Clare: BEM for free-school campaigner

A MAN who worked tirelessly to help establish Suffolk’s first free school says being awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) was “totally unexpected”.

Keith Haisman, 63, from Clare near Sudbury, who won the accolade for services to education, is the chairman of governors at Stour Valley Community School, which opened in September 2011 to around 180 pupils. It was the first in the UK to gain Government approval as a free school.

The opening marked the end of a three-year campaign spearheaded by Mr Haisman to keep senior school education in Clare following the county council’s decision to scrap middle schools. The school now has 320 students and has the capacity to accommodate up to 540.

Mr Haisman, a former senior executive with a multi-national banking group who has held numerous board-level roles during his career, has served on the management board of a school in Germany and is also chairman of Clare Town Council.

He said the BEM was recognition for the team of people who had taken Stour Valley Community from an idea on a blank sheet of paper to a thriving school.


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Mr Haisman believed his biggest achievement has been to motivate people in the village to fight for particular issues. “Every year when I see new kids coming into the school, I have to pinch myself when I realise that what we have achieved here will affect the lives of hundreds of kids for decades to come,” he said.

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