A Worcestershire school which was saved from closure when a parent stepped in to buy it is now set to become one of the region’s first free schools.
Annabel Goodman’s 13-year-old dyslexic son Jacob was just settling into life at the New Elizabethan School, in Hartlebury, near Kidderminster, when it was threatened with closure in 2007.
She could not bare to see the fee-paying school, which offers specialist provision for gifted and talented pupils and children with ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia, shut for good after finally finding a suitable school for Jacob, who had already attended nine schools, including three private ones.
Instead, the barrister took over as principal and set up a company to manage the school and pay its £120,000 annual costs.
Nearly four years on, and the school is set for another first after applying to the Department for Education to become Worcestershire’s first free school.
The free schools model, which has been championed by the Conservatives, allows groups of parents and teachers to form schools away from local authority control.
If accepted, the school, which currently charges about £2,700 per child per term, would be able to provide specialist education free of charge for 100 pupils in the area.
Mother-of-three Miss Goodman said: “Every child is entitled to quality personalised education to meet their individual needs if it is to achieve the best possible outcome.
“The educational journey should be inspiring, fulfilling and rewarding. The free school fulfils our dream to offer parents the specialist input their children so desperately need.
“Parents are absolutely best placed to understand and recognise their children’s needs and the free school will provide them with a real choice, using their knowledge, working with professional staff, to provide the best support for children who find mainstream provision a struggle.”
It is planned that the school, under the new name Worcestershire Free School, will see its first intake in September 2011. The team behind the school, which will specialise in creative arts, sport and vocational skills, includes parents, teaching professionals, lawyers and accountants.
Free schools are able to set their own pay and conditions for staff, set their own curriculum and change the length of terms and school days.
Miss Goodman added that parents “instinctively knew” what was best for their child.
“I think the way we are run at the moment is very much like a free school,” she said.
“I think parents are much more informed about learning and education these days. I don’t want to criticise mainstream schools, as they do what they can with the resources that they have, but with free schools, we have a chance to dramatically change the education landscape for the better.
“We have a chance to provide an education that is bespoke and child-centred.”
Free schools can be opened by charities, universities, faith groups, teachers, businesses, parents or existing schools in the independent sector.
Education Secretary Michael Gove announced in September that Nishkam Education Trust in Birmingham had been given initial approval to open a primary and a secondary school in the city.
The schools will have links with a major Sikh temple in Handsworth, but will be multi-faith schools promoting civic values, the Trust says.
Ministers also revealed earlier this month that another ten groups in Birmingham have submitted proposals for consideration.
For more information visit www.worcestershirefreeschool.org.