Press release

New school year sees number of free schools double

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

Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove announce the opening of 93 new free schools.

As the new school year kicks off, the Prime Minister and Education Secretary Michael Gove welcomed the 93 new free schools opening their doors this month, bringing the total number of free schools to 174 – more than twice as many as this time last year.

Find out how to set up a free school

The government is committed to providing all parents with a diverse choice of high-quality local schools. Previously, the freedom to choose has only been available to parents with the money to send their children to independent schools or pay more for a house in the catchment area of a good state school. As well as free schools, 13 studio schools and 12 university technical colleges (UTCs) will also open across the country this month. Together, these new schools will provide young people with the academic and vocational routes that suit them best and will create an education system to compete with the world’s best.

The huge increase in the number of new free schools underlines the desire among teachers, parents, local communities and organisations to set up their own high-quality school.

Three-quarters of the 71 new mainstream free schools are opening in areas with a need for new school places. When full, the 93 free schools will create an extra 46,000 places. All open and currently planned free schools will provide 130,000 new places when they are full.

Eight in 10 open mainstream free schools are either in areas with a shortage of places or in deprived areas.

They will continue to open where there is demand from parents, helping to manage the pressure caused by rising birth rates on the school system and giving parents more choice where they are dissatisfied with existing schools.

The Prime Minister said:

Free schools create great local schools for everyone. They are one of the most important reforms to education in this country for a generation, allowing people with a passion for giving children the best start in life to set up schools and making sure teachers in those schools have more freedom to do what they think is best. That means more choice for parents, more school places and a better education for our children. It is reforms like these that will help transform our country, make sure Britain competes in the world, and give everyone the chance, whatever their background, to get on in life.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Free schools are now an integral part of the growing success story of state education in England. They are hugely popular, giving parents greater choice in communities poorly served for generations. Their success reflects incredibly well on the teachers who work in them and the parents who support them.

Free schools are state-funded schools independent of local authority control. They are run by teachers and education groups – not local or central government bureaucrats. They have the freedom to decide the length of the school day and term, the curriculum, and how they reward their teachers and spend their money.

Free schools achieve higher standards and offer a genuine alternative. Three-quarters of the first 24 free schools have been rated good or outstanding by Ofsted under its tougher new inspection framework. This compares to just 64% of maintained schools inspected under the same framework.

Free schools have also proved hugely popular with parents. Mainstream free schools open at the start of the last academic year reported an average 3 applications per place. Langley Hall Primary Academy, a free school in Slough, has proven so popular with parents it is doubling its capacity this year.

In England, sponsored academies, which have the same freedoms as free schools, improve at a faster rate than state secondary schools. In 2012, the proportion of pupils who achieved 5 or more GCSEs including English and mathematics rose by 3 percentage points in sponsored academies, compared to 1.5 percentage points in comparable state schools.

The schools opening this month include:

Perry Beeches III The Free School in Birmingham

This is the second free school to be set up by outstanding headteacher, Liam Nolan. He also runs the Perry Beeches Academy and has overseen a dramatic improvement in its results, with 80% of pupils achieving 5A*- C at GCSE including English and maths this year, up from only 21% in 2007.

They will offer a traditional curriculum including GCSEs and A levels which will be tailored to the needs of individual students. There will be a heavy focus on literacy and numeracy, particularly in year 7. They have high expectations of their offer and of their students.

Judith Kerr Primary School, in Southwark, London

This is the first bilingual free school in London, teaching in English and German. It is supported by renowned children’s author Judith Kerr OBE, who created Mog and wrote The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

From reception, children will be taught in both languages, moving on to reading and writing as they progress through the school. Phonics and English literacy lessons will focus on language, while maths, humanities and science will be delivered by teachers in both English and German. Homework will consolidate the learning of the week in both languages.

Connell Sixth-Form College, in Beswick, East Manchester

This is backed by Manchester City Football Club and led by the Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (now known as Bright Futures Academy Trust). It forms part of the regeneration of East Manchester.

The college will challenge young people to pursue academic excellence and aim for a place at top performing Russell Group universities, high-level apprenticeships or to secure a good job. They will provide a traditional AS/A level programme of study and programmes such as pre-A level support to prepare students for examinations and life beyond. It has been chosen by Pembroke College, Oxford University, to be their Oriental Studies’ Hub.

Khalsa Science Academy in Leeds, West Yorkshire

This will be the first specialist primary free school and will specialise in science. The school’s focus on science will be complemented by a Sikh ethos to underpin the moral development of its pupils. A highly tailored education framework will combine the national curriculum and the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme.

Thames Valley Free School, in Reading, Berkshire

This school is being established by the National Autistic Society (NAS), providing new opportunities for autistic children. NAS itself was established 50 years ago by a group of parents unwilling to accept that their autistic children could not be educated within the school system.

The free school will enable students to overcome their barriers to learning, develop social skills and coping strategies, and learn to manage their own behaviour. The schools will also aim high when it comes to its pupils’ academic achievements, hoping for as many pupils to achieve 5 A*- C at GCSE, including English and maths, as possible.

Cathedral Primary School, in Bristol

This school is being opened by Bristol Cathedral Choir School and will specialise in music and mathematics. It will develop the cathedral choristers of the future and support a world class choir in the heart of Bristol.

All pupils will be encouraged to study at least 1 musical instrument with the aim that most pupils will play as part of an ensemble. The school will incorporate the best elements of the independent sector by nurturing a family house system and co-curricular activities.

Of the new free schools opening this September:

  • 35 are primary schools, 42 are secondary schools, 11 are all-age schools and 5 are 16 to 19 institutions. These include 12 alternative provision schools and 5 special schools
  • the schools are spread across England. They are primarily concentrated in areas of deprivation or areas where there is a shortage of school places. Fifty-four of the 71 mainstream schools are in areas where there is need for more school places
  • 10 have been set up by teachers or teacher led parent groups, 25 by community and parent groups, 4 by charities and 30 are set up by existing education providers. 5 existing independent schools will join the state sector as free schools

Liam Nolan, executive principal of the Perry Beeches Academy Trust, said:

We are very excited about the opening of our second free school, Perry Beeches III. Since we took over Perry Beeches The Academy in 2007, we have stayed true to our original purpose: to give parents of Birmingham the choice of a good local school for their children and to provide the best possible education for young people.

Our success is down to the exceptional work of the teachers at our schools, but more importantly, the sheer determination of our pupils to achieve the best for themselves. And it shows: pupils at the academy have achieved incredible results and all of our schools are extremely popular with parents. Perry Beeches III, with its city centre location, will continue our quest to give pupils a high-quality education that will prepare them for the future.

Basia Lubaczewska, principal designate of Judith Kerr Primary School in Southwark, London, said:

The staff team and I are hugely excited to be embarking on this pioneering journey to create a bilingual learning environment that embeds both English and German within our curriculum.

We believe that early immersion is key to ensuring bilingualism for all our children, whatever the children’s linguistic ability when they start. Throughout our school the language of instruction will therefore be well balanced between German and English, with children gaining confidence and fluency in both languages

Neil Blundell, the lead proposer of the Cathedral Primary School, in Bristol, said:

I am delighted to be opening Cathedral Primary School this September. The free school movement has enabled us to complete a vision which began with the academy transition 5 years ago. We have all worked very hard and have learned a great deal over the last 18 months and it has been a real privilege to work as part of the team locally. In establishing a new school we have constantly been considering the positive impact that it will have on the lives of young people. We very much look forward to welcoming them into their new school, next week.

The Greenwich Free School is a free school that opened in September 2012. In a short space of time, it has become the most popular school in the local authority, in terms of applications for places.

Lee Faith, headteacher of Greenwich Free School in London, said:

One year after opening, we have ensured the Greenwich Free School (GFS) is already being singled out as a pioneering educational institution, embracing and capitalising on many of the freedoms afforded to free schools.

The significant impact of smaller class sizes, the extended school day, an innovative curriculum, our well-renowned ‘Drop Down Days’, as well as a wide range of enrichment opportunities, has resulted in GFS being described recently by visiting inspectors in a mock Ofsted inspection, as having ‘inspirational teaching’ and ‘pupils who demonstrate exceptional behaviour and attitudes to learning’.

We are increasing the cultural capital of every pupil in the school and fostering in them a deep appreciation and commitment to our values of growth, fellowship and scholarship. As we enter our second year, we are now the most oversubscribed school in the local authority, receiving more than 600 applications for just 100 places, proving that what we are doing is unique, and that crucially: it works.

Natalie Evans, director of the New Schools Network, said:

The doubling of open free schools this year is great news for parents around the country. These schools are providing choice and diversity for parents and the students who will be joining their new school this year – whether it’s the first specialist maths and science sixth form in Norwich, a faith-sensitive school opening in a traditionally segregated community in Oldham or a primary school serving one of the most deprived communities in Newcastle.

With the open schools hugely popular with parents, and teachers increasingly acting as the driving force behind new schools, there is a real sense that the free schools programme will continue to go from strength to strength.

Also opening this month are 13 studio schools and 12 UTCs. There are now 28 open studio schools and 13 more in development, and 17 open UTCs with 27 in development. Those opening this month include:

The Silverstone UTC, in Northamptonshire

This UTC is sponsored by Tresham College of Further and Higher Education, the University of Northampton, and Silverstone Circuits Ltd. It is situated within the 800 acre grounds of the Silverstone Race Circuit, which is at the centre of the high performance engineering and motorsport industry. Students will specialise in either high performance engineering or technical events management and will have access to state of the art equipment.

UTC Reading, in Berkshire

This UTC is sponsored by Oxford and Cherwell Valley College and the University of Reading alongside household names and local specialist businesses such as Microsoft, CISCO, Peter Brett Associates, and Network Rail. It specialises in engineering and computer science and is drawing students from across the sub-regional area.

Da Vinci Studio School of Creative Enterprise, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire

This studio schools will specialise in the creative industries and enterprise. It is the second studio school opened by the North Hertfordshire Studio School Trust. The school is based in Letchworth on the site of an old grammar school which has been leased to the school without charge by 1 of the school’s partners – the Letchworth Heritage Foundation. Other key partners working with the school include the Royal Opera House, the University of Hertfordshire, the Letchworth Arts Centre, BBC Three Counties Radio and Novotel Hotels, among others.

Devon Studio School, in Torbay, Devon

This studio school is sponsored by South Devon College and working in partnership with the South Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, the Torbay Care Trust, and Astra Zeneca. It will specialise in health, early years and social care. The school will be based on the campus of Torbay Hospital and will offer a unique learning environment, with students working and studying alongside NHS staff.

The government is making it easier for people to submit applications to open new free schools. There are now 3 free school application windows per year, the next being 13 September 2013, 10 January 2014 and 9 May 2014. The deadlines for the next 2 rounds of applications to open a UTC or studio school in 2015 or beyond are 4 October 2013 and 9 May 2014.

This press notice relates to England only.

Notes to editors

The list of free schools, studio schools and UTCs opening in September 2013:

Free schools

Name of school Phase Local authority
Abacus Primary School Primary Camden
Abbey View School Secondary Gloucestershire
Alma Primary Primary Barnet
Anand Primary School Primary Wolverhampton
ARK John Keats Academy All-through Enfield
Boston Pioneers Free School Primary Lincolnshire
Bradford Girls’ Grammar School All-through Bradford
Cambourne Village College Secondary Cambridgeshire
Cathedral Primary School Primary Bristol
Chichester Free School All-through West Sussex
Churchill Special Free School All-through Suffolk
City of Peterborough Academy Secondary Peterborough
Collective Spirit Free School Secondary Oldham
Compass School Southwark Secondary Southwark
Connell Sixth Form College 16 to 19 Manchester
ContinU Plus Academy Secondary Worcestershire
East London Science School Secondary Newham
Gildredge House All-through East Sussex
Haberdashers’ Askes’ Hatcham Temple Grove Free School Primary Lewisham
Hackney New School Secondary Hackney
Hadlow Rural Community School Secondary Kent
Harris Aspire Academy Secondary Bromley
Heron Hall Academy Secondary Enfield
Hewens Primary School Primary Hillingdon
Heyford Park Free School All-through Oxfordshire
Hope Community School Primary Bexley
Judith Kerr Primary School Primary Southwark
Khalsa Science Academy Primary Leeds
Khalsa Secondary Academy Secondary Buckinghamshire
Kimberley 16-19 College 16 to 19 Bedford
King’s School Hove Secondary Brighton and Hove
Langdale Free School Primary Blackpool
Leeds Jewish Free School Secondary Leeds
Longsight Community Primary Primary Manchester
Marchbank Free School Primary Darlington
Marine Academy Primary Primary Plymouth
Mosaic Jewish Primary School Primary Wandsworth
Nanaksar Primary School Primary Hillingdon
New Islington Free School Primary Manchester
Nishkam School West London All-through Hounslow
Oasis Academy South Bank Secondary Lambeth
One in a Million Free School Secondary Bradford
Parkfield School All-through Bournemouth
Peaslake Free School Primary Surrey
Perry Beeches III The Free School Secondary Birmingham
Pimlico Primary Academy Primary Westminster
Plymouth School of Creative Arts All-through Plymouth
REACH Secondary Birmingham
River Bank Primary School Primary Luton
Riverside School Secondary Barking & Dagenham
Robert Owen Vocational School Secondary Herefordshire
Route 39 Academy Secondary Devon
Rutherford House School Primary Wandsworth
Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form 16 to 19 Norfolk
Sir Thomas Fremantle Secondary School Secondary Buckinghamshire
Southend YMCA Community School Secondary Southend
Sparkwell All Saints Primary Primary Devon
St Andrew the Apostle Greek Orthodox School Secondary Barnet
St Anthony’s School Primary Gloucestershire
St George’s Academy Secondary Birmingham
St Martin’s Academy Primary Chester and Cheshire West
St Mary’s Hampton Church of England School Primary Richmond
Steiner Academy Exeter All-through Devon
STEM 6th Form Academy 16 to 19 Islington
Stockport Technical School Secondary Stockport
Thames Valley Free School All-through Reading
The Academy of Central Bedfordshire Secondary Central Bedfordshire
The Acorn EBS Free School Secondary Lincolnshire
The Archer Academy Secondary Barnet
The Boulevard Academy Secondary Hull
The Courtyard, St Mary Magdalene Academy Secondary Islington
The Durham Free School Secondary Durham
The Heights Free School Secondary Blackburn with Darwen
The Jubilee Academy Secondary Harrow
The Maltings College 16 to 19 Calderdale
The Olive School, Blackburn Primary Blackburn with Darwen
The Olive School, Hackney Primary Hackney
The Olive Tree Primary School Primary Bolton
The Reach Free School Secondary Hertfordshire
The St Marylebone Church of England Bridge School Secondary Westminster
The Swanage School Secondary Dorset
The Wells Free School Primary Kent
Thetford (AP) Free School Secondary Norfolk
Thomson House School Primary Richmond
Tooting Primary School Primary Wandsworth
Trinity School Secondary Kent
Tyndale Community School Primary Oxfordshire
University Cathedral Free School Primary Cheshire West and Chester
West London Free School Primary Primary Hammersmith and Fulham
West Newcastle Academy Primary Newcastle
Westside School Secondary Hammersmith and Fulham
William Perkin C of E High School Secondary Ealing
Wye Free School Secondary Kent

Studio schools

School name Local authority
Da Vinci Studio School of Creative Enterprise Hertfordshire
Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio Blackburn with Darwen
Devon Studio School Torbay
Goole Create Studio School East Riding of Yorkshire
Kajans Hospitality and Catering Studio Birmingham
Midland Studio College, Nuneaton Warwickshire
New Campus Basildon Studio School Essex
Rye Studio School East Sussex
Southampton Studio School Southampton
Stoke Studio College for Manufacturing and Design Engineering Stoke on Trent
The Studio, Liverpool Liverpool
Walsall Studio School Walsall
Waverley Studio College Birmingham

University technical colleges (UTCs)

School name Local authority
Bristol Technology & Engineering Academy South Gloucestershire
Buckinghamshire UTC Buckinghamshire
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC Liverpool
UTC Sheffield Sheffield
Silverstone UTC Northamptonshire
The Elstree UTC Hertfordshire
The UTC for New Technologies at Daventry Northamptonshire
UTC Plymouth Plymouth
UTC Reading Reading
UTC, Royal Borough of Greenwich Greenwich
Visions Learning Trust UTC, Burnley Lancashire
Wigan UTC Wigan
  1. UTCs are academies for 14 to 19 year olds which focus on delivering technical education that engages young people and meets the needs of modern business. They offer full-time courses which combine practical and academic studies. Employers are put in the driving seat meaning that students benefit from a curriculum designed by experts in the field and are then supported to learn through work placements and access to industry standard facilities and equipment. They typically cater for around 500 to 800 students.

  2. Studio schools are innovative all-ability academies for 14- to 19-year-olds which offer a practical learning experience. They deliver academic and vocational qualifications through a project-based curriculum where study is combined with work placements delivered in partnership with local and national employers. They typically cater for around 300 students and deliver a personalised curriculum with all students being assigned a ‘personal coach’ to help tailor the curriculum to their individual needs.

  3. Groups that were successful in applying to open a free school, studio school or UTC 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 the particular new local school they wanted to set up
    • 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 was financially viable)
    • be CRB checked and undergo in-depth vetting by the department’s due diligence unit (only free school applicants)
  4. Like other state-funded schools, free schools, studio schools and UTCs are inspected by Ofsted. Three-quarters of the first 24 free schools to be inspected by Ofsted are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. More information can be found in the department’s press notice on the subject.

  5. Free schools, studio schools and UTCs will have their exam and test results published and will have to teach a broad and balanced curriculum. Action will be taken if results slip or if teaching isn’t up to scratch.

  6. Free schools also have to abide by the same rules for pupil admissions as other schools – making sure that these are fair and inclusive of children from different backgrounds.

  7. Further details on the free schools programme can be found on the department’s website.

  8. Further details about UTCs and studio schools can be found on the department’s website.

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