STUDENTS at Hereford’s only ‘free school’ will start the year at new, “state-of-the-art” city-centre premises on September 1.

The Robert Owen Vocational School – which offers a unique curriculum combining  academic and vocational study – will ring the bell at its Widemarsh Street facilities next month.

The former Hereford School for Boys has been expanded and improved to accommodate an increasing number of students looking to follow the school’s Vocational Baccalaureate.

This means longer days, weeks and years for youngsters – but includes timetabled ‘Robert Owen Weeks’ of extra-curricular activities aimed at building communication skills, confidence and self-awareness.

It is the only school in the country to offer the WJEC-certified Vocational Baccalaureate.

The qualification was developed by the school, alongside employers to better cater for the skills required in the working world – skills like communication, teamwork and analysis.

Chair of governors, Chris Morgan, said: “This exciting programme builds on the schools’ aim to help students become people who not only understand things put can apply them in practice.”

Hereford’s newest secondary school, the Rober t Owen School will start the new year with 110 students set to enrol, almost four times the number that of last September.

Its first intake will this year sit their GCSEs and next year progress to post-16 qualifications and apprenticeships – including a newly-created level three for the baccalaureate.

The school still aims to ensure students attain a minimum of five GCSE’s – but also study a range of vocational subjects.

At the same time, they spend one day week on a work placement throughout the year building technical skills and also researching what career they may want to go into.

As part of that, students closed their first year by taking part in two ‘Robert Owen Weeks’, where Rural Media, Real Impact Music and Oldfield Forge Academy were among those leading sessions.