PARENTS at the Maharishi School have backed its move into the state sector as one of the country’s first wave of Free Schools.
Headteacher Derek Cassells said the motivation behind the move from fee-paying to ‘free’ status – which sees state-funded schools run by parents, teachers or charities – was to open it up to more pupils.
The Skelmersdale school opened with 135 pupils this week, with plans to expand to 180 pupils by 2014. Building work on its secondary school campus will be completed later this year. Pupils, from age four to 16, have three ten-minute meditation sessions every day, and the school believes it has a calming effect, making it easier to learn.
Dr Bapi Biswas has three children at the school – Nayan, six, Mirren, nine, and Shona, 13.
He chose the school because of its consistently high exam results, but both he and his wife now practice transcendental meditation (TM).
And he said: “I think it’s a good thing that the school is no longer exclusive. All parents should have the choice to send children here. The teachers are brilliant and I’ve been told the class sizes won’t go up that much so moving into the state sector shouldn’t have too much of an effect. “With any change, there is a challenge to maintain results, but it wasn’t academically selective before so I’m confident it will.”
The school will continue to practice meditation – which it says will be funded by a charity, not by the taxpayer. And the move to offer TM education to more pupils has been backed by a former parent.
Nicola Escott, whose two children both went to the school, said: “TM definitely should not be just for those who can pay. It should be available in any school. It's the root cause of the academic success of the Maharishi School.”
Lead proposer Richard Scott said: “Pupils benefit from a broad curriculum within an ethos that supports consciousness-based education. We look forward to welcoming more pupils to our school over the next year.”
Like other state-funded schools, Free Schools are inspected by Ofsted, will have their exam and test results published and will have to teach a broad curriculum. To qualify, they had to provide evidence of a demand for a new local school, though teachers’ unions NUT and NASUWT both opposed the move, citing falling rolls in other schools in the area and the impact on the Lancashire education budget.