Free school set to be established in Harpenden

A NEW primary school is coming to Harpenden in September 2012.

Harpenden Free School was given the go-ahead to open by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove on Monday night.

Around 420 places will be offered by the school for children aged four to 11 although it is not yet able to confirm where in Harpenden it will be located.

Artisans Kindergarten, a nursery already based in the town that combines Montessori principles with the National Foundation Stage Curriculum is one of the three organisations behind the school.

Changemakers, a national youth charity and Iseldon Partnership, which runs public buildings in the leisure, health, arts and youth sectors are the other organisations behind the project.

The news has surprised many who had not been aware a free school was in the pipeline for Harpenden, but those forming the school say it will help address the 15 per cent shortfall in primary school places in the area.

Ruth Martin, headteacher of Artisans and one of the directors at the new school, said: “Harpenden Free School will offer an exciting and inspiring educational experience, meet the local demand for additional school places and enable us to demonstrate that the best results occur when children are given the opportunity to lead their own learning journey.

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“We are really excited to have the opportunity to extend the highly successful Artisans approach to a primary school setting.”

Artisans has been based in Harpenden for four years and the oversubscribed nursery is rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

The ethos for the school was informed by a survey of local parents which was carried out in May 2011.

It says its aims are to “foster children’s active engagement in the design and delivery of their own learning journey, and give them meaningful opportunities to shape how the school is run.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, it revealed that the school curriculum would draw extensively on the Montessori approach.

With a focus on extensive volunteering opportunities for parents and members of the local community, the school hopes to become the heart of the Harpenden community.

Adam Nichols and Jonathan Gibbs are the school’s other two directors. Mr Nichols is the Chief Executive of Changemakers and has been for the past seven years. Mr Gibbs set up Isledon Partnership last year to develop new approaches to delivering public services.

District and County councillors were dumbfounded by the news and only a few were aware of the finer details behind the proposals at the time of going to press but felt unable to give a comment.

Although the opening of the school is still subject to final approval by the Department for Education, it has passed the second stage of the process.

The school will now ensure a statutory 12 week consultation in the area takes place. Capital funding for the school is yet to be decided.

More information about the school will soon be available from www.harpendenfreeschool.org.uk

At the time of going to press, this website was not yet up and running.

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