Free schools: 24 set to open in September

Kings House, site of the new free school The Free School Norwich will be based in a former office building

A total of 24 new free schools set up by parents, faith groups and others will open in England next month.

The state-funded but semi-independent schools have mostly been created in the 15 months since the coalition came to power.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says the schools will drive up standards, especially in poorer areas.

But critics say they will take resources and pupils from other schools and lead to less local accountability.

The schools will open in church halls, listed buildings and temporary classrooms, as well as in former office blocks and libraries which are being refurbished.

The free schools programme was one of the Conservatives' flagship policies in the last election.

About half of the schools opening next month only signed their final contracts with the government in the past few weeks, although their plans and works were advanced and children had been recruited.

There had been applications from 323 groups.

A total of 17 of the new schools are primaries, five are secondaries and two are "all-age" schools.

Eight are in London, with eight more in other parts of southern England, three in the midlands and five in the north.

Some of the schools are being set up by academy trusts or chains - groups which are already behind several academies in England.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote Michael Gove Education Secretary

Academies are similar to free schools in that they are also funded directly from central government (as all state schools will be under planned changes), sit outside local authority control and have more control over the pay and conditions of staff than other schools.

The government says half of the new free schools are in deprived areas. Some critics of the free schools programme have claimed they will be set up and used mainly by the middle classes.

Mr 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.

"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."

The government has also given details of the amount of money it expects to spend in capital costs, on buildings for the first 24 free schools.

It says current estimates put this at between £110m and £130m.

Originally it had set aside £50m in capital funding, when the policy was announced. It says that amount was for free schools in 2010-11.

Many of the schools will start up in temporary accommodation, both on and off their permanent sites.

There are shortages of primary school places in London and the Midlands and the government hopes these new schools will help ease that problem.

'Reckless experiment'

Strong opposition to the new free schools has come from some Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, as well as the teaching unions, who say they will take resources and pupils from other schools and destabilise the system.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, describes the free schools programme as a "reckless experiment with the future of children and young people".

"There is no evidence that the free school model raises standards but there is evidence from abroad, especially Sweden, where there are huge concerns," she said.

"Free schools have been selective and socially divisive - and there is no evidence they have raised standards."

The government says the US Charter schools movement is closer to its free school programme and that in Chicago and New York, Charter schools have helped close the achievement gap between rich and poor students.

More applications for free schools are in the pipeline.

The schools opening in September 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

Etz Chaim Primary School Barnet

The Free School, Norwich Norfolk

Krishna-Avanti Primary School Leicester

Langley Hall Primary Academy Slough

Maharishi School, Lathom Lancashire

Moorlands School Luton

Nishkam Free School Birmingham

Priors Free School Warwickshire

Rainbow Free School Bradford

Sandbach School Cheshire

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


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  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    I have two children both just finnished secondary education one at University. Both are literate and numerate, both have Employment one full time, this despite living in a so called deprived area. Just thought I'd point it out to all Mail, Telegraph and Express readers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    It happens with the NHS, Education. Fiddle, fiddle, tinker, tinker just like a weekend DIY mechanic. Free Schools that fail will mean the Tories won't take any blame & direct funding means that it can be withdrawn at any moment without explanation. So what do you think will happen with struggling Free Schools?
    Whoever is in power always wants to undermine previous governments achievements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Selection by the front door this time. Wrong prescription and misguided waste of money. What sort of education are the kids getting- some 'force them to learn Latin' hobby horse curriculum taught in an outhouse. Another ultra right wing solution that our out of touch, sociopathic cabinet have chosen to drag us back into the eighteenth century!

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    (cont)Yes, there's some good teachers, but here it was very few. Among other things, I was accused multiple times of being a satan worshipper by school official, (am athiest actually) and having weapons. And someone tried to set me on fire. if I had been any of what they claimed there would have been hell to pay. My only crime was being different. And then I was threatened to not defend myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.


    Nobody should disagree with more individualism in Education schools offering differant slants on education, the problem is enforced ideologue.
    which despite the marketing to the contary this is exactly what this is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    114 So what is the point of the still centralised free schools?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.


    Well first of all I've seen no accurate figures about who is faking it or not and I'm sure if those parents were as ideologically opposed as you were, they would CHOOSE to go to a different school as you haven't answered why they shouldn't have a choice
    I don't see why in a secular state a religious organisation cannot receive state funds provided state criteria are met

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    The one positive for some at least is that those who think they can do better can put "our" money where their mouth is. In the meantime children in the mainstream are starved of funding, again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    As one who went to a Commercial school which trained us for a life in business I hope the new schools will also train those who want it for a non accademic future. Incidentally my school Brockley Central was run by the then London County Council. Why the Attlee Government did not allow these and the Technical schools to continue has always puzzled me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    If it's anything like the 'free' schools in the US, then I have little hope for these. I really hope the case is not similar to the US as the ease of and amount of abuse in schools, is shocking. Take a kid who is different, and you're guaranteed they're abused by other kids. That's free harassment, but nothing positive. In the end, most of what I know I know is from personally wanting to learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Why is it that the RIGHT always deems a radical change to education, will always improve, dispite contoray evidence from Sweden where they have already tried it.
    If all children where privatly Educated we wouldn't have any problems.
    But a proportion of the RIGHT would call this mediocrity

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Education became a political target/football under the late
    Sir Keith Joseph

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Most people are being very negative.

    I have worked for a person who is opening up a free schools in September and I wouldn't have any issues about sending my children to the school (if we lived near enough) and I am 100% certain this will be a fantastically successful school. They are extremely experienced educators with passion and creativity. Tax payers money is not 'wasted' at all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I still don't understand this.

    The government removes all village schools and such, condemns all town/city schools, then promotes the setting up of private cum state sponsored schools?

    What in any parents mind gives them confidence to send their children to a school with no proven track record?

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    @Abdi.#112. One of many reasons to object to faith schools is that MANY parents have to pretend to be religious in order to get their kids into the nearest state school (e.g. unwanted baptisms, temporary church attendance etc). Opposition for this reason alone (plus many others) is therefore not 'bizarre'. Post #106 explains it succinctly and eloquently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    109 wrote
    All the criticism aimed at 'Religion' and the 'Tories' is typical of the way that rational debate has been hijacked by both left and right wing nutters. Taxpayers should have the right to decide the best way to spend their money.

    So when taxpayers want the education budget spent on state schools instead of stealing it for the elite free schools, you call them looney.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    As far as I'm concerned, the key point in the downward spiral of standards in education in this country came with the imposition of the "new maths". Political fiddling with the education system has done nothing to improve it and only made the slope more slippery. No party bias; they're all the same. It is always "listen to the experts" unless the experts don't agree with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Stop reducing the debate to one of lefty centralists and pro choice individualists. Has anyone read the government's education white paper? Has anyone seen the government requirements for setting up a free school? They are answerable directly to the government, are subject to existing standardised tests and must demonstrate how they will meet specified standards. How is this less centralised?

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    These schools are no more free than the vast majority of schools are. They should be described as 'free schools' or 'free' schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I find it bizare all the opposition to faith schools - which is probably the subject of undeserved attention - if you don't like them then don't send your children there. Simple choice.

    If you object as a taxpayer I can understand, maybe every taxpayer should have the choice as to what type of school their taxes can go towards funding. Some people might be in for a rude awakening.


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