LANGLEY'S coming free school is racing ahead as it moves into the next stage before its September opening.

The business plan for Langley Hall Primary Academy has been signed off by the Department for Education (DfE), allowing the school to employ staff.

Sally Eaton, educational director of the school in Station Road, said Langley Hall was now in the pre-opening stage.

She said: "We've been working ahead of that, but it is very important to have that official piece of paper." Langley Hall now only needs to secure a funding agreement with the DfE - expected to take place in the next two to three weeks - to be ready for its first intake of pupils in Years 1-6.

Mrs Eaton said Langley Hall was the furthest advanced of the first 16 free schools due to open in September, and had upped its initial number of classes from six to seven and from 150 students to 180.

The school will eventually have 350 pupils when fully completed.

Mrs Eaton said: "We've now started to employ staff - the school administrator comes on board at the start of May, we interviewed teachers over the weekend and will be making appointments this week." The Observer revealed last month that its first head of school would be Jane Sculpher.

Free schools are set up by parents, charities and private companies, directly funded by the Government and outside local authority control.

Last month, the DfE tightened the application rules for free schools in response to higher-than-expected demand from interested groups.

Organisations have to submit a detailed business case for a free school instead of a broad proposal.

Mrs Eaton said Langley Hall's founders had worked on its business case for five months.

She added: "It's a very, very detailed document, about 500 pages long, which outlines how we're going to run the school." Langley Hall also held an open evening last week in Langley Hall, which was home to the Actors' Orphanage from 1915-1938 and was used by RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War.

Mrs Eaton said: "It was a fantastic success, it was great to see the enthusiasm.

"We had people from the Civic Society, and they were very supportive about what we were planning to do with the building."