Parents rush to sign children up to Norwich’s first ‘free school’

Parents from in and around Norwich are lining up to express and an interest in getting their children into the city's first free school, which is on course to open in September.

At least 170 people have so far enquired about the school, which will cater for up to 168 youngsters aged from four to 11.

And the school is advertising for a headteacher and other senior members of staff as it steps up the pace.

But there is still mystery about the possible location of the school, with those behind it still in negotiations over a 'very central location, close to public transport services'.

In September, education secretary Michael Gove named Free School Norwich among 16 that can progress to becoming the country's first free schools.

The 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.

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Tania Sidney-Roberts, one of the people behind it, said: 'We hope to attract parents who need or wish to work in Norwich, but are currently unable to do so because of childcare problems associated with the school day and holidays.

'We also hope to attract those parents who want their children to receive a truly broad and balanced curriculum, with genuine opportunities for children to develop their individual interests and talents through community-based learning.'

The school is set to have a two-week holiday every six weeks and a four-week holiday in August, with extended school activities for children all year round.

Links to enhance the curriculum are continuing to be made, with the latest organisations getting on board including Norwich Football in the Community, Maddermarket Theatre and Norfolk Ski Club.

Mrs Sidney-Roberts said more than 70 parents had expressed an interest in sending their children to the school in early September, with another 50-plus requests for applications through its website and the same number of requests through meetings.

This week, Norfolk County Council will be sending out admissions packs for the school to all parents within 15 miles of Norwich.

Mrs Sidney-Roberts added: 'We are now working with Partnerships for Schools to secure our building and are making very good progress on this front.

'The building is in a very central location close to public transport services and will provide a low-cost, all-year-round extended school service which will enable parents to work in the city centre.

'We are also planning to have a pedal and park facility at the school to enable parents and children to cycle to work to help reduce traffic congestion in the city.'

Norwich Steiner School, based at Hospital Lane, Lakenham, has also expressed interest in becoming a free school, which would see it change form its current paid-for status.

Are you looking to send your child to Free School Norwich? Call Steve Downes on 01263 513920 or email