PLANS for a free Steiner free school in Stroud have been rejected by the Department of Education.
Today Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the approval of 38 new free schools across England, however Steiner Academy Five Valleys was not on the list.
Campaigners behind the bid for the school, which was estimated to accommodate more that 600 pupils, had planned to open its doors in September next year.
Steiner Academy Five Valleys spokesman Tarra Gilder-Rai said she was really disappointed with the decision, however believed it could have been a lot worse and that the group intend to resubmit its application in October.
There are currently a number of fee paying schools in Stroud which are based on the principles of Rudolph Steiner – however this would have been the first state Steiner school.
Some critics of the scheme believe parents would be attracted to a Steiner education without a full understanding of the curriculum which will be taught at the school – in particular anthroposophy.
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.
Other critics, including Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stroud David Drew, have argued that there isn’t a need for a free school in Stroud and if successful this bid would lead to a surplus of school places.
Speaking to the SNJ after hearing the news Mr Drew said there was no justification for a free school in the area at all.
“Allowing unsuccessful bids the opportunity to re-submit is a complete waste of time and money. We need to stop this ridiculous policy stone dead,” he added.
“In both Gloucester and Cheltenham there could soon be a demand for a new school but instead this is being forced n us in Stroud where we don’t need one.
“How much money are we going to spend on this process trying to get a school somewhere it isn’t needed.
“Shouldn’t we instead put this money into existing state schools?”
The National Audit Office has calculated that the capital funding needed to establish a free school is around £6.6 million, which it states is more than double the Department of Education’s original planning assumption.
Free schools are one of the Education Secretary’s flagship policies, and can be established if there is sufficient parental demand and it is approved by the Department for Education.
The school’s spokesman Tarra Gilder-Rai added that the Department of Education’s feedback indicated that there was a need for the school in the area.
“We are absolutely ecstatic about this as it has caused some of the main controversy around the bid,” she added.
“For now we just have to tweak things in our plan which they were unhappy about and then re-submit in October.”