PROPOSALS for a controversial Steiner Free School in Stroud have been formally submitted to the Department of Education.

The school, which will be named Steiner Academy Five Valleys, will accommodate more than 600 pupils and if approved will open in September next year.

Tarra Gilder-Rai of Steiner Academy Five Valleys said: “We are delighted that we have finally been able to submit our application to the Department for Education for a Free Steiner school for the Five Valleys.

“We have been working with the local community for the last 16 months and have been overwhelmed with the level of local support.

“To date 658 families, representing more than 1,100 children have already come forward to support our proposals and we hope to have some positive news to share with them in the spring when we expect to hear whether our application has been approved.”

Stroud Steiner Free School Initiative, the team behind the scheme, has been working with national charity New Schools Network to prepare the application which was submitted on Thursday, January 9.

Natalie Evans, director of New Schools Network, said: “There are nearly 300 Free Schools open or due to open this September which are proving popular with parents and adding good new schools places to their local communities.”

A Steiner Free School has become a controversial issue for some parents and teachers in the Stroud area who are unhappy with taxpayers’ money paying for a school built around the ethos of Steiner education.

Bowbridge resident Helen Saunders launched the campaign group Stop Steiner in Stroud last year to prevent the new school from being built.

Her main concern about a free Steiner school in the area was that parents would be easily attracted to a Steiner education without a full understanding of the curriculum which will be taught at the school.

In a letter she wrote to the SNJ Mrs Saunders said: “The new Steiner free school bid needs to be examined in detail by any kindergarten parents before deciding to support it and make sure you agree with anthroposophy because it is the ‘guiding light’ of Steiner schools.”

Anthroposophy is a system of beliefs based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner which maintains that by correct training and personal discipline one can attain experience of the spiritual world.

However a spokesman for the Stroud Steiner Free School Initiative said that although the school will have a Steiner curriculum no anthroposophy will be taught within the school.

During a visit to Stroud this month Education Secretary Michael Gove attempted to calm fears about a potential free school in Stroud.

He said: “Before any free school is accepted we always think about the impact on other existing schools.”

Since the initiative began the Department of Education has received more than 1,000 free school applications however according to Mr Gove only one in four have been accepted.