New free school bid 'stopped in its tracks'

First published in News

THE opening of Warrington’s first free school for primary children has been stopped in its tracks by the Department for Education.

Montessori free school was due to open in September for children aged three to 11 but the Government has since cancelled its funding.

Claire Donlan, who is the chair of governors for the school, was ‘disappointed’ by the news but wants to reassure the public that the team are determined to change the decision.

Mrs Donlan said: “Everything is up in the air at the moment. Although we will not be opening this year, we are hoping to either open next year or the year after.”

Education at Montessori schools is rooted in the understanding that children learn best through choosing, trying and doing things for themselves.

Italian physicist Maria Montessori started the educational approach in 1907 and there are now around 20,000 schools worldwide.

The school’s modern approach to teaching has sparked a lot of interest in parents in Warrington with the school almost fully subscribed for the next four years.

Mrs Donlan said: “There are hundreds of local parents who have signed their children up for our school and the team remain fully committed to the Montessori vision.”

But despite the vast interest in the school, the DofE raised concerns about the school’s progress in finding a suitable site and consequently pulled its funding.

A DofE spokesperson said: “Our priority has to be to open free schools with the best chance of performing strongly from the outset and delivering positive outcomes for pupils.

“In this case, we judged that the plans for Warrington Montessori free school had not progressed sufficiently for it to proceed.”

In April, Montessori opened a playgroup in Grappenhall Village Sports Club and will also be opening a preschool in September.

Despite the school’s recent setback, Mrs Donlan believes it’s only a matter of time before the school gets the all clear from the DofE and has appointed Liverpool Hope University’s schools direct manager Jackie Barbera as head teacher.

She said: “The school has had an incredible amount of support and David Mowat (Warrington South MP) is backing our campaign and even wrote to the minister in charge of the decision.”

“We're disappointed by the decision but we are still discussing new plans to open and when and where that will be.”

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