David Cameron has vowed he “will not waver” from his commitment to open hundreds more free schools over the next five years.
The prime minister reiterated his pre-election pledge to open 500 more of the schools over the course of this Parliament, despite the earliest such schools posting a disappointing set of GCSE results last month.
As TES revealed last week, at the Robert Owen Academy, a free school in Hereford, just one pupil achieved the government’s basic benchmark of five good GCSEs including English and maths.
This news came as three other free schools in Suffolk failed to better the government’s “floor standard” of 40 per cent of students hitting the benchmark.
But Mr Cameron has stated that he remains committed to his promise of creating 270,000 new school places, adding that two waves of free schools will be announced every year until 2020 in a bid to achieve the goal.
Speaking on the same day that 18 new projects were given the green light to open, the prime minister said free schools were a “crucial part” of his government’s aim to give every child “the very best education”.
“The aim of this policy is crystal clear – to increase the number of good and outstanding school places so that more parents have the security of knowing their child is getting a great education,” he said.
Over the coming days, 52 new free schools will open their doors for the first time at the start of the new school year, bringing the total number of in operation to 304.
Since 2010, more than 236,000 new school places have been created and education secretary Nicky Morgan has called for more groups to step forward and apply to open a free school.
“The free schools programme has sent out the message loud and clear, that parents should never have to settle for anything less than the best for their child,” Ms Morgan said. “We know that free schools don’t just give parents greater choice, they also force existing schools to up their game. Today’s news sends a clear message that we are committed to extending this unprecedented level of choice to more parents than ever before.”
The three Suffolk free schools – IES Breckland, Beccles Free School and Saxmundham Free School – managed to help just 40 per cent, 39 per cent and 28 per cent of their students, respectively, to hit the basic GCSE benchmark.
The 18 new free schools:
Rugby Free Secondary School, Rugby, Warwickshire
Rugby Free Secondary School will be opening in the town in September 2016. The new, mixed, comprehensive secondary will provide 1,260 much-needed school places for 11- to 19-year-olds.
John Donne Primary Free School, Peckham, London
Proposed by the over-subscribed John Donne Primary School (JDPS), this will open in 2017 and build on the ongoing success of JDPS. It will provide additional school places for almost 500 children, including a 60-place nursery.
Catch22 Northamptonshire Academy, Northampton
The Catch22 Northamptonshire Academy will be a new alternative provision school for four- to 16-year-olds in Northampton. Opening in 2016, the new school will provide 100 places for children who are struggling in a mainstream setting. The school will be led by the Catch22 Multi-Academy Trust, an established provider of alternative provision that already runs four schools in Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Buckinghamshire and Bristol.
Corby Free Special School, Corby, Northamptonshire
The Corby Free Special School will address the need for more special school places in Corby, where parents and their children often have to travel significant distances to access a suitable education.
The Swan School, Oxford
An 880-student secondary school opening in 2017 set up by nearby Cherwell School, a National Teaching School. The school is supported by Oxford City Council.
Piper Hill Vocational Learning Free School, Wythenshawe, Cheshire
The Piper Hill Vocational Learning Free School, established by existing sponsor the Piper Hill Learning Trust, will provide 25 much needed places for 11- to 19-year-olds with severe learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorder in 2016.
Bury St Edmunds Technical Academy, Suffolk
Opening in 2017, the school will be led by the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust, which runs Bury St Edmunds County Upper School. The new school will focus on science and engineering and provide pupils with work placements and work-based projects through the trust’s partnerships with a range of local employers.
Saint Anne's High School for Girls, Luton, Bedfordshire
Proposed by a group of local teachers, the all-girls school will open in 2017 and focus on teaching Stem subjects (sciences, technology, engineering and maths). The school will provide 750 places.
XP East, Doncaster, South Yorkshire
The XP Schools Trust will open their second secondary school, XP East, in September 2017. The 350-place school will be based on certain charter schools in the US which teach subjects through project-based learning.
Solihull Alternative Provision Academy, Solihull, West Midlands
A group of headteachers in Solihull have united to establish the Solihull Alternative Provision Academy. This new school will open in 2017 with places for 90 pupils.
Lime Tree High School, Reigate, Surrey
Opening in 2017, Lime Tree High School will provide 900 places in Reigate and will be sponsored by local multi-academy trust GLF Schools.
CAPA College, Leeds, Yorkshire
CAPA College, which will open its doors in 2017, will be a specialist performing arts college based in Leeds. It will be led by the Wakefield Diocesan Academies Trust behind CAPA sixth form in Wakefield.
Gipsy Hill Secondary School, South London
Opening in 2017, the 1,600-student school will base the way it teaches on the classical "trivium" – a system of thinking developed as far back as Ancient Greece that considers logic, grammar and rhetoric to be the foundations of learning.
MacIntyre Special Free School, Rugby, Warwickshire
MacIntyre Special Free School will open in Rugby in September 2017. It will be a special school providing 80 places for children and young people between the ages of 9 and 19.
The Bridge AP Free School, Medway, Kent
The Bridge AP Free School will open in 2017, offering a personalised curriculum for 40 five- to 11-year-olds with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in Medway.
Norton Hill Primary School, Midsomer Norton, Somerset
Norton Hill Primary School will provide 420 places for four- to 11-year-olds in Midsomer Norton, opening in 2017.
Herts International Christian School, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
Specialising in Spanish, the school will have an Christian ethos and will open in 2017 for up to 630 four- to 11-year-olds in Welwyn Garden City.
Yavneh Primary School, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
The Jewish faith school will provide 420 places in Borehamwood. The new free school will be set up by the Yavneh College Academy Trust.