When a handful of free schools posted their GCSE results last year, they were less than impressive, but early signs this time around suggest that some have performed significantly better.
This year brings the first tranche of results from free schools which have educated their pupils throughout their secondary school career.
The schools were under intense scrutiny as they were the pioneers of the controversial pet policy of former education secretary Michael Gove.
Last year, one school, the Robert Owen Academy in Hereford, had just one pupil who gained at least five A* to C grades including English and maths.
But early indications show that it could be a different story this year. Among those receiving their results was the West London Free School, which was established by the journalist Toby Young (pictured above with former London mayor Boris Johnson). The writer became the poster boy of the free school movement back in 2010.
Today, the school said that 76 per cent of pupils gained at least five A* to C grades including English and maths.
'Better than most private schools'
Mr Young described his free school as a “grammar school for all”, and he claimed the results placed it higher than the “vast majority of independent schools”.
“I’m over the moon,” Mr Young said. “The pupils and staff have done us all proud. I’m particularly impressed by the fact that 37 per cent of all our results were either A*s or As.”
Dixons Kings Academy in Bradford, formerly known as the Kings Science Academy, also scored above average with its first set of results. The figures showed that 67 per cent of pupils gained at least five A* to C grades, which is well above last year's national average of 56.1 per cent.
It is a notable achievement for the school, given that it has gone through a very troubled period. Earlier this summer the school’s founder and two other members of staff were convicted of fraud, while a member of staff was stabbed by a student last year.
But perhaps the stand-out achievement from the first wave of free schools was by Tauheedul Islam Boys' High School in Blackburn. This year, 95 per cent of pupils at the faith school achieved at least five A* to C grades including English and maths.
The school even had 72 per cent of its pupils securing the English Baccalaureate, the suite of traditional academic subjects.
The Bedford Free School, which was also in the first wave of schools to be approved back in 2010, posted its second set of GCSE results today and it enjoyed a marked improvement on last year. Overall, 66 per cent of pupils gained the five A* to C measure, up from 57 per cent in 2015.
Meanwhile, King Solomon Academy in central London, whose GCSE results last year placed it among the top-performing schools in the country, refused to publish its five A* to C benchmark this year.
In 2015, 95 per cent of pupils gained at least five A* to C grades including English and maths, but principal Max Haimendorf declined to provide this year's figure due to the changes in how GCSEs are being reported this year.
Among the institutions that scored poorly last year were a handful in Suffolk, including the Beccles Free School, IES Breckland and the Saxmundham Free School, where 39 per cent, 40 per cent and 28 per cent of pupils respectively achieved the five "good" GCSEs benchmark.
TES was expecting to hear later today how well these schools had fared this year.