Flexible free school ‘a model for others’

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Blackpool’s first free school showed off its strengths to a visiting Government minister – who said others should now follow in its path.

MP Elizabeth Truss, minister for childcare and education, visited Langdale Free School, in North Shore, to see how it had progressed since opening in September – and learn about its longer working day.

The school is open Monday to Friday from 8am for a breakfast club and until 6pm with after school activities to allow more flexibility for parents. Its adjoining nursery is open 8.15am to 3.45pm.

The minister was keen to talk to principal Carol Stallard and chairman of governors Richard Rendell about the opening hours during Friday’s visit.

And she said she is keen for childcare providers to extend their hours in line with schools to allow parents to go back to work.

Mrs Truss told The Gazette: “Not only do these schools help children, they help parents. We want more school nurseries to have similar ambitions.”

Mrs Stallard said: “Parents certainly appreciate that flexibility.”

It comes after the Government set aside £8m for London local authorities to help schools open longer. However, no such funding has been set aside for Blackpool.

A £50m pot has also been announced to allow children from deprived backgrounds to start nursery from the age of two as well as extra funding for children aged three to four.

The Government is currently working with 49 schools nationwide to see how schools offering nursery places and longer days works – to assess whether it is a model others should be following.

Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “I will always advocate extra money for things that can be shown to have proven benefits.”