Sussex is to have one of the country’s first “free schools” after Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the plans had made it through to the final round. Under coalition reforms that allowparents, charities and businesses to set up schools, almost 700 groups made inquiries and 100 submitted bids.

Discovery New School in Crawley is one of just eight projects that are nowin the pre-opening stage, Mr Gove will tell the first national Free Schools conference today.

The primary school will have a Christian ethos. Admissions will be open to all irrespective of faith and the curriculum will teach respect and tolerance.

Critics claimed the free schools will be expensive to run. But Andrew Snowdon, who is leading the bid for the Crawley school, said: “We passionately believe that primary education makes an enormous difference.”