Geri Halliwell exploring opening own free school

Former Spice Girl in discussion with Department for Education about opening up institution specialising in business and the arts

For former Spice Girls, launching designer clothing ranges and children’s books are almost mandatory subsequent career moves. But Geri Halliwell, having done both, is now considering a more radical step – opening her own free school, specialising in the arts and business.

The former Ginger Spice, independently wealthy and married since last May to the millionaire Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner, told the Mail on Sunday: “I believe in education. It’s an empowering fundamental human right that everyone deserves. Education is a foundation for life.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education confirmed that there have been discussions with Halliwell, but stressed that the plans were at a very early stage.

Applications are accepted in two rounds each year but success depends on finding a suitable location, backers and planning permission. Halliwell has identified north London as the location for a new school possibly opening by 2018.

A statement from the DfE said: “Free schools are giving thousands more children the access to an excellent and innovative education and we welcome applications from all groups interested in setting one up. All applications are rigorously assessed and must meet our high standards before approval can be given.”

Halliwell was educated at Watford Grammar school and went on to study at the renowned Camden School for Girls, where former pupils include Emma Thompson and Tamsin Greig.

The Spice Girls, brought together by a management team through an advertisement in the trade paper The Stage, were a pop phenomenon of the mid 1990s who popularised the phrase “girl power” and attracted very young girl fans.

Wannabe, their first hit in 1996, went to No 1in 37 countries, followed by a string of hit singles, and the album Spice was the fastest selling in the UK since the Beatles. The band has several entries in the Guinness World Records, including the highest annual earnings for a girl band, the $49m (£29.6m) they earned in 1987.

Halliwell was the first to leave in 1998, and though the others continued to tour and record without her, they announced in 2000 that they were taking a break. They have come together occasionally since then, for a tour in 2007, for a guest appearance at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, and to promote the musical Viva Forever!, based on their music and written by Jennifer Saunders. It was met with mainly poor reviews and closed with heavy losses after just seven months.

The Mail said Halliwell, who once famously praised Margaret Thatcher as “the original Spice Girl”, has also been invited to Downing Street to discuss her school plans.

David Cameron declared at the Conservative party conference this month that his target is 500 more free schools, added to the 252 already open and 52 in the pipeline. He said: “And yes, local authorities running schools is a thing of the past”.

Powered by article was written by Maev Kennedy, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th October 2015 16.18 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010