One of Devon’s first new free schools has been given the go-ahead to open at a former university hall of residence.
The Steiner Academy Exeter is expected to open at Thomas Hall on Cowley Road in 2015.
It is one of five free schools planned in Devon after the coalition government offered people the chance to open their own state-funded schools
Steiner schools offer an alternative to mainstream education and teach children through play and creative activities.
The Exeter academy has been given approval for a permanent site at Thomas Hall by the Education Funding Agency. The amount of funding for the site has not yet been revealed.
The academy is due to open in temporary buildings in Gloucester Road, Exwick, in September and stay there while planning permission is sought.
Organiser Jenny Salmon said: “It’s a big breakthrough for us, it’s been a long process to get the site confirmed.”
The total number of pupils is expected to rise from 136 in September to 624 – aged four to 16 – in 2021.
Four other Devon free schools, Route 39 in Higher Clovelly, the Marine Academy in Plymouth, Sparkwell Primary near Plymouth and Plymouth School of Creative Arts, will also open in September.
Alan Swindell, principal designate of the Exeter academy, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to breathe new life into this beautiful building and site.
“It will be a wonderful environment for children, with tremendous scope for us to develop those aspects of our curriculum that really come alive in the great outdoors.”
Free schools have been criticised by some teachers as unnecessary and taking resources away from other state schools.
The government says each school is set up in direct response to demand from local people for a different or better school that will meet the needs of pupils in the community and help raise standards.