Newham Free Academy school plans collapse

Child with hand up Free schools are semi-independent state-funded schools

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Plans for a free school in east London have collapsed weeks before it was due to open because there was too little demand from parents.

The Newham Free Academy, a mixed secondary school, was preparing to open in east London in September.

But the school has now been withdrawn from the free schools programme.

The Department for Education (DFE) confirmed: "Newham Free Academy unfortunately did not progress sufficiently for it to proceed."

Free schools - semi-independent state-funded schools - are meant to prove evidence of parental demand before winning approval to set up.

The group behind the proposed academy described itself as an "ordinary group of people, parents and families who wish to open a new secondary school in Newham".

Newham Free Academy is yet to comment on the collapse of its proposal.

FREE SCHOOLS - KEY FACTS

  • Like academies, but set up by groups
  • Like academies, they are "semi-independent state schools"
  • Funded by the tax-payer
  • Not in council control
  • Like academies, heads have more control over the curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions, term dates and the school day
  • Coalition hotspot: Lib Dems are against free schools

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "There are real concerns about the quality control being exercised on free schools."

"If there is no demand from parents, why is the government wasting money on pet projects when they should be addressing the crisis in primary school places?

"At a time when education funding is being cut by the biggest amount since the 1950s, the government must explain how much money has been spent on failed projects like these."

A DFE spokesman said: "All free school applications go through an extremely rigorous process before being approved.

"Setting up a free school is not an easy task; securing a site can be particularly difficult and all groups deserve credit for the hard work that they put in at every stage of the process."

The DFE confirmed two new free schools - School 21 and the London Academy of Excellence - will be opening in Newham in September.

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