Next free-school wave to target 'underperforming areas'

DfE announces that applications for wave 14 of the controversial free-school programme will open in the spring

Damian Hinds: Call for more free schools

The Department for Education has promised that “thousands of good school places” will be created in the areas that most need them in the latest wave of the free-school programme.

Areas with the lowest educational standards and a need for more good school places will be targeted in wave 14 of the programme, the DfE said today.

The department made a similar pledge last year on the previous wave of free schools, which it said would be focused on areas where they are most needed – including in disadvantaged areas. 

The DfE published a list of free-school applications it received for wave 13 but this does not say which have been approved to the pre-opening stage.

The free-school programme has been a flagship government policy since 2010, but has proved controversial, and Labour has pledged to scrap it.

Now, the DfE is inviting bids for wave 14.

The application window for wave 14 will open in Spring 2019. The deadline for submitting applications will be 30 September 2019.

Education secretary Damian Hinds today called on “even more multi-academy trusts, businesses, charities, universities, teachers, parents or faith groups” to open new schools.

He said: “Free schools have helped to raise standards for pupils in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country by handing power back to head teachers and school leaders and empowering communities.

"Many parts of the country have already taken advantage of the free-school programme – and have reaped the benefits - but I now want more young people benefit from a great free school opening in their area."

It follows his call earlier this week for more faith schools to convert to academy status.

The DfE said that four of the top ten Progress 8 scores at any state-funded school were achieved by free schools: Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford, Eden Girls’ School in Coventry, William Perkin Church of England High School in Ealing and Tauheedul Islamic Boys’ School in Blackburn.

However, the cost of free-school sites has come under attack by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, and a number of free schools have closed.

The announcement of the latest wave of free schools has been welcomed by the New Schools Network, a charity which supports the creation of free schools.

A spokesperson said: “The [free school] programme is going from strength to strength, and we look forward to working with all types of groups over the coming months. We are immediately launching our development programme to offer intensive support to free school groups, and would suggest anyone interested in opening a school gets in touch.”

 

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