Q&A: Free schools
The coalition government is encouraging parents and independent groups in England to set up their own schools - called free schools. The first 24 opened last September, 55 are opening this autumn and the government says a further 114 will open from 2013. The BBC News website examines key questions about free schools.
What is a free school?
Free schools are set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, religious or voluntary groups, but funded directly by central government.
They can be run by an "education provider" - an organisation or company brought in by the group setting up the school - but these firms are not allowed to make a profit.
The schools are established as academies, independent of local authorities and with increased control over their curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions, and the length of school terms and days.
How did they come into being?
Free schools were much talked about in the run-up to the general election in May 2010. They were the flagship policy of the then shadow education secretary, Michael Gove.
A month after he was appointed, he invited groups to submit their proposals for free schools.
Free schools were given approval in the Academies Act 2010, which also paved the way for existing state primary and secondary schools to become academies.
How many are there?
The first 24 free schools opened in September 2011.
The government says a further 55 will open this month and 114 have been approved for opening in 2013.
Bradford Science AcademySecondary school, taking 140 children a year. Led by Bradford-born teacher Sajid Hussain.
Rainbow Free School, BradfordPrimary school set up by the social enterprise body Asian Trade Link, with support from cricketer Imran Khan.
Batley Grammar School, KirkleesMixed private school returning to the state sector under the free schools programme.
Maharishi School, LancashireNon-selective independent school for ages 4 - 16. Teaches transcendental meditation and is transferring to the state sector.
Sandbach School, Cheshire EastBoys' secondary school which was technically independent, but fully-funded by Cheshire County Council and a local authority school.
Nishkam Free School, BirminghamPrimary school run by the Nishkam Education Trust "the first state-funded, Sikh ethos, multi-faith school in the Midlands".
Krishna Avanti Primary School, LeicesterHindu faith school run by the I-Foundation. Children will eat vegetarian meals and practice yoga and meditation.
Priors Free School, WarwickshireSmall private primary school with just 60 places, returning to the state sector.
The Free School, NorwichA primary school opening in a Georgian house which was previously used as offices.
Stour Valley Community School, SuffolkSecondary school set up after a campaign by parents, on the site of an existing middle school was facing closure.
Moorlands School, LutonAn independent prep school transferring to the state sector.
Langley Hall Primary Academy, SloughSet up by a husband and wife team, the school is "underpinned by Christian principles".
Bristol Free School, BristolParent-led secondary school, opening to Year 7 pupils in temporary buildings. An educational trust will run the school.
All Saints Junior School, ReadingSchool for 7 to 11 year olds, run by the educational trust CfBT. It will take up to 25 children, all in its youngest age group, each year.
Discovery New School, West SussexMontessori primary school with "a Christian character in the Anglican tradition".
Aldborough E-ACT Free School, RedbridgePrimary school run by a charitable trust set up by E-ACT
Eden Primary, Haringey, North LondonJewish primary school "independent of any synagogue authority" and open to all members of the Jewish community.
Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, Mill Hill, LondonJewish primary with "very strong link with the local community and Mill Hill United Synagogue". Space for 28 children in reception.
Ark Atwood Primary Academy, WestminsterPrimary school run by the education charity Ark.
Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, Edmonton, London"Sister school" to a nearby over-subscribed primary, Cuckoo Hall Academy. Will eventually have 420 pupils.
West London Free School, Hammersmith, LondonMixed, non-selective secondary taking 120 pupils a year, set up by a parents' group led by writer Toby Young, as a "grammar school for all".
Ark Conway Primary Academy, Hammersmith & FulhamOne-form entry school set up by the Ark education charity.
Canary Wharf College, Tower HamletsChristian school with an average class size of 20. Open for children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2.
St Luke's Church of England Primary School, Camden, north LondonParent- and church-led, set up in a church hall, with places for those living closest to the school.
What sorts of groups have applied to set up free schools?
In the first round, there were 323 applications; 115 were from faith groups. Chains behind academies also came forward to set up schools. Applicants included the journalist Toby Young, who went on to set up the West London Free School, which opened last September and Katharine Birbalsingh, the teacher who strongly criticised the state education system at the Conservative party conference in 2010.
What do groups have to do to set up a free school?
They must submit a full business case, rather than a broad-brush plan as originally required.
Officials say this requires detailed answers to questions about parental demand, the type of education the school will provide, its ethos and the capacity and capability of the groups themselves.
These business cases are then judged against other free school proposals and scored for strengths and weaknesses.
Short-listed applicants are called for an interview to discuss their proposal.
What money is available for free schools?
Free schools will receive no additional money per pupil for their day to day running. Funding is worked out on a per pupil basis, like other schools.
A total of £50m - taken out of an axed technology fund for schools - was initially allocated for free schools for the first year of the policy, up to April 2011. And in November 2011, the government announced it had ear-marked an extra £600m on building 100 new free schools in England over the next three years.
The Department for Education said last year that the first 24 schools would cost a total of £110-130m, but many of these were opened in temporary buildings and details of the cost of acquiring many buildings have not been revealed so the cost of permanent accommodation is not clear. Cost vary widely, depending on the size, location and circumstances of the school.
Do free schools exist in other countries?
Similar schools exist in the United States and in Sweden. In these countries, non-profit - as well as profit-making groups - can set up schools funded by the government, but free from its control. These schools are called Charter Schools in the US.
Where are free schools being housed?
Free schools do not need to acquire a site before they apply to become a free school, but they should at least identify one possible site. This may be a disused school site, an old library, church buildings or former local authority buildings.
Several are in renovated listed buildings.
In the United States, some free schools are housed in the buildings of schools which have surplus places. The BBC understands this could be happen for one free school being planned in England.
How will free schools be regulated?
They will be subject to inspections by England's schools watchdog, Ofsted, just as other schools are.
Their Sats (primary national curriculum tests), GCSE and A-level results will be published in league tables in the same way as those of other state schools.
What are the admissions criteria?
Free schools are expected to operate an inclusive, fair and transparent admissions policy. They cannot be academically selective, and take part in their locally co-ordinated admissions process, so parents apply for a place for their child in the same way as for other maintained schools.
If a faith-based free school is undersubscribed, every child who has applied must be admitted, whether they are a faith or non-faith applicant. If it is oversubscribed, its oversubscription criteria must allow for 50% of places to be allocated to children without reference to faith.
Free schools are expected to abide by the Admissions Code, which applies to all state schools in England, with the exception that the government has said the children of free school founders should be able to get a place at the school automatically.
Under their funding agreements (the contract signed between the education secretary and those setting up the school), free schools must "use their best endeavours" to meet any special needs of pupils, while disability legislation requires them to make "reasonable adjustments" to provide for disabled students.
What do critics say?
The government says the free schools programme gives parents and teachers the chance to create a new school if they are unhappy with state schools in a local area, and that competition will drive up standards.
But critics - including the Labour party and several teachers' unions - say they will prove divisive, are likely to be centred disproportionately in middle-class neighbourhoods, to weaken already weak schools by attracting the best performing pupils, and will contribute to creating a two-tier system.
There are also fears the changes will give too much freedom to faith-based schools or fundamentalist agendas - although schools must show their curriculum is "broad and balanced" and government guidelines say creationism must not be taught as a valid scientific theory.
And some critics are angered by the funding and administrative time going into what they consider to be a "pet project" promoted by the education secretary, which looks likely to benefit relatively few children at a time of spending cuts in education and youth services.
Teachers' unions are also critical of the fact that free schools do not have to employ qualified teachers.
Meanwhile, others say Mr Gove has missed an opportunity by not allowing free schools to be run for profit.