Free school rules change as more applications approved


Anti-free school campaigners have issued a warning after the government changed its rules to allow groups to submit proposals up to three times each year.

The change means that groups who see their applications rejected by the Department for Education can reapply much more quickly to open a new state-funded free school.

It comes as applications for 10 more free schools have been approved, including eight mainstream schools, a 6th form and an alternative provision school. There are currently 174 of the schools open and 115 in the pipeline.

Elsewhere, another five studio schools and six university technical colleges (UTCs) have also been given the green light.

Announcing the changes to the applications procedures, the Department for Education said: “Due to the popularity of free schools, the Department for Education has changed the application process to allow parents and other groups three opportunities per year to submit proposals compared to just one previously. 

“Not only does this provide flexibility to proposers to submit their application at the time that suits them best, it also means the government can consider applications throughout the year.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the free schools programme was “inefficient and hugely costly”, adding that it will be some time before the schools are operating at full capacity meaning many are educating only very small numbers of children.

She continued: “It would appear that Michael Gove is now allowing free school sponsors to just keep trying until they get their application right.

“What is needed is for local authorities to be restored the powers they need to open new community schools in areas of greatest need and for the government to provide the funding to enable them to do so.”

Four of the new free school proposals are from parent and community groups while seven are from teachers and existing schools, including two from the Harris Federation. 

Meanwhile, there are now 50 UTCs and 46 studio schools open or in development. UTCs are academies for 14 to 19-year-olds which focus on delivering technical education while studio schools offer alternative provision for 14 to 19-year-olds.

Among the new UTCs given approval, Bolton University Technical College will specialise in health sciences and engineering technologies, Greater Peterborough UTC will focus on environmentally sustainable manufacturing, engineering and the built environment, and the Sir Simon Milton UTC in Westminster will focus on transport, engineering and construction.


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