More than 350 applications for free schools were submitted by parents, teachers and charities this year, the highest number for a single year since the policy was introduced in 2010. This means that more pupils will benefit from an excellent education as support for the innovative schools continues to grow.
And more than 1,000 schools, often the most struggling, are being helped to improve by strong sponsors since 2010. A total of 1,042 schools have been turned into sponsored academies - working with expert groups to improve education for pupils and giving thousands more young people in disadvantaged areas the chance to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations than before.
Free school applications are received in waves. The most recent wave (wave 8), which closed earlier this month, proved the most popular wave since the process moved from 1 to 3 waves per year. A total of 148 applications were submitted in this wave alone, meaning that more than 1,500 applications have been received since 2010.
Establishing new schools is a vital part of the government’s plan for education - boosting choice for parents and helping drive up standards across the board. A report published last month showed that 84% of free school heads surveyed said they are helping to drive up standards in local schools through collaboration and competition.
Free schools are predominantly located in areas with shortages of places, with almost three-quarters of open free schools being in areas with a projected need for additional school places. Almost half of free schools are in the 30% most deprived communities of the country.
There are currently 251 open free schools, and a further 112 are in the pipeline. Once all of these schools are fully up and running they will provide around 200,000 extra school places to pupils across the country.
These diverse schools have introduced new ideas and approaches to the system that are increasingly helping all schools to raise standards, with more children now having the opportunity to go to a good or outstanding school than ever before.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
Thanks to our plan for education more children in England have the opportunity to go to a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school than ever before and free schools and academies have been vital to this change.
Free schools are raising standards across the board, and sponsored academies are turning around those schools that have been failing pupils for years. More than two-thirds of free schools are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, and primary test results are improving faster in sponsored academies than in other schools.
I am pleased to see that more free school applications have been submitted than ever before - giving more young people the opportunity of going to a good local school.