What are Free Schools?
Free Schools are new independent state-funded schools. Drawing on the experience of new school programmes in Sweden and the US, they enable groups of parents, teachers, charities or other organisations to respond to a need for a new school in their community – whether for extra places, to raise standards or offer choice.
There are currently 174 open Free Schools in England, with another 116 approved to open in 2014 or 2015. They are now located in every region of the country and once full, all open and approved Free Schools will provide 130,000 new places.
Why Free Schools?
Once open, Free Schools are legally academies so are funded by central Government and have a range of freedoms in what they can do including choosing what curricula to teach, varying teachers pay and conditions or varying the lengthy of the school day. They are open to all and are not allowed to select students by ability.
Free Schools are only allowed to open if there is strong support from parents in their community and they are proving popular: the Free Schools that opened in September 2012 reported an average of three applicants per place for entry in September 2013.
75% of Free Schools that opened in 2011 (the only year that has been assessed so far) were judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ under the new tougher Ofsted Framework. This compares to 64% of maintained schools inspected in the same period that achieved the same.
Read our data briefing to get a full picture of what Free Schools have achieved so far.
How are Free Schools set-up?
To set up a Free School you have to submit an application to the Department for Education (DfE). The process is not easy – you will need a team with a range of skills who are willing to put in a lot of unpaid time. But it is achievable – we have helped over 200 schools get approved in the last three years.