The Government is giving parents new opportunities to put their child in a great local school by announcing that 24 Free Schools will open in September this year. They are part of the Government’s drive to raise education standards across the country and tackle educational disadvantage.
Funding Agreements for all 24 schools aiming to open in September 2011 have now been agreed and signed. This means that all schools aiming to open this year now have full approval from the Government, and can make the very final preparations needed to welcome the first ever Free School pupils. The schools will open at different times during the month.
- 17 are primary schools, five are secondary schools and two are all-age schools.
- The schools are spread throughout the country, but are primarily concentrated in areas of deprivation (half of the 24 schools are located in the most deprived 30 per cent of communities in the country).
- 323 groups applied to open Free Schools in the first application window.
These new, state-funded schools – set up by teachers, charities, education experts and parents – will eventually provide thousands of new places for children across England, many in areas where there is a shortage. They will also open in areas with historic educational underperformance.
Under the Coalition Government’s radical new plans, Free Schools will also be able to prioritise the most disadvantaged children (eligible for Free School Meals) in their school admissions arrangements. With the Pupil Premium, there will be an even greater incentive for Free Schools to attract pupils that are most in need of high-quality education.
Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said:
The most important thing for any parent is to be able to send their child to a good local school, with high standards and strong discipline. That is why we are opening Free Schools across the country. I am delighted to announce that the first 24 will open this year.
Too many children are being failed by fundamental flaws in our education system. The weakest schools are concentrated in our poorest towns and cities, and we are plummeting down the international education league tables.
In spite of years of investment, the situation is worsening. Children from disadvantaged homes are still falling behind. A change of approach is vital.
By freeing up teachers and trusting local communities to decide what is best, our reforms will help to raise standards for children in all schools.
These schools have been set up in record time – responding faster to the urgent demand of parents for a new, or different, type of education to benefit local children and their families. They will open just 10 to 15 months after submitting initial plans to the Department for Education. In the past, it normally took between three and five years to set up a maintained school, with the few that were able to be set up by parents taking up to nine years.
Free Schools are funded by the Government, but have greater freedoms than schools run by local authorities. They are run by teachers – not local councils and not Westminster politicians – and have freedom over things like the length of the school day, the curriculum, and how they spend their money. They are not permitted to make a profit, and all funds raised must go back into improving education for pupils.
The freedoms that Free Schools and Academies have allow teachers to make decisions that are right for local children. International evidence shows that giving teachers and heads more freedom in the classroom helps to raise standards in education.
Charter schools in New York, which are similar to Free Schools, have been shown to dramatically close the gap separating inner-city neighbourhood students from those of the wealthiest suburbs – by 86 per cent in maths and 66 per cent in English.
The Harlem Children’s Zone charters have closed the achievement gap between black and white pupils at both elementary and middle school level.
Charter schools in Chicago close half of the achievement gap between disadvantaged inner-city public school students and middle-income students in suburban districts. This is despite the fact that these students entered the Charter Schools achieving lower scores on average than their public school peers.
At home, schools with greater independence are also excelling. From 2009 to 2010, results in Academies increased by an average of 7.8 percentage points (proportion of pupils in Academies achieving five or more GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths) compared with the national average increase of 4.5 percentage points for all state schools.
A recent Public Accounts Committee report on Academies found that they have achieved rapid academic improvements and raised aspirations in some of the most challenging schools in the most deprived areas of the country.
26 per cent of the Academies inspected in 2009/2010 were rated outstanding by Ofsted compared to 13 per cent of secondary schools nationally. In addition, a lower proportion of Academies were rated inadequate compared to secondary schools nationally. All of which is an achievement for Academies given that these Academies were generally starting from a low base and were in challenging circumstances.
Notes to editors
1. Groups that were successful in applying to open a Free School went through a robust process to make sure they were suitable and capable to run a school. They had to:
- provide evidence of demand for a new local school;
- set out in detail the curriculum the school would offer, the type of teachers it would recruit, and how the school would run its pupil admissions to make sure they are fair;
- develop robust plans for how the school planned to run its finances (which then were scrutinised to make sure the school was financially viable);
- secure an appropriate site for the school that provided value for money for the taxpayer; and
- be CRB checked and undergo in-depth vetting by the Department’s Preventing Extremism unit.
Like other state-funded schools, Free Schools are inspected by Ofsted, will have their exam and test results published and will have to teach a broad curriculum. Action will be taken if results slip or if teaching isn’t up to scratch. Free Schools also have to abide by the same rules for pupil admissions as other schools – making sure that these are fair and inclusive of children from different backgrounds.
2. The schools opening in September 2011 are:
ALDBOROUGH E-ACT FREE SCHOOL, Redbridge
ALL SAINTS JUNIOR SCHOOL, Reading
ARK CONWAY PRIMARY ACADEMY, Hammersmith & Fulham
ARK ATWOOD PRIMARY ACADEMY, Westminster
BATLEY GRAMMAR SCHOOL, Kirklees
BRADFORD SCIENCE ACADEMY, Bradford
BRISTOL FREE SCHOOL, Bristol
CANARY WHARF COLLEGE, Tower Hamlets
DISCOVERY NEW SCHOOL, West Sussex
EDEN PRIMARY SCHOOL, Haringey
ET CHAIM PRIMARY SCHOOL, Barnet
THE FREE SCHOOL, NORWICH, Norfolk
KRISHNA-AVANT PRIMARY SCHOOL, Leicester City
LANGLEY HALL PRIMARY ACADEMY, Slough
MAHARISHI SCHOOL, Lancashire
MOORLANDS SCHOOL, Luton
NISHKAM FREE SCHOOL, Birmingham
PRIORS FREE SCHOOL, Warwickshire
RAINBOW FREE SCHOOL, Bradford
SANDBACH SCHOOL, Cheshire East
ST LUKE’S CHURCH OF ENGLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL, Camden
STOUR VALLEY COMMUNITY SCHOOL, Suffolk
WEST LONDON FREE SCHOOL, Hammersmith & Fulham
WOODPECKER HALL PRIMARY ACADEMY, Enfield
3. Capital costs:
- Current estimations are that the total capital costs for the first 24 Free Schools opening in September 2011 will range from £110m to £130m.
- At the upper estimate of £130m, this equates to 2.6 per cent of the Department’s capital expenditure for 2011-12, which is £5,058m.
- Many of the schools will open in temporary accommodation or require additional building work. This will take place over the coming months and years.
- Because of this, the final capital costs for the vast majority of schools are not yet finalised as contracts for the works have not yet been signed.
- Today’s figures are based on lower and upper estimations.
- It would not be sensible to release capital cost estimations for individual sites until a price has been agreed and contracts have been signed. To do this would effectively ‘show our hand’ on what we expect to spend on a project. This could jeopardise value for money for the taxpayer.
- We are committed to publishing capital costs for Free Schools, and expect to be in a position to do this for some Free Schools shortly.
- Total allocations for Free Schools in 2012-13 have yet to be decided. Capital budgets will be partly dependent on the number of Free School proposals that are approved to open in 2012. The Department is currently assessing applications, and successful groups will be announced in the autumn.
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