The Spice Academy

Published by The Mail on Sunday (25th October, 2015)

She is the singer who scored an incredible nine No 1 singles, flirted with Prince Charles and exhorted young fans to make sure they got what they really, really wanted.

Now aged 43, and settled down with a daughter and a Grand Prix tycoon husband, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell has revealed she still has ambitions to be a role model for the young – and wants to set up a new free school.

The singer wants to set up the school specialising in the arts and business. She has already held meetings with officials at Downing Street and the Department for Education to discuss her proposals, telling them she is determined to help teenagers fulfil their potential.

She has also held discussions with some founders of the first wave of independent state schools, and may form a partnership with one of them to launch her project.

Now known as Mrs Horner following her marriage to Red Bull Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner, she confirmed her plans last night but stressed they were still at an exploratory stage.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, she said: ‘I believe in education. It’s an empowering fundamental human right that everyone deserves. Education is a foundation for life.’

In an exclusive interview with this newspaper’s Event magazine last month she revealed that since her marriage she was happy to shun the limelight and become a devoted wife and mother.

Horner, whose daughter Bluebell is aged nine, said she did not miss life in the public eye, adding: ‘Sometimes the best thing is just hanging out together at home doing absolutely nothing – just eating or watching telly.’

But her plan for the co-educational school, which is likely to be located near her North London home, could thrust her into the public spotlight once more. Free schools, which operate independently of local councils, have become controversial with critics saying they favour middle class children over poorer youngsters.

Watford-born Horner went to a grammar school before switching to Camden School for Girls and finding fame. She has never hidden her ambition since first bursting into public gaze in a Union Jack dress, proclaiming Girl Power and praising former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as the ‘original Spice Girl.’

The move will provide a welcome boost for the free school movement. So far 305 have been set up across the country, often by disgruntled teachers and parents who have struggled to find satisfactory school places near their homes. There are another 116 in the pipeline to cope with the rising demand for places. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the Government wants to launch another 500.

Nick Timothy, director of the New Schools Network, said: ‘This proposal is a good example of how free schools are bringing greater innovation and diversity to the system, helping to get young people ready for jobs, apprenticeships, university and the world of work.’

Horner would not be the first musician to set up such a school. The founders of East London Arts & Music, which opened last year, include Will Kennard, one half of electronic duo Chase & Status. And Sir Paul McCartney helped establish the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts almost 20 years ago.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We welcome applications from all groups interested in setting up free schools.’

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