First 16 'free schools' details set out

Michael Gove on free school reform: "I hope it will restore faith in our battered qualifications system"

Details of the first 16 'free schools' to be set up under the coalition government have been given by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Half of the schools are in Conservative-run areas, seven are in Greater London and at least five are faith schools.

Mr Gove said the schools, which are state funded but outside of local authority control, had all been driven by demand from local people.

They could be open by September 2011.

Legislation to allow parents, charities and businesses to set up these schools was passed before Parliament broke up for the summer.

'Delighted'

But Labour MPs said the proposals were flawed and "rushed through", and several Lib Dem MPs expressed misgivings about its impact on existing schools.

Critics have claimed that niche schools, that are expensive to run, will spring up in wealthy areas and drain resources from existing schools.

Several schools on the list represent specific interest groups (full list below). There are two Jewish schools, one Sikh and one Hindu school.

Two primary schools, The Childcare Company, Slough, and a Montessori proposal - Discovery New School in West Sussex - are being promoted by childcare providers.

The Free School in Norwich is being set up by a group of parents and teachers, and includes proposals offering increased flexibility for working parents.

A village school run independently by a charity in Warwickshire has also got the green light.

The West London Free School, being promoted by a group of parents including the journalist Toby Young, has also won outline approval as has the group of parents pushing for Stour Valley Community School in Suffolk.

Mr Gove said: "I am delighted that so many promising proposals have come forward at such an early stage.

"I hope that many of the projects progressing today will become the first free schools in September 2011.

"This is a challenging timescale, and some groups may decide that it is preferable to open at a later date for practical reasons."

He added that each group would now be given support from the Department for Education.

'Demand meagre'

But final approval would only be given after officials had approved a final business case, he said.

On Sunday, Mr Gove defended the free schools policy, saying that the number of early applications had exceeded his hopes.

'Niche schools'

More than 700 groups had initially expressed interest in the idea and about 100 had actually applied.

Many of those interested in the scheme were teachers at existing schools in deprived areas who wanted to transform educational standards, he said.

Labour say demand for free schools - state funded institutions outside local authority control - is meagre and the government's priorities are wrong.

"It is laughable for Michael Gove to claim that just 16 free schools opening next year exceeds his expectations," shadow education secretary Ed Balls said.

"He has spent the last four months working on a plan for just a dozen schools, while cancelling hundreds of new schools and dashing the hopes of 700,000 children."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the Nasuwt teaching union, said the fact that low number suggested the public wanted good local schools run by democratically accountable local councils.

She added: "The Secretary of State suggests that he wants free schools to be engines of social mobility but in many cases the free schools announced so far will only fragment communities and lead to greater social segregation and separation."

On Sunday, Mr Gove said he wanted to introduce an "English baccalaureate" that would give recognition for students gaining good GCSEs in a broad range of subjects.

Those who got A* to C grades in a language, a science and a humanities discipline, like history or music, in addition to English and maths would qualify for the qualification.

Details will be given in an education white paper this autumn, but Mr Gove said it would focus on giving children a broader education and a "core body of knowledge".

The 16 free schools listed are:

  • Bedford and Kempston Free School, Bedford
  • The Childcare Company, Slough
  • Discovery New School, West Sussex
  • The Free School Norwich, Norfolk
  • Haringey Jewish Primary School, Haringey
  • I-Foundation Primary School, Leicester (Hindu)
  • King's Science Academy, Bradford
  • Mill Hill Jewish Primary School, Barnet
  • Nishkam Education Trust, Birmingham (Sikh)
  • North Westminster Free School (ARK), Westminster (ARK is an existing academy sponsor)
  • Priors Marston and Priors Hardwick School, Warwickshire
  • Rivendale Free School, Hammersmith and Fulham
  • St. Luke's School, Camden (Anglican)
  • Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk
  • West London Free School, Ealing or Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Wormholt North Hammersmith Free School (ARK), Hammersmith and Fulham (to be known as Burlington Primary Academy)

More on This Story

Academies and free schools

More UK stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.