New school for Hebden Bridge will teach yoga and have no head teacher

AN INDEPENDENT secondary school which will use daily meditation and yoga and “be run democratically by its staff and students” is to open in a West Yorkshire town next year.

New alternative secondary school, in Hebden Bridge, where students will meditate and do yoga.
New alternative secondary school, in Hebden Bridge, where students will meditate and do yoga.

The backers behind the new Hebden Bridge School say they hope it will embody the principles of the Pennine town.

Hebden Bridge has become well established as a centre for creative artists and alternative lifestyles.

The school says it will use daily meditation and yoga as aids to learning.

It will open in September next year. It aims to take on a year seven class each year for the next five years with no more than 20 in each year group meaning a maximum of 100 students.

The school will not have a head teacher and will be run democratically by staff and students. The idea behind the school has been developed over the past 18 months.

The group behind it explored opening as a state-funded free school but were told the pupil numbers were too low. It is now opening as a private school but the fees have not yet been set.

The Hebden Bridge School’s lead teacher Anil Sarna said: “We are an alternative school in an alternative town offering a pioneering response to how to educate our children for tomorrow’s challenges.

“The town offers a huge variety of experiential learning opportunities with educators, local craftsmen and artists willing to work with us.

“Education needs to improve communities, not just individuals, so our students will plan and carry out voluntary projects to protect the environment.”

Mr Sarna, who is both an experienced languages teacher and a meditation and yoga instructor, says the school, for 11-16-year-olds, will have a holistic approach, use daily meditation and yoga with project based learning leading into GCSEs.

Class sizes will be a maximum of 20 and the school will be democratically-run by teachers and students.

The school will be housed in the Birchcliffe Centre, a former Baptist chapel and Grade ll listed building on a hillside above the town.

It is the headquarters of Pennine Heritage, an environmental trust which aims to support the cultural, economic and environmental quality of the South Pennines.

The building is also said to be home to artists, potters, therapists and yoga schools, local e-trials and an extensive digital archive of images of the region.

Mr Sarna said: “The Birchcliffe Centre oozes history and has all the facilities we need - beautiful rooms, outside space for nature projects and permaculture and a well-equipped kitchen.

“Sharing this space with Pennine Heritage will encourage the students to find out about local history and means we are wonderfully situated to accomplish all of our educational goals.”

The school, which is said to be the first new secondary school to open in the town for more than 50 years, will run taster sessions for interested parents and children from January when admissions for next year’s intake will begin.

Judith Schofield, who is the chair of Pennine Heritage, says: “We are now really looking forward to working with the new School and believe that together we can ensure the conservation, management and enhancement of this very special region.”