Press release

24 free schools to open across England this month

A press notice on the 24 free schools opening in September 2011.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove visited Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy in Edmonton on 7 September 2011. This was the first official opening of a Free School by the Secretary of State.

Michael Gove visits Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy

The Government is increasing opportunity by announcing the opening of the first 24 Free Schools. They are central to the Government’s drive to raise school standards across the country.
Free Schools are funded by the Government but have greater freedoms than local authority-run schools. They are run by teachers - not local councils or Westminster politicians - and have freedom over the length of the school day, the curriculum and how they spend their money.

These schools are opening because of demand from parents for a new or different type of education. Free schools offer a genuine alternative. They offer smaller class sizes, longer hours and higher standards.

Of the first Free Schools:

  • 17 are primary schools, five are secondary schools and two are all-age schools.
  • Six are faith schools.
  • The schools are spread throughout England. They are primarily concentrated in areas of deprivation or areas where there is a need for school places (half of the 24 schools are located in the most deprived 30 per cent of communities in the country).
  • Five are set up by teachers, eight are set up by parent or community groups, five are set up by existing education providers, and one by an Academy. Five existing schools will also become Free Schools.
  • The first Free Schools will create more than 9,000 new state-funded school places.
  • 15 are in areas where there is basic need for school places.
  • In total, the first 24 Free Schools are expected to cost between £110m and £130m in capital, to build or renovate.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said

These schools offer smaller class sizes, tougher discipline, longer days and higher standards. They give parents more choice. And they force existing schools to raise their game.

Daniel Upfield, headteacher of ARK Atwood Primary Academy, Westminster, London. said

ARK Atwood will have the highest academic aspirations and a caring and family-oriented culture. We believe in the potential of every child who joins the academy and will strive to create a school which provides each pupil with the best possible start in life.

Ayub Ismail, co-founder of Rainbow Primary School, Bradford, said

The Rainbow Primary School would not be here without the support and dedication of parents, stakeholders and the wider community. Now, together, we can focus on transforming our children’s future, developing a truly inclusive, inspirational and dynamic primary school for everyone in Bradford.

Keith Haisman, lead proposer and Chair of Governors at Stour Valley Community School in Suffolk, said

We are delighted that Stour Valley Community School is welcoming 170 pupils when we open in September. As a community focused school in rural West Suffolk, we will be providing an outstanding education to local children, focused on core academic subjects, as well as arts and sports.

The Coalition Government recently announced radical plans to change the school Admissions Code to allow Free Schools and Academies to prioritise the most disadvantaged children (those eligible for Free School Meals) in their school admissions. With children eligible for Free School Meals attracting additional funding through the Coalition’s Pupil Premium - worth £430 per pupil this year - there will be even more incentive for these schools to attract those pupils most in need of the high-quality education they will offer.

Notes to editors

The freedoms that Free Schools and Academies have allow teachers to make decisions that are right for local children. International evidence shows that giving teachers and heads more freedom in the classroom helps to raise standards of education.

Charter schools in New York, which are similar to Free Schools, have been shown dramatically to close the gap separating inner-city neighbourhood students from those of the wealthiest suburbs - by 86 per cent in maths and 66 per cent in English. Hoxby, C.M., Murarka, S., and Kang, J (2009) How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement, The New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project 2009.

The Harlem Children’s Zone charters have closed the achievement gap between black and white pupils at both elementary and middle-school level. Fryer, G., and Dobbie, W (2009) Are high quality schools enough to close the achievement gap? Evidence from a bold social experiment in Harlem, Harvard University

Charter schools in Chicago close the achievement gap between disadvantaged inner-city public school students and middle-income students in suburban districts by half. This is despite the fact that these students entered the Charter Schools achieving lower scores on average than their public school peers. Hoxby and Rockoff (2004) ‘The Impact of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: A Study of Students Who Attend Schools Chartered by the Chicago Charter School Foundation’.

At home, schools with greater independence are also excelling. From 2009 to 2010, results in Academies increased by an average of 7.8 percentage points (proportion of pupils in Academies achieving five or more GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths) compared with the national average increase of 4.5 percentage points for all state schools.

City Technology Colleges (CTCs), the forerunner of the Academies programme, which have been up and running for over twenty years have helped children on Free Schools Meals achieve results at twice the rate of similar pupils nationally.

A recent Public Accounts Committee report on Academies found that they have achieved rapid academic improvements and raised aspirations in some of the most challenging schools in the most deprived areas of the country.

Groups that were successful in applying to open a Free School went through a robust process to make sure they were suitable and capable to run a school. They had to:

  • provide evidence of demand for a new local school
  • set out in detail the curriculum the school would offer, the type of teachers it would recruit, and how the school would run its pupil admissions to make sure they are fair
  • develop robust plans for how the school planned to run its finances (which then were scrutinised to make sure the school would be financially viable)
  • secure an appropriate site for the school that provided value for money for the taxpayer
  • be CRB checked and undergo in-depth vetting by the Department’s Preventing Extremism unit

Like other state-funded schools, Free Schools are inspected by Ofsted, will have their exam and test results published and will have to teach a broad curriculum. Action will be taken if results slip or if teaching is not up to scratch. Free Schools also have to abide by rules on admissions.

The schools opening this month are:

Project Location
ALDBOROUGH E-ACT FREE SCHOOL Redbridge
ALL SAINTS JUNIOR SCHOOL Reading
ARK CONWAY PRIMARY ACADEMY Hammersmith & Fulham
ARK ATWOOD PRIMARY ACADEMY Westminster
BATLEY GRAMMAR SCHOOL Batley, W Yorkshire
BRISTOL FREE SCHOOL Bristol
CANARY WHARF COLLEGE Tower Hamlets
DISCOVERY NEW SCHOOL West Sussex
EDEN PRIMARY SCHOOL Haringey
ETZ CHAIM PRIMARY SCHOOL Barnet
THE FREE SCHOOL, NORWICH Norwich, Norfolk
KINGS SCIENCE ACADEMY Bradford, W Yorkshire
KRISHNA-AVANTI PRIMARY SCHOOL Leicester
LANGLEY  HALL PRIMARY ACADEMY Slough, Berkshire
MAHARISHI SCHOOL Lancashire
MOORLANDS FREE SCHOOL Luton, Bedfordshire
NISHKAM FREE SCHOOL Handsworth, B'ham
PRIORS FREE SCHOOL Warwickshire
RAINBOW PRIMARY SCHOOL Bradford, W Yorkshire
SANDBACH SCHOOL Sandback, Cheshire
ST LUKE’S CHURCH OF ENGLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL Camden
STOUR VALLEY COMMUNITY SCHOOL Suffolk
WEST LONDON FREE SCHOOL Hammersmith & Fulham
WOODPECKER HALL PRIMARY ACADEMY Enfield

As well as 24 Free Schools, one UTC and four Studio Schools will also open this September. These schools will offer pupils aged between 14 and 19 the chance to integrate academic study with practical learning, studying core academic subjects alongside technical qualifications or employability skills. They are a key part of the Coalition Government’s drive to increase the educational options on offer and respond to demand from pupils, parents and employers. The Government has pledged to create 24 University Technical Colleges by 2014.

Black Country UTC will specialise in Engineering and Science. It is based in Walsall in the West Midlands and will serve 480 pupils when at full capacity. The UTC’s lead sponsor is Walsall College.

Stephenson Studio School in Coalville, Leicestershire, will serve 400 pupils when at full capacity. The school’s lead sponsor is Stephenson Further Education College.

Durham Studio School in Urshaw Mill, Durham, will serve 300 pupils when at full capacity. It is a Studio School within a maintained school. The Studio School has been proposed by The Durham Federation which comprises of Durham Community Business College (DCBC) and Fyndoune Community College. The Federation works in partnership with Houghall Agricultural College and has links with New College Durham.

Harpurhey Studio School in North Manchester has been proposed by The Manchester College (TMC) and will serve 300 pupils when at full capacity.

New Line Studio School in Maidstone, Kent, is opening within the New Line Learning Academy.

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