New school aims to provide the same education that Shakespeare and Churchill received

They are inspired by Christian values – and the kind of education that informed the likes of Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill.

Co-founders Tom Bowen, and headteacher Hayley Bowen, at The King Alfred School in Lower Gornal in Dudley
Co-founders Tom Bowen, and headteacher Hayley Bowen, at The King Alfred School in Lower Gornal in Dudley

A married couple have set up an independent school to provide an alternative way to learn, based on classical education.

Headteacher Hayley Bowen, aged 33, and husband, Tom, aged 32, opened The King Alfred School in Lower Gornal in September and among the first of the pupils was their six-year-old son, Henry.

The school already has nine children, aged between three and 11-years-old enrolled and can cater for up to 50.

The couple hope to establish the school as an alternative source of education for parents across the Black Country.

They offer an education that, they say, trained some of the greatest minds. Not just Newton, Shakespeare and Churchill, but Plato and Aristotle too.

Classical education has its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome. It is is a three-part process of training the mind that is aimed to correspond with the child’s natural development.

The first part is spent learning and memorising facts to lay a foundation of knowledge for all other learning to be built on. The middle years are spent learning how to think critically and logically. In the final years students learn to master the arts of persuasive writing and public speaking.

Coming from America to teach, reception and music teacher Jessica Hodge and husband deputy head Jonathan Hodge, with pupil Sofia Blaikie

Parents pay £4,000 a year to send their children to the school, which is cheaper than most independent schools. In return, say the couple, their child will receive an education that gets the most out of them as an individual.

Hayley said: “We have set the school up in what used to be the Sunday School building at Lake Street Methodist Church in Lower Gornal but are completely independent.

“We have funded this out of our own pockets because we want to give local people the chance to afford an education for their children focussed on the whole person.

“The classical methods focus on knowledge in the primary school years and how to remember facts and doing the times table by rote.

“As they get older we do logic, from nine-years upwards, and pupils learn how to question and interpret answers.

“Towards the end of secondary years we will do rhetoric and teach them how to articulate well.

“The goal is to have students who have knowledge, think for themselves and articulate well while growing a moral compass. They will learn from great literature what has been thought, said and done and make a complete study of western civilisation to gain a long view of history.

All the pupils and staff at The King Alfred School, Lower Gornal, Dudley

“My husband is a roofer in construction and I am a teacher and last taught physical education at Wombourne High School.

“Independent education is costly and we really wanted to offer local people a private school with fees they could afford.

“Our fees are £4,000-a-year whereas many parents pay that amount per term at private schools.”

The couple, who also have a two-year-old daughter, Rose, have been helped in getting the school open with donations from parents and supporters.

The school’s website offers a Christian education “to cultivate wisdom and virtue”.

It adds: “We often teach through chants, stories and poems and because young children enjoy repetition they can learn and memorise a lot of information whilst having so much fun they do not even realise they are learning.

“The strength of a classical education is that it aspires to give a breadth of knowledge in all disciplines.”

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