Teachers lead a third of groups seeking to run Tories' free schools

30th April 2010 at 01:00
New Schools Network sees surge of interest - including Teach First alumni - after unions snub party's invitation to participate

More than one-third of the groups interested in running the "free schools" advocated by the Conservatives are led by teachers, figures from the charity supporting the initiative reveal.

About 170 out of 450 expressions of interest made to the New Schools Network have come from teachers or groups of teachers, according to its director, Rachel Wolf.

There is also substantial interest from alumni of Teach First and other schemes enticing top graduates into education, such as Future Leaders and Teaching Leaders, Ms Wolf said.

The interest from teachers follows the rejection by teaching unions of an invitation from the Conservatives to run schools.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove has called on unions to run free schools - or, as the Tories call them, "new academies" - after being inspired by examples in the US, where unions are involved in the charter school movement.

"We want teachers to have the biggest possible role in shaping state education for the better," Mr Gove said.

"A Conservative government would give them the chance to put it right directly by setting up their own schools as President Obama has encouraged."

One example is Green Dot Charter in the south Bronx, New York. It was established in a partnership between a charter school operator and the United Federation of Teachers, which represents the majority of the city's teachers.

Ms Wolf said: "We would like to see any organisation, including unions, who can submit a good application, offer an education parents want, and raise attainment for children - particularly those from deprived backgrounds - to set up new schools."

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, dismissed Mr Gove's comments as a "fallacious and mischievous challenge".

She accused him of attempting to "distract attention away from the faultlines in his policies" by asking unions to become involved.

Dr Bousted's rejection echoes that of Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, who also turned down the offer. At her union's conference earlier this month, she called the plans a policy for the "pushy and privileged".

Similarly, the NUT has said that the autonomy of the proposed schools "destroys local accountability".

At its recent annual conference, it was claimed that the Tory plans would take education "back to the 19th century" by fragmenting provision and relying on private business, rich benefactors and the church.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Tory proposals would create a "cornershop" education system consisting of thousands of autonomous schools. He warned against a "false belief" that the market could improve standards.

See feature, pages 24-25


Free school facts

The Tories plan to open new schools run by various organisations, including charities, faith groups and parents.

Based on Swedish and American education, the party claims the model responds to parental demand; it has vowed to fund surplus places.

Free schools would be given freedom from the national curriculum and national pay and conditions for teachers.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today