Charlotte Church has revealed how she is turning part of her home into a school for 20 children – and she’ll be the music teacher.
A planning application has been submitted for the project at Charlotte’s Dinas Powys house, which will see pupils given a say on how the school is run.
The former child star, musician, presenter and campaigner says she will pay for the school herself in its first year.
It will be non fee-paying and will educate 20 children aged between nine and 12.
If approved, in its first twelve months the school will be temporarily set up in a two storey annex of Charlotte’s home, before a more permanent site is found.
But Charlotte will have to overcome a potential planning row before opening with some neighbours said to be against the plans due to fears over noise and traffic.
Charlotte said the school would be the first of its kind in Wales.
“Since I’ve had kids I have become much more interested in education and child development,” she said.
“We started looking at schools and different mainstream options available to us.
“It started to become apparent that mainstream is struggling with underfunding and overcrowding – teachers are incredibly tested.
“It’s not their fault the way things are – the system is not working.”
(Image: Mark Lewis)
The idea is part of Charlotte’s The Awen Project – which she hopes will eventually grow into a charity which can set up other independent schools.
Pupils would be given a say over the rules of the new school and what should happen if someone breaks them, how they want lessons to be delivered, what food they eat and where they buy it from, and how they travel to school.
Church says she’ll be involved in teaching music.
And pupils would even be involved in choosing where the future more permanent site for the school would be.
Charlotte says she has been on a “massive research mission” for the past 18 months, visiting schools across the UK, from those following a democratic model, such as Sands in Devon, private school Eton and schools in London, Essex and Yorkshire.
She said: “We’re trying to create something really based on all the evidence – everything we know about how humans learn best, at what stage do children’s brains develop to take in different types of information.
“We see a lot of people feeling completely disengaged or don’t feel that they have a voice, or that their voice matters.”
Charlotte will teach music and send her two children – Dexter and Ruby – to the school, which would have pupils from “all walks of life”.
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She said her project would be separate from mainstream schools but would “have the freedom to implement education at its most creative form”.
Pupils would study for qualifications such as GCSEs and BTECs but Charlotte says the school would “still have lots of creative freedom”.
Welsh is not currently planned to be taught as a subject – but the pupils would learn the language in a ‘Welsh kitchen.’ There would be more language lessons if the pupils wanted them.
She said: “I totally believe in the transformation of the whole education system and I think it’s possible. I want to play an active part in making that change.
“How are we supposed to be creating a new society if all we’re doing is imposing on children what we say is important?
“Just because they are younger than us they still have a voice in society and a right to be listened to.”
Charlotte says the new school has not been registered yet, but schools regulator Estyn has been positive towards the plans.
She has applied for planning permission to turn her annex into the school, with Vale of Glamorgan Council set to make a decision this month.
Charlotte Church and husband Jonathan Powell pictured on the red carpet at the BAFTA Cymru Awards
(Image: BAFTA Cymru / Shutterstock)
Neighbours have complained to the council about the running of a minibus to and from the school, and expressed fears over noise.
Dinas Powys Community Council has also objected echoing these fears, claiming the new school would be “detrimental to the character of the neighbourhood”.
Cllr Andrew Robertson had “strongly objected” to the the proposal claiming it’s “against the wishes of all the neighbours”.
He said: “I think it will involve a lot of traffic – there have been issues with the amount of building traffic.”
Charlotte says she wants to discuss the plans with the community, and she doesn’t expect noise and traffic to be an issue – with just one vehicle needed to take children to and from the school.
“It’s going to be 20 children on three-and-a-half acres of garden – it’s not going to be an issue,” she said.
“We want to work with the community if there are any problems, which I very much doubt there will be.”