lack is the discipline that has been put into me over the years to complete the work on time.”
I also got the chance to talk with one of the lads who had completed his General Certificate at ICCE level, and asked him how his college studies were progressing.
Great!” he said, “but what is funny is how the other students don’t seem to be able to complete work on time, I have just handed in one of my first essays, the  lecturer said 1,000 words, I was about 400 over so I went to him and asked how critical is the word count?”
“Oh” he replied, “I only ask for 1,000 as most of the students cannot get anywhere near that number, I am happy with anything up to 2000 words, but I would be surprised if many can even achieve 800.”
I asked him if he had made any other observations since he had left school.
He said, “A friend asked me if I could help her with her GCSE material as she had to take an exam in Maths, so I said I would come around and try. I was very surprised at the level, and helped her to complete the work and showed her how to work out the material.  I then asked if I could take a copy of the paper with me.  She agreed and explained that it was an old exam paper used for practice.  I took it home to my younger sister, she is just 13 years old, and said can you do this maths? She said, ‘ Oh crumbs, yes of course, I am doing that stuff now.’”
 For those who know anything about the system this girl is on PACE 1083 which according to ICCE is two units below where we would say a student is who has begun General certificate work.
There was another young lady at the New Years Eve party who had been to a school using the ACE system, but not at one of the schools that I run; she is currently reading English at Liverpool Hope University.  I asked how she had found it, and if anything she had learnt from the system was useful in ongoing university studies. 
Her reply was amusing, “Well,” she said, “I am the only student in my group who knows how to  break down an English language sentence into its component parts, the whole class were saying, ‘we don’t even understand what we are being asked to do.’  So I ran my own tutorial group for my friends.  They asked how I knew how to do this, and I told them that I did it all when I was quite young in my Christian school, that it was standard practice.  I am just surprised that such basic things are part of this English course at university.”
Flack or no flack, the results speak for themselves.  You might say to me, are you trying to sell your system to us?  The answer to that is; you bet I am!

W. 1011
Adrian Hawkes for
Edited by Technicolour Text


  1. Ben Leney:
    I find these comments on the ACE materials used in a lot of Christian schools fascinating. Perhaps the principle that works so well in Christian schools are smaller class sizes and more individual time in terms of making more independent learners and delivering a broader, more practical curriculum.

  2. Adrian Hawkes
    You are of course correct Ben, Small works well, and the curriculum is in itself individualised, and so in a sense each student is getting personal attention. However there are very good things about the system, that is ignoring the curriculum, things like The development of character, It also uses a system of management applied to children, on top of that always staff are encouraged to make sure each student takes personal responsibility for setting work, completing work and deciding themselves if homework is needed. All of those things help to teach good time management.
    2 seconds ago · Like

  3. Loved this Adrian, how I wish my children were in your school

  4. Adesuwa Akachukwu

    Any plans of bringing Phoenix Academy to greater Manchester?

  5. lets try do you want to talk about it would love to help...