The government has approved new plans for a ‘no frills’ private school that is designed to be affordable to parents. The approval process took a year to complete, due to a number of delays.

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The new independent school in Durham will be based on the grammar school model and will open this September, initially taking on 65 primary age pupils.

The first of its kind

The affordable cost model will only cost parents £52 each week, and it will be the first affordable independent school of its kind in Britain, opening up a new way of providing private education without the traditional premium cost.

Already, the school’s founders are planning to open up similar schools, using the same model across the area, in order to create a chain of cost-effective private schools. In other areas, such as Gloucestershire private schools like are a great choice.

The two founders are James Tooley, who is a Newcastle University professor of education policy and who has experience in setting up affordable private schools in other parts of the world, and former principal and founder of Grindon Hall in Sunderland, Chris Gray.

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Government delays

The proposed opening date of last September for the previous academic year had to be delayed after the Department of Education failed to respond to the school’s application on time. A further delay occurred when Ofsted visited the premises and raised concerns about its suitability.

Mr Gray and Mr Tooley have made a personal investment in the school, along with a panel of private funders to secure a lease on a former church which has been entirely refurbished inside with a brand new interior. Ofsted raised issues with the sick bay and said that the toilets were incorrectly sized for children. These issues were subsequently resolved.

Mr Gray will act as principal and four teachers will deliver a traditional curriculum which focuses heavily on core subjects such as English and Maths, with the sciences, geography and history all being priorities. Art, drama and music lessons will be delivered in the afternoon as well, as on an extracurricular basis.

The founders said that they were able to deliver the school model at low rates because they had negotiated hard to secure an excellent lease on the building. Most independent schools charge their pupils over £12,000 each a year.