Press release

More choice as over 80,000 new free school places created

Biggest wave of free school approvals this Parliament – helping to deliver the government’s goal of opening 500 new free schools by 2020.

children using computers

Thousands of new free school places - to give parents even more choice of a ‘good’ school for their child - have been announced by Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Meanwhile 56 previously approved new schools, including a specialist performing arts college whose patron is Sir Paul McCartney, opened their doors for the new school term.

The government’s free schools programme is a core part of ensuring all children receive an education that is suitable to them - and one that allows them to go as far as their talents can take them, regardless of background or ability. The latest figures show that 80% of free schools are now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

The projects approved today (16 September 2016) 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.

This follows the announcement last week by the Prime Minister where she underlined her commitment to ensuring every child has the opportunity of a place at an excellent school, including by allowing selective schools to expand and new selective schools to open and asking universities and independent schools to commit to supporting or setting up new schools.

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.

‎Alongside the reforms announced last week this will build on the progress that has seen 1.4 million more children in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools than in 2010. This will help deliver the true meritocracy the Prime Minister has pledged to create.

New school proposals approved today 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 and will help ensure more local children with autism get the specialist help and support they deserve
  • 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 combination of high academic standards and the distinctive Saracens ethos will encourage pupils to excel in education, in sport and in life
  • 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 3 new secondaries and a primary school. They include a secondary school in Sutton that will deliver an exciting academic curriculum with a science specialism and work alongside the London Cancer Hub, a world-leading life-science campus. The new schools will join the trust’s 37 schools, all of which have been rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted

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.

Ms 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. They include:

  • Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) 6th Form - Sir Paul McCartney is the patron of this exciting new performing arts college in central Liverpool. The new 16 to 19 free school will offer a creative and performing arts-focused education, developing performing arts abilities alongside skills in literacy and numeracy
  • the innovative Beacon of Light free school - the Foundation of Light trust, the charitable arm of Sunderland football club, are utilising the power of football and sport to re-engage young people at risk of exclusion from mainstream schooling offering alternative education for 80 youngsters aged 13 to 16 years

The new schools announced today will join the 429 open free schools and 236 institutions currently in the process of being opened, helping to deliver the government’s goal of opening 500 new free schools by 2020.

To support that work the government is setting up a new body - LocatED - which will be made up of experienced property specialists to speed up the process of acquiring sites for new schools and get the best value for the taxpayer.

Notes to editors

Free schools approved today - 77 in total creating 46,493 new school places.

  • 16 schools in the East of England, creating 9,194 places
  • 4 schools in the East Midlands, creating 3,236 places
  • 4 schools in Yorkshire and the Humber, creating 3,200 places
  • 2 schools in the North East, creating 185 places
  • 7 schools in the North West, creating 1,136 places
  • 6 schools in the South East, creating 4,288 places
  • 8 schools in the South West, creating over 3,359 places
  • 6 schools in the West Midlands, creating over 2,212 places
  • 24 schools in London, creating over 19,663 places

New schools opened this September - 56 schools creating 35,410 new school places

  • 6 schools in the East of England, creating 2,860 places
  • 3 schools in the East Midlands, creating 3,655 places
  • 4 schools in Yorkshire and the Humber, creating 2,430places
  • 2 schools in the North East, creating 680 places
  • 9 schools in the North West, creating 3,866 places
  • 3 schools in the South East, creating 1,012 places
  • 5 schools in the South West, creating 1,234 places
  • 4 schools in the West Midlands, creating 4,220 places
  • 20 schools in London, creating over 15,453 places

Free schools can be set up by parents, teachers, charities, businesses, cultural and sporting bodies, community groups, academy trusts and sponsors, and existing schools in response to demand from the local community, either where there is a shortage of places, or where the parents are not happy with the places on offer.

76% of open mainstream free schools up to September 2016 are located in areas where there was a need for more school places, and almost half are in the 30% most deprived communities in the country. They are also more likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted than other state schools - and can help to raise standards in neighbouring schools by introducing fresh ideas and competition.

LocatED will be accountable to the Secretary of State for Education, and will be responsible for the acquisition of sites for new schools. It is expected to launch in autumn 2016 and will play a vital role in supporting the department to meet this government’s manifesto commitment to open 500 new schools by 2020, almost double the number of free schools opened over the course of the last parliament.

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Published 16 September 2016
Last updated 16 September 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updated the number of free schools approved in the East of England and South East.
  2. First published.