TWO new free schools will open in Reading and help to ease the "desperate" pressure on places.

The Department for Education announced on Wednesday that approval had been granted for The Heights Free School in Caversham and a six-form entry secondary school spearheaded by the West Reading Education Network (WREN).

The Heights, a two-form entry primary school, will open in September next year and campaigners are now searching for a site and recruiting a headteacher.

Susan Jones, one of the parents who led the campaign, said: "We were very surprised to hear that it had gone through, but obviously also very, very happy. A lot of groups which submit free school bids are educational charities or people with experience, and we are just a group of parents working together, so it is incredibly rewarding to have all the hard work pay off."

Conservative councillor Isobel Ballsdon described the news as "fantastic" and added: "At last families in Caversham Heights will have a realistic chance of getting a local primary school place."

The WREN group, which is led by 12 parents and backed by Reading West MP Alok Sharma, has been campaigning to build west Reading's only secondary school.

Group leader Mischa Tytel said: "We're absolutely delighted. The reaction was one of elation and vindication more than anything. It's been a lot of work with no guarantee at the end of it that we'd actually get it. We were very confident but to have sent six months working on something without a cast iron guarantee of success - to be told of our success makes all that unpaid work worth every second.

"We'll be straight back out in the community talking to parents and keeping them involved, and anybody who wants to support us can visit and fill out our consultation."

Mr Sharma said: "This is absolutely fantastic news for the children and parents in my constituency and it has been an absolute joy to work with my friends at WREN in helping deliver this new school for our community."

Reading's education leader, Cllr John Ennis, added: "I'm really pleased. I would like to thank the parents and everyone involved in the bids who have been so professional, sought support from the council and done a really fantastic job. They have had the resilience and ability to see these bids through and we will be there to support them in future."