Christian free school plan for Welwyn Garden City
- Credit: Archant
A new Christian free school is set to open in Welwyn Garden City.
The venture, in Mundells, will teach four to 16 year olds.
Free schools, launched in 2010, are free of local authority control but funded by the taxpayer.
Brad Arnold, a spokesman for the group behind the new school, said: “The aim is to provide a serious alternative to the current primary and in particular secondary school offering in terms of raising all round excellence.”
He added: “The school site is still to be built, although [it is] earmarked for sites in the Peartree ward, to target more disadvantaged families and will be dependent on getting the application formally approved by year end.”
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There is already a free school in Hatfield – The Hatfield Community Free School, in Briars Lane.
The headteacher there, Dr Sue Attard, said the concept had been a big success.
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She told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “The free school concept has worked extremely well for us here in Hatfield.
“We were formed due to pressure on reception places in September 2012 and we are now in our second year being at full capacity and oversubscribed.”
She added: “If a free school is set up in Welwyn Garden City we would support our fellow educators to provide what is best for all children in the locality.”
The idea is championed by Education Secretary Michael Gove, but critics have attacked them claiming they benefit only middle class parents with the time to set them up and that they divert money away from existing schools.
The county council’s education chief, Cllr Chris Hayward, Conservative, backed the plan.
He said: “In principle I support the creation of free schools by the Government as they bring an additional diversity in education therefore giving parents more parental choice.”
Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps also supported the scheme, which he expected to be “very popular”.
He said: “Hatfield already has a free school which has proved enormously popular with parents and is providing a great education for local children.”
He added: “The other local schools are all thriving as well and so fears that excellence would cause problems elsewhere have been completely unfounded. A bit of competition is a good thing.”