EDUCATION Minister Michael Gove hailed Halton’s first freeschool as one of the best in Britain when he visited Runcorn today.
He spent an hour chatting to pupils, teachers and four Runcorn dads who founded Sandymoor School in 2012.
His visit came as Ofsted inspectors declared the school’s achievement, quality of teaching and behaviour and safety as ‘good’ and leadership and management as ‘outstanding’.
Mr Gove said: “I am incredibly impressed. Children here are getting the same standards as they would receive at a fee-paying school, but they are getting it at this independent school for free.
“Students are intelligent, confident and lively and clearly love being here.
“A group of local parents had a very clear vision of what they wanted to achieve. They worked with education experts, got the best quality teachers and set high standards.
“It fits my dream for a freeschool.”
After touring the school, Mr Gove invited pupils aged 10 and 11 to ask him questions.
Girls and boys quizzed him about his job, his school days and his favourite books.
Mr Gove told them: “I love my job. I get to meet fascinating people.
“English was my favourite subject at school. When I was in primary school I wanted to be a soldier, then in secondary school, I hoped to become a doctor. I studied English at university and became a journalist at the BBC.
“The most challenging part of my job now is making sure I get enough money to schools.”
Head teacher Andy Green Howard, aged 45, said: “What really excites me is that our pupils are really confident.
“Their questions were insightful.
“We care about each individual child, not just about their exams and learning, but about their future aspirations.
“We encourage them to interact with each other and make them realise they can be whatever they want.”
Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans said: “This school has encouraged children from disadvantaged backgrounds and given them the same standard of education they would receive in a fee paying school.”
The school, founded by five Sandymoor parents, will move into a new £12 million building in September.
Andrew Lockyer, aged 42, who has two daughters, Madeline, aged nine, and Olivia, aged 10, said: “Everyone here, staff, governors and parents have worked incredibly hard to get to where we have.
“It’s absolutely amazing. The construction company, Kier, has bought into our vision.”
Richard Eastburn, aged 39, who has two children aged eight and 18, said: “We had a strong vision that we wanted to be involved in the running of the school and we have.”
Jon Snow, who has a daughter Jessica, aged nine, and twin sons Ethan and Lucas, aged seven, said: “I am just really proud of everything. It’s fantastic.”
Bryan Jones, aged 42, who has two children aged nine and six, added: “I am incredibly proud. We’ve got a thriving school.
“It will be a watershed when we move into the new school.”