WHEN former headteacher Lee Ryman floated the idea of setting up a free school, education bosses had their doubts.

But she was determined to pursue her dream of establishing a non fee-paying independent primary school in Cholsey, near Wallingford, and now the project has taken off.

The Treehouse School opened for 15 children aged five to eight on Wednesday and staff and pupils celebrated by releasing balloons in the garden, where some lessons will be taught.

Headteacher Ms Ryman, 44, aims to teach pupils outdoors for half the time they are at school – depending on the weather – after being inspired by a visit to Sweden.

She said: “My long-term goal is to run a school for about 60 pupils but we have permission to teach 15 pupils at the moment and that’s a great start.

“Fourteen pupils are from the village and one from Wallingford.

“A team of about 50 volunteers have worked hard over the summer to get the school ready and it has been a fantastic team effort from the whole community.

“We will spend as much time as we can outdoors and there will be a focus on healthy eating with a free food education box coming once a month as part of Jamie Oliver’s school kitchen garden project.”

James Lynn, eight, has switched from Cholsey Primary School to attend The Treehouse School.

Mum Lorraine Lynn, 41, said: “The village primary school is a good school but I’m hoping that James will get an even better education here because of the smaller class size.”

Ms Ryman’s bid to run a free school was turned down, but Ofsted inspectors have given her and colleague Sharon Julian permission to run the independent school at the former residential property.

The Treehouse School is not receiving any public funding, and seeks support through donations, sponsorship, trusts and grants.