Chairman gets medal for work in setting up first free school

DELIGHTED: Keith Haisman, chairman of Stour Valley Comunity School, has been given a British Empire Medal.
DELIGHTED: Keith Haisman, chairman of Stour Valley Comunity School, has been given a British Empire Medal.

A free school campaigner who led long-running efforts to create a new school in Clare has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his work.

Keith Haisman, chairman of the Stour Valley Community School in Cavendish Road, has been given the award – which can be presented for either civil or military services deemed worthy of recognition by the Crown – for services to education.

The 63-year-old said he was “delighted” with the award, which was taken out of existence 20 years ago, but brought back for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

“It is terrific recognition for all the hard work that has gone into the school,” said Mr Haisman, from Hermitage Meadow.

“Such an award can only be given to an individual and my role was to lead the free school, but to create a school from scratch you need an exceptional team around you and we had 16 to 18 people who worked on this.”

The school, which was built on the site of Clare Middle School, opened in September 2011 following three years of campaigning and planning.

It was the first in the country to be given government approval as a free school and the first to be built in Suffolk.

Mr Haisman, who is also chairman of Clare Town Council, said the award, which he was notified about in late November, was a demonstration of how well the school had established itself.

He said the school began life with 180 pupils but was now attended by 325 children.

“We have a great reputation and are on target for where we want to be,” he said.

“Everything is going well and fingers crossed we will continue that.”

During its short history, the school has received a host of positive comments regarding its work, including from South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo who praised its “first-class teaching” following a visit.

Mr Haisman said the struggle to get the school up and running was well worth it.

“What we have achieved here will affect the lives of hundreds of children for decades to come and that is something very special,” he said

He added that he was yet to receive his BEM but is expected to attend a ceremony early this year to receive the honour. He will then be invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

“It is something to look forward to and it is a shame that I can’t bring the whole school with me,” added Mr Haisman.