THE group behind the Isle of Wight’s first 'free school’ has received backing from a national charity.
The Island Community School group, formed in 2011, is one of 34 across the country to win a place on the New Schools Network Development Programme.
As a result, the Isle of Wight group will benefit from development money to help pay for support from specialists throughout the application process.
The New Schools Network is an independent charity, which receives funding from the Department of Education to support groups hoping to form free schools.
The Development Programme was piloted last year and 90 per cent of the initial free school groups were approved to open. Groups receive education and financial advice.
The support packages are worth about £15,000 per group, a New Schools Network spokesman said.
The Isle of Wight group wants to open a state-funded free school for 650 students between the ages of 11 and 16 and has, in principle, agreed with the local authority to accept a catchment area in the South Wight.
It has to identify a suitable site.
"We intend to open our doors to Year 7 students in September 2014 so the school will be complete in 2018," said a group spokesman.
"We believe our significantly smaller, Ofsted-regulated school will be able to meet the needs of Island students, offering parents a different choice from the larger, more impersonal schools that are currently available," he said.
The group consists of current secondary school teachers, including middle and senior leaders — all graded as good or outstanding by Ofsted inspectors — business leaders and committed parents.
"Central to our application to the Department for Education is producing evidence we will be able to fill the school," said the spokesman.
"We currently have 250 signatures of parents interested in a place for their child and we are now looking to include signatures of parents with children currently in Years 3, 4 and 5.
"In order to begin this process, we will be hosting information evenings at Newchurch Primary School at 6.30pm on Tuesday, November 20, and at Shanklin CE Primary School at 6.30pm on Friday, November 23."
Rachel Wolf, Director of the New Schools Network, said: "We’ve been blown away by the groups on the Development Programme this year – the vast majority of which are in the most deprived local authorities in the country.
"They are very diverse - from a school concentrating on helping kids succeed in the music industry to one focused on getting pupils into top universities. All the groups - teachers, communities, and charities - are united in their desire and commitment to deliver a better education.
"We are delighted to be welcoming New Island Community School onto the programme and look forward to working with them as they develop their plans in more detail and work in the local community to gather support for their proposed new school."
• The Island Community School group’s website is at www.islandcommunityschool.org