PLANS to open Southampton’s first free school have moved a step closer.

Those behind the plans for Hope Community School have been invited to Whitehall to discuss the details of their bid to build a primary school in the city centre.

If approved, it will be the first in the area to be set up independently, with direct funding from central government.

The bid is being led by members of the City Life church, part of the New Community church network, who have put together the proposal for a two-form entry primary school to cater for children aged from four to 11 in the city centre.

The announcement that the bid has succeeded through to the interview stage is being seen as a positive step, meaning the application has already passed the initial review stage.

According to those behind the bid their plans have received support from parents across the city. Parents of more than 165 children eligible to start school September 2015, have indicated that they would consider making Hope Community School their first choice, with the parents of more than 480 children starting school from that date expressing their interest.

David Barclay, local bid leader, said “The interview is for later this month and should we be successful we expect to know by the end of the summer.”

Billy Kennedy and Paul Woodman, local church leaders backing the bid, have already met with council education bosses to discuss their plans and potential sites, should the bid be approved.

The move comes after Southampton city council also approved plans to expand St John’s primary school in French Street.

The campus will now extend to the Eagle Warehouse across the road from the main school site and include Mission Hall as the school aims to double in size from 210 to 420.

The Department for Education confirmed they had received the bid.

If the DfE approve the application for Hope Community School, it could open for September 2015.