Traffic vow from Free School Norwich principal

The principal of one of the country's first free schools has assured workers and shoppers in Norwich it will not bring traffic in the city to a standstill.

Free School Norwich became the first of its kind to open its doors when it held an official opening ceremony at its Kings House base on Surrey Street yesterday.

As she welcomed parents, pupils and supporters to the refurbished building, principal and founder Tania Sidney-Roberts used the opportunity to answer some concerns.

They include fears about traffic levels in the city centre once parents begin dropping off and picking up their children each day.

Mrs Sidney-Roberts insisted the primary school would not bring Norwich to a standstill.

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She said: 'We know 85pc of our families already work in Norwich – already come in on the park and ride, cycle or use existing parking spaces. But we've also paid for a parking warden. He's going to patrol outside the school and move on parents and other drivers.'

A no-stopping zone is being created outside the school and an agreement has been reached with Norwich bus station to allow parents to use the 20-minute drop-off area at the Queens Road end.

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The school also sought to address concerns about the money being used to fund the school – which critics say could have been spent on existing schools in need of investment.

Revealing for the first time that the Free School Norwich has cost �1m of government money to set up, the principal said it was a 'low cost' answer to a need for more primary school places in the county.

She said: 'It's cost about �1m – that's for everything, the building, the ICT, the curriculum resources, everything you see today. It's about a tenth of the cost of a normal new-build primary school and we're meeting a need for 100 more primary school places.

'I'm not sure how we are taking funding away. The set-up costs have been incredibly low and we will only receive the same funding per pupil as any other state-funded school. Those 100 children exist whether the school is here or not.'

On Monday, 96 pupils will attend their first lessons. The school will start with 24 pupils in each class from reception to year three. Years four, five and six will be created as youngsters move through the school and, once all seven years exist, it will cater for a total of 168 pupils.

The school aims to cater for the children of working families who find the standard 9am to 3.30pm school day does not suit them. It will be open from 8am to 5.45pm, six days a week, 51 weeks a year.

Each of the school's four years have a waiting list of between five and 23 pupils.

Head of governors Roger Margand said: 'If this school wasn't needed, we wouldn't be over-subscribed.'

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