Government accused of wasting £138m on closed free schools

The NUT says the money could have helped schools overset to lose income under the government’s planned funding overhaul
16th April 2017, 12:02am

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Government accused of wasting £138m on closed free schools

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The government has been accused of wasting more than £138.5 million of taxpayers’ money on new schools that have closed.

Research by the NUT teachers’ union found the government spent the money on 62 free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools which have either closed, partially closed or failed or open at all.

According to the union’s figures, Future Tech Studio School in Warrington, which is due to close in 2017, cost more than £9.5m.

Atherton Community School, a free school sixth form which opened in Wigan in 2012, cost over £6.7m and is set to close this August.

Nearly £15.7m was spent on opening Tottenham UTC, which will close this summer and is now set to become a sixth form free school in August 2017.

Royal Greenwich UTC, which is set to change to a secondary school in August, cost nearly £10.9m, and Daventry UTC, due to become a secondary school at the same time, cost more than £10.4m.

Kevin Courtney, the NUT’s general secretary, said the government’s free school, UTC and studio school programmes were “ill-thought policies which, in many cases, resulted in an appalling waste of significant sums of money”.

“That sums of this magnitude have been thrown away at a time when schools across the country are crying out for funding for staff, to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and to ensure essential resources and equipment are available, is criminal,” he said.

He claimed that wasted money could have provided nearly two fifths of the funding required to ensure that no school loses funding as a result of the government’s national funding formula.

Yesterday the NUT’s annual conference in Cardiff voted to call a one day regional strike in the summer term over school funding cuts.

Mr Courtney said there was an additional “human cost” in the “disruption” caused to the education of the pupils who attended schools which have closed.

He added that it was often local authorities who had to “pick up the pieces by finding alternative places for the displaced children”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “There are 1.8m more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and free schools

are playing a vital role in creating those good school places.

“They are popular with parents, ensuring thousands more families have the choice of a good local school.

“The construction costs of a newly-built free school are 29 per cent lower than those built under the previous school building programme.

“They also operate under a much more robust accountability system than council-run schools, meaning we can take swift action to deal with

under-performance and, as such, they are currently the highest performing group of non-selective schools.”

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