Exclusive: 'Unseemly rush' means third of free schools are on temporary sites

Government figures reveal 110 free schools are using temporary accommodation, prompting concerns from unions

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Nearly a third of free schools are operating from interim sites, new figures reveal, leading to concerns about the high number of children being taught in temporary classrooms.

There are 110 free schools currently using temporary accommodation for their lessons, according to Parliamentary figures released last week. This amounts to nearly a third of the 344 free schools listed on the Department for Education’s website as being open.

A TES analysis of the Ofsted reports that must be completed before free schools open also reveals that a significant number have been in temporary accommodation for at least two years longer than planned.

The high number of free schools yet to find or move into a permanent home has come to light as the government presses on with a target to open 500 by 2020.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, warned of the effects of running lessons in buildings that had not been designed to function as schools.

“We have concerns about whether temporary accommodation would provide access for disabled children and staff, [and] whether they are up to standard for school facilities – for example, ventilation or heating,” Dr Bousted said.

Other concerns included whether there would be “sufficient toilets and separate toilets for staff and children… outside space for children to play and exercise, [and] facilities for science labs [and rooms] suitable for music lessons”, she added.

The number of free schools in temporary accommodation is revealed in a Parliamentary answer by children’s minister Edward Timpson.

He writes: “The department ensures that all temporary accommodation is safe and suitable for educational purposes.

“Opening free schools in temporary accommodation has ensured that we have been able to meet a need for places and support free school trusts to open much-needed new schools at the earliest opportunity.”

But Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The number of free schools in temporary accommodation shows that they are being set up in an unseemly rush, with little thought or proper planning.”

This is an edited article from the 4 November edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article hereThis week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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