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Free schools – learning from past mistakes?

10 November 2014

The Schools Commissioner has admitted that consideration of free school proposals in the early days of the programme was not as robust as it could have been and that free schools may well have opened in areas which already had surplus places and could lead to free schools failing as they are unable to attract sufficient numbers of pupils. The Commissioner noted that 80% of free schools were now being opened in areas of basic need and that rigorous criteria were now applied to proposals to target new provision to those areas which required additional provision or where there was insufficient good or outstanding provision already. Critics of the programme have suggested that a more transparent system is required.

The free school programme’s aim was to provide a method by which new schools could be opened as a result of parental demand and to provide outstanding provision in areas of need. The robust criteria now being applied to proposals should go some way to meeting these aims but only time will tell how effective the programme has been in raising standards overall.

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