AFTER a gruelling two-year application process, funding for a Kidderminster independent school to become a free school has been given the go-ahead.
The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed it will be drafting a funding agreement to enable Holy Trinity International School, in Birmingham Road, to become Holy Trinity Free School from September this year. The Government department granted free school status at the second time of asking last year but staff have had to wait until now to finalise plans.
It has proven a controversial process and the free school decision has split parents, teachers and councillors in Kidderminster. Holy Trinity headteacher Pamela Leak-Wright has said it would give parents a wider choice of school and make its education available to those previously unable to afford the up to £3,465 a term fees.
Critics, including lead opposition education spokeswoman on Worcestershire County Council, Liberal councillor Fran Oborski, however, have questioned the need for a free school in the area and its benefits to the taxpayer.
Of the DfE's latest announcement, Mrs Leek-Wright said: "This is brilliant news. We have been working hard on our plans for more than two years and we are very pleased to be able to tell everyone we will be opening our doors in September to a large number of new pupils.
"Holy Trinity School has been in existence for more than 110 years and its long tradition of academic excellence and pastoral care will now be accessible to the whole community free of charge."
The move will see Holy Trinity continue as a school for four to 18-year-olds with up to 454 pupils when opening in September and the number is due to rise gradually over a five year period to 688 students in the school year 2018/19.
The school will be run by the Holy Trinity Academy Trust, a body separate from the current owners International Education Systems (IES).
In a letter to the academy trust's chairman of governors Nicola Reeve, parliamentary under secretary of state for schools Lord Nash wrote: "I am very please to confirm the secretary of state has agreed to enter into a funding agreement with Holy Trinity Academy Trust in relation to Holy Trinity Free School.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the great commitment and energy which you and your colleagues have shown in reaching this point. Free schools form an integral part of the Government's education policy to improve choice and drive up standards in schools. I am therefore delighted Holy Trinity Free School will bring new opportunities for children in the Kidderminster area."
Holy Trinity's first free school bid in 2012 - for September, 2013 - was unsuccessful but it was accepted when it applied again a year later. Free schools are non-profit making, independent state-funded schools, which have an obligation not to be academically selective.