Press release

Prime Minister: more new free schools than ever before to raise standards and increase choice

The Prime Minister and Education Secretary Michael Gove will today announce that 102 new free schools have been approved to open in 2013 and beyond.

  • Over 100 applications for free schools approved

The Prime Minister and Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced that 102 new free schools have been approved to open in 2013 and beyond. This is more than a 50% increase on the number of schools that were approved last year, and means that the number of free schools set to open each year is rising rapidly. In September 2011, the first 24 free schools were opened and this September around 50 are due to open.

The announcement paves the way for thousands of excellent new school places where there is clear demand, raising education standards and giving parents more choice. The majority of schools will be based in areas of deprivation, or where there is a need for new school places.

More than half of the approved applications are from teachers, existing schools or educational organisations. They include a secondary school to be run by the highly successful teachers behind the Cuckoo Hall Academy chain, based in a deprived area of north London, and a primary school in Manchester led by the group responsible for the Big Issue in the north of England, which also runs a children’s centre.

During a visit to Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy in north London - a free school opened last year by a successful head teacher - the Prime Minister paid tribute to the hundreds of passionate teachers, parents and charities raising standards with free schools.

The Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Free schools symbolise everything that is good about the revolution that we are bringing to Britain’s schools. Choice for parents, power in the hands of teachers, discipline and rigour and high quality education in areas that are crying out for more good local schools.

The message from the first two years is clear and unambiguous. Free schools work and parents and teachers want more of them. The next wave of free schools begins with a further 50 opening this September and an additional 102 free school applications have now been approved for opening in September 2013 and beyond.

The free schools revolution was built on a simple idea. Open up our schools to new providers and use the competition that results to drive up standards across the system. We are backing the parents, charities and committed teachers who are trying to make things better and giving them the freedoms they need to transform our education system.

Free schools are central to the Government’s drive to raise standards for all children, regardless of their background or family circumstances. They are funded by the government and, like academies, have greater freedoms than local authority schools. They are run by teachers - not town hall or government bureaucrats - and 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.

Each school is set up in direct response to demand from local people for a different or better school that will meet the needs of pupils in the community and help raise standards.

Like those already open or approved, many of the Free Schools approved today will be based in areas of deprivation, or where there is a shortage of primary school places:

  • 88% of the primary schools approved plan to open in local authority districts that face a shortfall in primary places. 63% are in districts with a severe need for additional places
  • 67% of the mainstream schools announced today are expected to be located in the 50% most deprived communities in the country. 38% of mainstream schools are in the 30% most deprived areas

Five special free schools and 12 alternative provision free schools will also serve some of our most vulnerable children.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Free schools are driving up standards across the country. Now more and more groups are taking advantage of the freedoms we’ve offered to create wonderful new schools.

The groups approved today include:

  • Harris Aspire Academy, London

The highly successful academy sponsor, the Harris Federation, plans to open an Alternative Provision school for 90 pupils aged 11 - 19 in the Croydon/Bromley area. It will cater for vulnerable pupils, including those with behavioural difficulties, excluded children and teenage parents. The Harris Federation has turned around some of the capital’s weakest schools, and nine out of eleven Harris Academies inspected so far have been judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted. Improvement in terms of 5+ A*-C GCSEs with English and maths was 13 per cent last summer, compared to 2.8 per cent nationally.

  • Longsight Community Primary, Manchester

The ‘Big Life Group’, which is behind this school, is responsible for the Big Issue in the north of England. The group also runs an Ofsted rated Outstanding children’s centre and community projects to help disadvantaged people. It plans to open a primary school with high standards and a strong behaviour policy, in an area of Manchester which has high levels of deprivation, and an expected shortage of primary places.

  • The University of Birmingham School and Sixth Form, Birmingham

This age 11 -19 University Training School will be based in Birmingham, and will serve around 1,150 pupils. It will be sponsored by the University of Birmingham and managed by an Academy Trust, and it will embed teacher training into every aspect of school life - providing an excellent training experience. This Free School will benefit greatly from Birmingham University’s research and educational expertise.

  • Marine Academy Primary, Plymouth

This will be a co-educational primary school for 420 pupils, based in a deprived area of Plymouth. The applicants are a consortium headed by the University of Plymouth, with support from the local council and Cornwall FE College. The school will be an extension of the consortium’s 11 - 19 Academy, so will benefit from its resources and expertise. Like the Academy, the new school will have a marine environment theme that reflects the city’s heritage.

  • Heron Hall Academy, Enfield

Heron Hall Academy will be the first secondary school to be set up and run by Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT), which runs the highly successful Cuckoo Hall Primary Academy (one of the first primary Academies) and Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy (one of the first 24 Free Schools). It will open Kingfisher Hall Primary Academy in September 2012. Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust serves a deprived community in north London.

The Trust benefits from the expertise and experience of Executive Principal Mrs Patricia Sowter CBE, a National Leader of Education - who transformed Cuckoo Hall from an underperforming primary to one of the strongest in London. The 11 - 19 secondary school will cater for 1,680 pupils, and will specialise in English and literacy.

  • Collective Spirit, Oldham

This will be a co-educational 11 -16 school, based in Oldham. The school will have a ‘faith sensitive’ ethos but will not allocate pupil places on the basis of faith - offering real choice to parents from all backgrounds. Year groups will be small, and a mixture of lecture-style teaching and small group work will be used to deliver the academic curriculum. The proposer group is made up of community leaders and education professionals who propose to work with a number of faith groups.

  • The Connell Sixth Form College, Manchester

The successful Altrincham Grammar School for Girls plans to open a co-educational 16 - 19 sixth form college for 600 pupils in east Manchester. It aims to establish a strong track record of progression to university, and will meet the increasing demand for traditional A-levels.

Manchester City Football Club has been a key partner in bringing forward these proposals. The club is supportive of proposals for the new Sixth Form College, not only to meet the needs of the local area but also to provide educational opportunities for its 30 football scholars from the Club’s new Academy. This support is demonstrated by the Football Club setting aside facilities to support the new sixth form college, including access to one of the 17 new football pitches being established adjacent to the college site.

  • East London Science School, London

This 11 - 19 secondary school will be based in Tower Hamlets or Newham. The application is from a teacher group, led by David Perks who has nearly 25 years of experience in science teaching in state schools; has advised the Department for Education on both primary and secondary science; and is a Director of the Physics Factory, a national charity established to revitalise physics education in state schools. All pupils will study biology, chemistry and physics from the age of 11, as part of a strong academic curriculum. The sixth form will have a strong academic focus aimed at giving students the best chance of applying for a place to study at Russell Group universities.

  • Boston Free School, Boston, Lincolnshire

Boston Free School will be a 4 - 11 primary school in Boston. It is being set up by the teachers (including the head teacher) and governors of two other successful primary schools in the town. Boston Free School will address the fact that there is currently no primary school in central Boston and, due to lack of town centre provision, children currently have to travel to schools on the outskirts of town. The team is focused on achieving success for every child, and plans to use innovative international teaching methods.

The list of Free Schools approved today can be found on the Department’s website.

Notes to editors

  1. As of 13 July 2012:
    • 24 Free Schools opened in 2011
    • A further 65 were approved in the previous application round
    • Around 50 groups are aiming to open in September 2012 - and others will follow in 2013 or 2014
    • 102 proposals have been approved today, with the majority aiming to open in September 2013.
  2. After a rigorous application process, including groups having to demonstrate clear parental demand, 102 groups were successful in their application and interview and move into the pre-opening stage.

  3. All applicant groups were required to provide details of the individuals involved in the project, and these individuals have undergone checks carried out by the Department for Education’s Due Diligence Unit. More about the approval process can be found on the Free Schools pages of the website.

  4. Of the 102 Free Schools approved to open from 2013 onwards:
    • 85 are mainstream schools. Of these there are:
    • 40 primary
    • 28 secondary
    • 10 all through
    • One 14 - 19 school
    • Five 16 - 19 schools
    • One 5 - 7 school
    • In addition there are five special Free Schools and 12 Alternative Provision Free Schools.
  5. Types of schools and proposers:
    • 59 are being set up by teachers, existing schools, and educational organisations (including five independent schools which will join the state sector).
    • 43 are being set up by parent, community, charity and local groups.
    • Of the 102 schools approved, 33 characterise themselves as faith schools. Of the 33, 20 will be designated faith schools, and will be able to select some pupils on the basis of faith.
  6. The regional breakdown of all 102 Free Schools is as follows:
    • East Midlands - 4
    • East of England - 10
    • London - 34
    • North East - 3
    • North West - 12
    • South East - 16
    • South West - 9
    • West Midlands - 7
    • Yorkshire and Humber - 7
  7. The groups will now work to make their schools a reality. This includes undertaking a statutory consultation in their local area and taking steps to recruit their school’s Principal Designate, with the final aim of securing a Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State - which will allow the school to open.

  8. Capital funding for these projects is still to be decided.

  9. 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.

  10. At home, schools with greater independence are also excelling. Research published by the Department for Education shows that between 2010 and 2011, results for pupils in sponsored academies improved at a faster rate than in other state-funded schools and at a faster rate than in a group of similar schools. In sponsored academies that had been open for at least five years, results between 2006 and 2011 increased at a faster rate than in other state-funded schools and at a faster rate than in a group of similar schools.

  11. Applications for 2014 Free Schools will open shortly.

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