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DfE creates over 80,000 new free school places

Justine Greening announces the biggest wave of free school approvals this Parliament

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 20, 2016 | People, policy, politics

Thousands of new free school places have been announced by Education Secretary Justine Greening, helping the government towards its target of opening 500 new free schools by 2020.

The projects approved include a parent-led special school for children with autism and a secondary school launched by the rugby Premiership champions and European Cup winners, Saracens. 

Education Secretary, Justine Greening, said: “Our country needs more good school places for children. This next wave of free schools means more options for parents so they can choose a place that really works for their child’s talents and needs.”‎

New school approvals include:

  • Cumbria Academy for Autism - a new special school - led by a group of local parents of autistic children. It will have a strong focus on the development of life and vocational skills alongside academic learning
  • The Saracens High School - a new secondary school for Barnet in London - is the result of a unique and innovative partnership between rugby Premiership and European Cup winners, Saracens, and Ashmole Academy, an Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ secondary school.
  • The REAch2 Academy Trust - the largest primary-only academy trust in the country - is set to open a further 22 primary schools providing over 10,000 additional primary places by 2020, and strengthening the trust’s family of schools across the Midlands and the south and East of England. This includes their first alternative provision school for children who have been excluded from mainstream school in Lowestoft
  • The Harris Federation will open three new secondaries and a primary school. They include a secondary school in Sutton  with a science specialism and work alongside the London Cancer Hub, a world-leading life-science campus.

Nigel Wray, Chairman, Saracens Rugby Club, said: “What a marvellous opportunity we have been given! At the Saracens High School we will combine our sporting beliefs to create a unique school environment where every individual student matters, academic achievement is important and a real emphasis is placed on teamwork and the creation of great memories. The hard work starts from this point.” 

Sir Steve Lancashire, Chief Executive Officer of REAch2 Academy Trust, said: “We are delighted to be given the green light for 22 new free schools, which we will open over the next few years. Free schools and academies are making a huge difference to the quality of education right across the country and we very much look forward to establishing these new schools so that we can offer exceptional opportunities for learning to even more children.” 

Greening also confirmed that 56 new schools opened their doors for the first time this month, including 42 new free schools, 11 new university technical colleges and 3 studio schools. When full, these schools will provide around 35,000 more school places. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Free schools can add much needed capacity, and are increasingly run by established school groups, but where they set up can be a random combination of desire and drive, rather than a strategic plan to create school places exactly where they are needed. Free schools at best deliver extra capacity in particular areas, which is not the same as a coordinated and measured approach to place planning. As a result a quarter of open free schools are not in areas of basic need and over half are serving more advantaged communities. This is not an ideal allocation of scarce resources. 

“We have continually stressed the need for local oversight over school places. The government has neglected strategic oversight in one of the most basic areas - creating enough school places for local children. 

“The government’s new proposals for grammar schools may also allow these new schools to select by ability in the near future, actually narrowing parent choice in the long run. This focus on selection is a huge distraction from the basics of education, including providing enough school places.”      

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