IN what amounts to an educational revolution, one of the oldest private schools in th North-East is applying to become a free, rather than fee-paying school, from 2015.

Polam Hall School in Darlington aims to become a state-funded independent school - joining Education Secretary Michael Goves' free school revolution in two years time.

The school, which provides education for girls and boys aged four to 19 is applying to the Department for Education to become a free school from September 2015.

Free schools are state-funded independent schools and the change would mean that Polam Hall could offer its high quality pastoral care, teaching and extracurricular activities to all without fees being charged.

However, the school, which supports what it calls "progressive, non-selective education", will remain on its current 19-acre site on Grange Road.

Chair of governors Sally Pelham, said: "By opening our doors to all, regardless of ability to pay, we are honouring the life-enhancing vision of education set out by our founders. We are deeply committed to giving young people in Darlington a real choice, with our all-through education from four to 19."

Headmaster John Moreland, added: "The young people that we welcome to Polam Hall are at the heart of everything we do. We want to give them confidence for life, with our ethos of genuine pastoral support and care, and our exciting curriculum, outstanding drama, music and art, and long tradition for outward-bound and sport."

Local politicians and business leaders are also backing the school's move to open up its offering to all, regardless of their ability to pay.

Alasdair MacConachie, chairman of the Darlington Partnership, said: "I am delighted that Polam Hall is opening its doors to young people across Darlington and the rest of the region. We warmly welcome their partnership."

Polam Hall is the oldest school in continuous existence in Darlington.

Staff aim to develop resilience and character, promote creative thinking and encourage community values.

The school also has a reputation as a centre of excellence in science and maths, music and the arts.

Polam Hall will continue to offer 60 boarding places, while it will have a wide catchment area as a free school.

Founded by Quakers in the 19th century, the new Polam Hall Free School will become part of Darlingtons wider family of state-funded secondary schools in a town which has the highest proportion of academies in the country.

In declaring it wishes to become a state-funded non fee paying school, Polam Hall is following in the footsteps of the Kings School in Tynemouth, which recently converted from a private fee-paying school to a state-funded academy where fees have been abolished.

If it is accepted, Polam will swell the modest ranks of free schools in the North-East. So far, while other parts of the country have enthusiastically embraced free schools, only half-a-dozen have opened in the region.

The announcement will certainly be welcomed by Mr Gove, whose support for free schools has attracted criticism from teaching unions who would prefer to see state funds invested in existing comprehensive schools.

Open days for prospective parents and pupils interested in learning more about Polam Hall as a free school are being held on Friday October 11 and Saturday October 12 - with an evening presentation taking place on Tuesday October 15.

As well as presentations from the headmaster and the chair of governors there will be opportunities to speak to teaching staff, current pupils and inspect the grounds and facilities.

For more information contact the admissions officer, Mrs Jane Craggs, at or visit the website: