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the black hole of school places to be plugged by free schools?

6 September 2018

The deficit in school places is worsening and schools and families face uncertainty of pupil places. The baby-boom cohort is now school age and places are desperately needed. In order to try and encourage new schools and therefore new places, the government has made available a significant pot of money to councils to build new schools and create new places. The councils identified are those with significant need.

Where a council has need of a new school, they must seek to open a free school in the first instance. This ‘free school presumption’ process is the main route by which local authorities establish new schools to meet the need for additional places. This aims to solve basic need and offer diverse provision for parents. All types of schools can be delivered under the free school presumption. There is a significant process to be undertaken and councils will have much work to do with the local education community. The deadlines are short and the grant pot will no doubt attract much attention, as the funding can assist with new ‘presumption school’ construction or land costs.

Schools or academies in the target areas thinking about expanding or new MAT groups forming should take an active role in the consultation as any new school can impact on local provision. Being involved in these discussions at the outset can help all schools in the area shape the educational landscape. This enables the leadership team to focus and ensure their school plans are fit for purpose.

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