ONE of the country's first free schools opening its doors in Langley is set to welcome pupils on Monday.

After a £1.6m refurbishment, Langley Hall Primary Academy (pictured) will open to its first 182 pupils, aged four to 11, in the Grade II listed Langley Hall, in Station Road.

The school was set up by husband and wife team Chris and Sally Eaton, who have 25 years experience in running local independent schools and nurseries, will be one of the Governments 24 flagship free schools - all-ability state-funded schools - opening outside of local authority control this month.

Education director, Mrs Eaton said: "It is so historic. It is one of those things you will look back at and realise you have been a part of which is wonderful.

"I believe we are one of the largest free schools and certainly the largest primary and that is significant because there is obviously a real need and demand in this area.

"Speaking to some of the other free schools, they have made the decision to start with one class. We decided we would see whether there was a need for children all the way through and there obviously is." The school will open with seven classrooms and two form groups for reception and one for every year group up to Year 6. There is also a waiting list of 62 children.

Staff began moving into the building this week as contractors added the finishing touches to the school building, which will undergo further works next year.

The three-storey Georgian building dates back to the 1600s and was home to the Actors' Orphanage from 1915-1938, where Noel Coward was its patron and was used as the RAF Group Headquarters of Bomber Command during World War II.

Headteacher Jane Sculpher, was excited to be at the school's new home this week with 25 members of staff attending training. She said: "When staff came in this week it felt like the first pieces of the jigsaw were there. We are just waiting for the children to come now. I am so excited to see them walking up the path for the first time, I think it's going to be quite emotional." Mr and Mrs Eaton are also behind Wellingtons - a new day nursery - in Langley Quay, Waterside Drive, which opened with 82 children on Monday.

l The new term also sees Lynch Hill, in Garrard Road, becoming the first primary school in Slough to become an academy.

Baylis Court and Slough and Eton Business and Enterprise College also open this week free of local education authority (LEA) control.

As academies, the schools are independently-run, receive more funding, have more freedom over teaching, and can change the length of the term and day.