Childcare trainers progress with 'free school' plans

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A leading childcare training company will go forward to the next stage of its bid to open one of the first 'free' schools in the country, following its approval by education secretary Michael Gove.

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The Childcare Company, run by husband-and-wife team Sally and Chris Eaton, now has to submit a full business case and plan to open a primary free school in Slough in September 2011.

The Eatons previously ran Manor Tree Group, which included nurseries and prep schools in London and the south-east, before selling the company to the CfBT Education Trust four years ago.

Mrs Eaton (pictured) said, 'We always intended to have just one school and nursery again. This new opportunity came along and was just right for us. We're thrilled we've been accepted. The sort of education that I would only be able to offer to fee-paying parents will now be available to everyone.

'We now have to find a building and plan our curriculum and timetable. We will be looking for a head teacher, but we will be involved in the set-up and managing the whole operation.'

The school is to cater for around 300 children from five to 11 years old, with class sizes limited to 25. There are also plans to have a nursery for threeto five-year-olds attached to the school.

Part of the business case for the school is based on the fact that from next September there will be a shortage of 342 primary school places in Slough.

Mrs Eaton said the school would offer a creative and multi-sensory curriculum and children's learning would not be driven by targets. 'We will make it very clear to parents what we stand for and it will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

'We will be looking at the whole child. We recognise that not all children are academically able but they all have something to offer. The school motto will be "Ad vitam paramus", which means, "We are preparing for life".'

She added, 'Our starting point is to build children's confidence and self-esteem. If children enjoy school, then learning comes naturally.'

The school's governors are to include Sir Christopher Ball, academic and educational reformer and author of the 1994 Start Right report, which advocated compulsory part-time nursery education from the age of three.

Last week Mr Gove gave the go-ahead to 16 groups wanting to set up free schools, including parents, communities, teachers, faith and non-faith groups and large secondary and small primary schools.

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