News story

Michael Gove announces 2012 free school applications

The Department received 281 applications to set up a Free School from September 2012.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

In a speech today, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the numbers in the 2012 Free School applications round.

He said:

Our school system leaves children poorly prepared for the world we face. We have just suffered the worst financial crisis since 1929. Our economy is weighed down by a huge debt burden. Europe has major problems with debt and the euro. Meanwhile there is a rapid and historic shift of political and economic power to Asia and a series of scientific and technological changes that are transforming our culture, economy and global politics. If we do not have a school system that is adapting to and preparing for these challenges then we will betray a generation.

The highest-performing education systems are those where government knows when to step back. We want a school system in which teachers have more power and in which they are more accountable to parents - not politicians.

Our critics said it was impossible to open a school in little more than a year. Several will open this September. They told us that schools wouldn’t want to become Academies. They are converting at a rate of two every school day.

Application figures

In the application round that was launched on 17 March 2011 and closed on 15 June 2011, the Department received 281 applications to set up a Free School from September 2012.

There were 37 applications to set up a University Technical College.

Of the 281 Free School applications received, the current analysis shows that

  • 227 are for mainstream schools
  • 34 are for alternative provision schools (such as Pupil Referral Units)
  • 20 are for schools for children with Special Educational Needs.

Of the 227 mainstream applications

  • 77 (34%) are for primary schools
  • 81 (36%) are for secondary schools
  • 65 (29%) are for all through schools
  • 4 (2%) are for 16-19 schools.

Of the 227 mainstream applications

  • 12 (5%) applications came from existing Academy providers
  • 126 (56%) applications came from local groups[1].

The percentage of applications from independent schools wishing to move into the state sector has decreased in this application round.

  • 40 (18%) of the 227 applications are from existing independent schools, compared to 98 (35%) last year[2]

The percentage of schools characterising themselves as faith schools has also fallen

  • 65 (29%)[3] compared to 115 (40%) last year[4].

Recent research shows that, of the 32 groups that the Department is progressing

  • two Free Schools are located in the most deprived 10% of Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in the country
  • one is in the least deprived 10% of LSOAs in the country
  • just under a third (31%) are located in the most deprived 20% LSOAs of the country
  • the majority (59%) are located in the most deprived 50% of LSOAs in the country.

A Lower Super Output Area is made up of around 1,500 residents, surrounding the 32 Free Schools. This is judged to a reasonable reflection of the catchment size of many of the Free Schools.

Between 10 and 20 schools are expected to open this September, having taken little more than 15 months to set up from initial application. Previously, parent promoted schools could take up to nine years to set up from conception, and it took three years for the first 12 Academies to open.

Notes to editors

  1. The Secretary of State’s full speech can be found from the announcements section.

  2. Further information about Free Schools can be found on the Department for Education’s website.

  3. The first application window for Free Schools opened on 18 June 2010 and closed on 11 February 2011. 323 proposals were received from groups wishing to open Free Schools in 2011, 2012, and 2013. We are currently progressing 32 proposals. 24 of these groups are aiming to open in September 2011, with more than half of these expected to open this year.

  4. The application process for 2012 was refined to learn from the best international systems and to make it simpler, more streamlined and more rigorous from the outset. Groups wishing to open mainstream and 16-19 Free Schools in 2012 (or 2013, in a small number of cases) could submit their applications from 16 May 2011 until 1 June 2011. Groups wishing to open Special or Alternative Provision Free Schools had until 15 June to submit.

  5. Under the new process, all groups are required to submit more detailed application forms than those in the 2011 application window. This means that only groups that are strongly committed to opening a new school will apply. The application involves providing evidence of demand from local parents, detail on how the school would be run and in-depth information about the school’s ethos and curriculum. This level of detail was previously submitted at a later stage in the application process.

  6. The more streamlined system is enabling the Department to quickly identify the strongest proposals from the very start. This is making the whole process of setting up new schools quicker, more effective and better value for money.

  7. Successful groups who applied to open a mainstream or 16-19 Free School will be notified in September this year, after which they can start preparing to open their new schools. Groups who applied to open a SEN or alternative provision Free School will be notified in September whether they have progressed to the financial assessment stage.

  8. University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are new schools like any other Free School. Applications were sought by the same deadline and are now being assessed by the Department. UTCs are sponsored by universities, local employers, and in some cases also by an FE college, and provide a technical education that engages young people and meets the needs of modern business.

[1] This figure is derived from the narrative text of application forms where proposers have described themselves as a teacher, parent or community group

[2] 22 of the 40 independent school applications came from a single chain of schools, so if that is excluded the percentage of applications from independent schools falls to 8%

[3] 22 of those applications came from a single chain of schools, so if that is excluded the percentage of applications characterising themselves as faith schools falls to 26%

[4] 65 applicants have indicated they are seeking designation as religious schools and to use faith-based admissions criteria, and the figure of 115 for last year is based on a judgement of the narrative text of application forms as no specific question on religious designation was asked.

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Published 20 June 2011