Norwich's first 'free school' approved

PUBLISHED: 12:53 31 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:36 31 January 2011

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The government has given the green light for Norwich’s first ‘free school’, which will be one of the first eight to open in England in September.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, used a conference in London on Saturday to announce that the business plans of eight schools, including Norwich, had been approved.

However, the location of the primary school, which is said to be in a very central location and close to public transport services, will not be revealed until later this week.

The ‘free school’ model, which originates in Sweden, sees schools directly funded by the government and removed from local authority control, with the freedom to set their own curriculum and holidays.

Free School Norwich is being set up by eight parents and teachers, and business people from the Norwich area.

Tania Sidney-Roberts, the key proposer behind the school and its first principal, said there was an “overwhelming demand” for the school in Norwich.

She added: “The whole group is absolutely delighted with the news that our business plan is one of the first eight in the country to be approved by the Secretary of State for Education.

“The Free School Norwich will be an exciting new school for the city, with the specific aim of meeting the needs of modern-day working parents and their families.

“We have received a huge amount of support and interest from groups, businesses and organisations within the local community, who all wish to be involved with the school and the education of young people in Norwich once we are open.”

The Free School Norwich will be open for 51 weeks of the year and will cater for up to 168 youngsters aged from four to 11.

Chair of the governing body Roger Margand said: “We will be announcing the location of our building later this week. Lots of parents are still enquiring about places at the school through our website.

“Some year groups are as many as four times oversubscribed, but we do have a few spaces left in Years 1 and 2. Application forms can be downloaded from our website.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have gone and this excellent news is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all of the individuals involved in establishing the school.”

Mrs Sidney-Roberts’ idea for a school to meet the needs of modern-day working families is one that she has developed during her 20-year career in teaching, both in state and independent schools. She was born in Norwich, went to school locally, and is a trained, qualified head.

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