Couple “on the brink” of opening new St Albans school

A SUCCESSFUL nursery’s proposal to branch out and open a primary school in St Albans has been met with a positive response from the Department for Education (DfE).

But the owners of the Albany Montessori nursery in Hatfield Road urgently need further support from parents in the area before their idea of opening one of the first free schools of its kind in the country can get the seal of approval under the Government’s new Free Schools Initiative.

As first revealed in the Herts Advertiser back in August, husband and wife team Tim Hodgson and Fawzia Topan, who have been running the private nursery since 2006, want to use the new legislation to open their own state-funded infant and junior school to help address the major shortfall in city-centre primary school places.

Support flooded in for the idea with more than 100 people signing a petition in favour of the school but the idea now needs parents to go a step further and say they would sign up for the school if it was an option.

Among the children currently attending the nursery and their siblings alone, there are 15 children signed up for a place at the school and two children – Naina Singh and Alecia Wren – are already being taught in an interim reception class.

The four year olds were due to leave the nursery in July but had been left without any preferred school to attend in September and their parents have been part of the driving force behind the new school idea.

Alecia’s mum Tracey said she was delighted to hear of the plans after months of stress within the school allocations system, especially since her daughter had progressed so well at the nursery since starting there aged two-and-a-half.

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Fawzia and Tim, who will also continue to run their popular nursery in the Hatfield Road Methodist Church, are currently looking at two sites in St Albans, one being the former elementary school in Alma Road which is currently up for sale – but they will need to get their plans approved within the next few weeks to stand a chance of securing it.

Tim said: “We are very excited, it’s amazing that it has come this far and we are now so close to getting the go ahead. We are on the cusp of bringing a new primary school to St Albans but we just need that extra help from parents to give us the final push.”

Fawzia, who is a trained teacher with 13 years experience teaching at secondary, primary and nursery level, added: “Thank you so much to everyone who has signed the petition and supported us so far, but we now need you to just click back on to the website.”

The shortfall of city centre primary school places has been increasing over several consecutive years and 94 of the 200 children in the district were left without a preferred school when allocations were first announced earlier this year were from central St Albans. The first free Montessori school in London has already been given the thumbs up under the new legislation and if Fawzia and Tim are successful in their application their’s will be the second.

The approach to teaching sets out to allow children the freedom to explore in an open and enriched learning environment in order to encourage their natural independence.

Show your support for Fawzia and Tim at