THE first ‘free’ primary school in East Lancashire is now officially on track to open in Blackburn next year.

The application from Tauheedul Free Schools’ Trust to open The Olive School, mainly for muslim boys and girls, has been approved by education secretary Michael Gove.

It will start with 90 pupils in September next year building up to an eventual 630 primary aged children.

Iniitially it expected to be located on the site of the current Tauheedul Islam Girls High School in Bicknell Street when that college moves to the premises of the old Beardwood Humanities College in Preston New Road.

This would put it next to the new Tauheedul Islamic Boys High School - approved last year for free school status - which open this September to provide education for 700 11 to 16-year-olds.

Both will fall outside the education authority’s powers and will be in charge of their own admissions.

The approval means Tauheedul will provide education from reception to sixth form.

The girls schools head and chief executive Mufti Hamid Patel said: “This is great news for the young people in Blackburn and their parents who have campaigned for the school.

“The town is desperately short of places for primary age children, some of whom are currently having to travel long distances.

“It is absolutely on track to open in September 2013 with a reception and year one class. Everyone is excited by this. The demand for the school has been huge.

“We will be starting with 90 pupils in reception and year 1 and numbers will build up year on year.

“At the heart of the Tauheedul vision is the determination to impact positively on young lives by providing high academic standards and a programme of personal development to nurture qualities such as leadership and enterprise.

“As a progressive faith school, The Olive School will promote traditional British values and will welcome applications from families of all faiths and none.”

Councillor Tony Humphrys, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for schools, said: “The council is not involved in the establishment or approval of free schools. Now that the school has been given the go-ahead I hope that they will work in partnership with other schools and the local authority.”