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Cameron announces eighteen new free schools

Prime Minister is launching further new schools to combat school places crisis and meet target of 500 in five years

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 02, 2015 | People, policy, politics

David Cameron has announced that 18 new free schools have been given the green light, as the government works towards its target of 500 over the next five years. 

To achieve this, two waves of schools will be announced every year up to 2020, with application deadlines in March and September. The latest application window to set up a free school opens on 28 September and runs until 7 October, with pre-application registration opening on 2 September. 

The pressure on existing school places is increasing, with the recent National Pupil Projections showing the number of pupils is likely to outstrip the number of available places until 2024. The 18 new schools are likely to provide an extra 9,000 places, bringing the total of school places provided by free schools to 236,000. 

Cameron told the BBC: 'The aim of this policy is crystal clear - to increase the number of good and outstanding school places so that more parents have the security of knowing their child is getting a great education.' 

Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said: “The free schools programme has sent out the message loud and clear, that parents should never have to settle for anything less than the best for their child. Right across the country, these innovative, community led schools are helping to fulfil our ‘one nation’ commitment to educational excellence for every child.

“We know that free schools don’t just give parents greater choice, they also force existing schools to up their game. Today’s news sends a clear message that we are committed to extending this unprecedented level of choice to more parents than ever before.” 

School leaders’ union, NAHT, says more planning is required to ensure schools are only created where places are needed most. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “Since 2011, the powers of local authorities in planning school places have been significantly reduced without an alternative system to take their place. We have a balkanised system with authorities, academies and central government taking decisions in isolation. 

“The government’s own figures show they are expecting that at least 200,000 more primary school places and 80,000 more secondary school places will be needed in the next five years. The Local Government Association puts the cost of creating all the necessary places over the next decade at £12 billion. 

“There is a desperate need for long-term planning that spans all sectors. With the massive increase in pupil numbers and over-stretched budgets, we cannot afford inefficiency and conflict. The government’s approach makes this problem worse.

“Until some agency at the local or regional level has the information and the authority to prioritise school places where they are most needed, parents and children will always be unsure that the system will give them what they want.”    

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