PLANS for Hampshire’s first free primary school have passed a major milestone.
Organisers won enough support from prospective parents to submit a bid for Government cash to start a free school for 60 reception pupils in Winchester in September 2014.
Although the “New Winchester Academy” has not yet secured a site, it has registered an interest in the new primary earmarked for the controversial giant housing estate at Barton Farm.
If the Department for Education gives the go-ahead, it could run the two-form primary instead of the county council as planned.
Either way, the new primary will be built with money from developer Cala Homes as a condition of planning consent for 2,000 new homes on the greenfield site.
Building work on the new school will start when the first 50 homes are built at the start of 2014.
Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine welcomed the move, saying: “The free school application is right to focus on Barton Farm because that’s where we need a new primary school.”
As a free school, Winchester Academy would be state-funded but not under local authority control.
This means it can decide its own curriculum, length of school day and admission criteria.
The Winchester free school plans to have a compulsory extended school day that runs from 8.30am to 4.30pm to provide extra-curricular activities for all pupils, including languages, sport, drama, music and dance at no cost to parents.
However the free school would follow Hampshire County Council’s admission policy which is based on geographical catchment areas with those living closest to the school gate having priority for places.
Bournemouth-based Laura Dickson, an education consultant and former headteacher, is project coordinator for setting up the new free school.
She said: “We don’t want to step on the toes of any other schools and would to work alongside and in partnership with them.”
Organisers have to show evidence of parental demand to win Government funding. Hampshire County Council has just approved plans to provide hundreds of new school places in the city at a cost of £10m.
Its plans include making The Westgate, Winchester into an all-through school catering from ages four to 16.