St Albans Montessori nursery in bid to set up infant and junior school

A MAJOR shortfall in primary school places in St Albans has prompted a successful private nursery to use new legislation to apply to open their own state-funded infant and junior school for the city.

The owners of the Albany Montessori Nursery in Hatfield Road, Fawzia Topan and Tim Hodgson, will soon be submitting a detailed proposal to the Department for Education under new rules allowing individuals to open their own schools.

The married couple, who have been running the nursery since June 2006, hope to have the new school up and running by September 2011 but are making interim plans to accommodate their first reception class this year which may require asking parents to cover costs if there is no funding.

But they need proven support from local people to show the government that there is a need for a new school in the city, whether it’s through putting a child’s name down for the intake list or signing their petition.

Parents Bonnie and Jasdev Singh, who live in Highfield, encouraged Fawzia and Tim to pursue the idea after their four-year-old daughter Naina Angel, who attends the nursery, was denied any preferred school despite an appeal and many months on the continued interest list.

Fawzia, who is a trained teacher with 13 years experience teaching at secondary, primary and nursery level, said: “It is something we have always been interested in, to move forward with something for the future and this has provided a really great opportunity, one of getting a free school for people like Bonnie and Jasdev whose child hasn’t got a school place. There’s a complete need for it.”

Tim said: “It’s not just happening because we think the time is right, it’s happening because parents are coming to us asking us to do it. And the new coalition government has provided an ideal platform for us.”

Most Read

If the school was to get the go-ahead, it would be the first free Montessori primary school and would need to find a home, by building a new facility or converting a property.

Tim added: “We didn’t want to be in a position to ask parents to pay fees as it becomes exclusive. We are providing opportunities for people who would not be able to afford private education, but still offering the same good quality.”

Speaking of her relief that Fawzia and Tim are trying to help those in her situation, Mrs Singh said: “What began as a traumatic, frustrating and very disappointing situation being a parent of one of the 94 families in St Albans who did not receive their school preference and were allocated a school not of their choice, the position we now hold is of hope and aspiration.

“Having been overwhelmed with the service we have received from Albany and the nurturing that our daughter Naina Angel and all her fellow pupils have been given, it would be our dream come true to know that Naina will be educated and cared for within a similar environment headed by Fawzia and incorporating the ethos and principles by which the nursery is run.”

Support is growing by the day and offers of free professional help for the project have flooded in from a body of parents past and present on anything from building design and legal advice to food expertise.

The Montessori approach to teaching is based on the research and experiences of Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. It uses special learning materials and sets out to allow children the freedom to explore in an open and enriched learning environment in order to encourage their natural independence.

A meeting has been arranged with MP Anne Main and an initial proposal is currently with the county council ahead of being officially submitted to the government.

To show your support for the proposal visit