More than 100 new free schools to open in 2014

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Education secretary Michael Gove has approved 102 new free schools to open from next September, delivering around 50,000 new school places.

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Of the 102 free schools, 33 are primary schools, 11 are all-through schools, eight are special schools and 16 are alternative provision.

The majority of the schools (70) are being set-up by teachers, existing schools and educational organisations, while 32 are being set-up by parents, communities, charities and other groups.

More than half are in London (46) and the south-east (11). Thirteen of the schools are in the Midlands, nine in Yorkshire and the Humber and three in the south-west of England.

According to the Department for Education, the new schools will be based in areas of deprivation, or where there is a shortage of school places.

The new schools will add to the existing 81, with a further 109 free schools opening this September.

Among the 102 new free schools given the go ahead to open in 2014 are two schools run by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in Lambeth and Cheshire East for children aged four to 19. The NAS is to open its first free school in Reading this September.

Other new schools include The Family School in London, which will offer alternative provision for children with complex psychological, family and mental health problems, as well as The Seva School in Coventry, a co-educational Sikh school for four to 16-year-olds run by the Sevak Education Trust.

Labour’s shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan MP has criticised the Government for ‘ignoring the crisis in primary school places’.

He said, ‘David Cameron and Michael Gove should be delivering for children, but instead they’re ignoring the crisis in primary places and setting up new schools where there is already a surplus or school places. Only a third of these new schools will be primaries. Their damaging focus on their own pet projects is failing to put our children first.’

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said, ‘It is extraordinary that at a time when the shortage of primary school places amounts to nothing short of a national crisis that the Government is persisting with the folly of its free school policy. Less than a third of the approved free schools are primary schools; and the overwhelming majority – 45 per cent of the new schools – will be located in London, which by common agreement already boasts the best schools in the country.

‘NUT analysis shows that the DfE has already spent over £200 million of taxpayers’ money on free schools, of which almost £19 million has been spent on schools which are not yet open. Furthermore the union’s research has revealed that 20 per cent of the 145 mainstream free schools approved in Waves 2 and 3 of the programme are adding to significant excess capacity locally.’

She added, ‘The education secretary is clearly letting down parents by squandering resources on schools that nobody wants in places where they are not needed. At the same time, in many areas parents are facing rising class sizes and schools are seeing a return to portacabins in their playgrounds to cope with the unmet demand for primary places. It is time for the Government to change tack and allow local authorities to open new schools in areas where there is a genuine need for new places with adequate funding from central Government.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said, 'You couldn't make it up. At a time when the Government wants to save money and there's a huge shortage of primary places, Mr Gove approves a hundred new schools, most of them small and therefore costing more per pupil, and only a third are primaries. This is undoubtedly a triumph of ideology over logic or any thought about what's best for children.

'I have no doubt that many of the teachers behind these new schools have excellent ideas and could create superb schools. That is not the point. If they used their talents in areas where more school places are desperately needed, it would benefit more children and not waste taxpayers' money.'

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