A school aiming to become one of the county’s first ‘free schools’ said it has been forced to wait until 2012 before joining the state system.

Last month, Oxford Montessori Schools applied to the Department for Education (DfE) to convert its Forest Farm campus at Elsfield into a state-funded free school from September, offering a radically different education for children across Oxford.

But Government chiefs said they will not consider the application until next year, prompting principal Daniel Ardizzone to call for ministers to publish clearer criteria on applications.

Mr Ardizzone said: “They were very complimentary about the curriculum and facilities on offer, and pointed out areas for us to focus on, including proving there is demand.

“The more I look at it from a demographic point of view, without a doubt the local authority is going to struggle to meet the number of school places they will need, particularly in the city and with new housing at Barton.”

Currently, parents pay up to £2,578 per term for their children to be taught in classes of 15 or less on the 12-acre farm, where youngsters are encouraged to determine their own pace of learning. Under the plans, 100 pupils, aged three to 18, would be taught there free of charge.

The DfE has not approved any Oxfordshire applications in the first wave of free schools to open in September.

Home schooling parents in Witney and a developer at the former US airbase at Upper Heyford also want to open free schools, which would be financed by the Government but free of local education authority control.