St Albans free Montessori school initiative wins ‘overwhelming’ support from parents

SUPPORT has flooded in for a couple trying to establish a new state-funded primary school in St Albans.

More than 70 people have already signed a petition backing Fawzia Topan and Tim Hodgson’s plans to open a school for four to 11-year-olds under the Montessori ethos, which they already use to run a popular private nursery in Hatfield Road.

Local councillors, St Albans MP Anne Main and 2010 Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington have also got behind the idea after meetings with the husband and wife team, who are using new coalition government legislation which allows individuals to open schools if there is a proven need.

Fawzia and Tim now have enough public support to take their proposal to the Department for Education (DfE) which will decide the fate of the scheme – but they are still appealing for people to sign their petition and get behind the scheme.

Speaking to the Herts Advertiser, which revealed the couple’s plans earlier this month, Fawzia said: “I feel extremely excited and slightly overwhelmed. We knew the parents at our nursery were interested in gaining support for the scheme, but this has just gone way beyond just our parents and there’s also lots of support from people who have offered their skills.

“The comments have been lovely and so at the heart of what we are trying to do, it’s just been really heart-warming. People are very much telling us that this is actually the right thing to do. This is for the community and a lot of the comments we’ve had are about how much the community needs a new school and one which we can hold up and be proud of, knowing we all worked together on it.”

The couple were encouraged to push forward with the idea of opening a free primary school by frustrated parents Bonnie and Jasdev Singh, whose child Naina Angel, who attends the Albany Montessori nursery, was left without any ranked school to attend in September.

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If the initial proposal to the DfE is approved, they will need to submit a detailed business plan flagging up potential sites in the area which could be used to house the school.

And should all go according to plan, Fawzia and Tim will start a reception class in September this year providing they can find a venue to use until a permanent location is found. It will become the first free Montessori school in the country.

Mrs Main said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea. The more diverse a range of education that local parents have in St Albans, where there is a shortage of school places, the better. They are really committed to it but the problem will be finding the school premises. It’s going to be a challenge but a free Montessori school will be very interesting to many parents.”

Show your support for Fawzia and Tim and find out more about the idea at