Page created by Bruce Black

Free Schools are a flagship Government education policy. The Government claims that they represent a
parent and teacher-led ‘schools revolution’ but just five per cent of the free schools approved to open
in 2014 are being set up by parent groups while over half are being established by multi-academy
chains, established mainstream schools or academies.1
Although still a tiny proportion of England’s schools (less than one per cent), free schools nevertheless
have the potential to cause immense damage to our education system. Despite educating small
numbers of children, free schools are receiving a disproportionate share of education funding. They
have rightly been described as “unguided missiles” with the capacity to seriously undermine
established schools.
Removing the ability of local authorities to plan school places and the range of educational provision to
meet all needs has moved England towards a chaotic system where efficient planning is much harder.
New free schools can suddenly pop up in empty premises, with support and funding from Whitehall,
regardless of the damage they may do locally. This is no way to run an education system. Our children
deserve far better.
Local authorities and communities have, in practice, no influence over whether or where free schools
should open. Many have opened in areas with surplus places in the phase provided by the free school.
Some parts of England are experiencing serious school place shortages, particularly in the primary
phase, and it has become apparent that the free school programme cannot provide a solution.
Free schools are answerable only to the Secretary of State and, where they fail to provide an
acceptable standard of education, local authorities have no power to step in. Despite claims that free
schools would “raise standards”, the evidence so far is that they are performing no better than
maintained schools despite serving less representative intakes than their neighbours.
Two years after the first free schools opened, it is time to take stock, examine the operation and
consequences of the free schools’ programme and consider how a future Government should respond.
The NUT believes the Government should take the following measures:
• End the free school programme – there should be no further approvals of new schools through this
• Bring open free schools with sustainable school rolls within the same legislative, regulatory and
  governance framework as maintained schools;
• Work with each local authority to devise an action plan for the education of children in free schools
  where the school roll is unsustainable in the long term and where there are sufficient places in local
  schools to accommodate their pupils;
• Restore legal powers to local authorities to enable councils to assume the central role in school place
  and provision planning; and
• Restore the legal power to local authorities to choose to open a new maintained school and remove
  the academy or free school presumption.

Christine Blower
General Secretary

Key concerns about Free Schools
    • Free schools are not a solution to England’s school
      place shortage.

    • A need for new places is not a determining factor in
      deciding whether a free school should open, nor is its
      impact on existing schools.

    • The role of democratically-accountable local
      authorities in school-place planning has been
      undermined by the free school programme with the
      Secretary of State taking decisions about free
      schools with little or no regard to local views.

    • Free schools are eating up a disproportionate amount
      of the education budget and staff time at the expense
      of children in other schools.

    • One in ten teachers working in free schools is not
      qualified to teach.2

    • Free schools are performing no better than
      maintained schools according to Ofsted judgements
      in 2012/133 and fewer are ‘outstanding’ compared
      with maintained schools.4

    • Free schools are being allowed to open in premises
      that local authorities have determined are unsuitable
      and have been given dispensation from the
      requirement to obtain planning permission during
      their first year of operation, enabling them to open in
      almost any building.

    • A number of aspects of the admission arrangements
      for free schools enable them to exercise a form of
      back-door selection.

    • The intake of many free schools is unrepresentative
      of their local communities with far fewer numbers of
      pupils eligible for free school meals.

    • Some private schools are converting to free school
      status to combat falling school rolls and receiving
      capital funding ahead of established state schools.

    • Valuable taxpayer-owned school land and buildings
      are being transferred to unaccountable free school

The cost of free schools is unjustifiable
• The Government has allocated a staggering £1.7 billion of capital funding for free schools up to
  2014-155 – a third of the total £5.3 billion allocated for creating new school places in England as a
  whole over the spending review period.6
• In 2012-13, free schools received £296 million of the Department’s overall capital funding of £4.2
  billion for that year, of which £1.3 billion was allocated for new school places in areas with basic
  need. Yet these schools were not focused on areas of need and, in many areas, added to surplus
• Prior to opening in 2011 and 2012, 79 free schools received a total of £19.6 million in project
  development grants7 followed by £40 million of start-up funding once opened. There was additional
  per-pupil funding to cover “essential initial costs, such as buying books and equipment” and other
  “additional costs associated with starting a brand new school”.
• While the DfE is closing six of its 12 offices, cutting its administrative costs in half (by £290 million)
  by 2015 and shedding 1,000 posts – a quarter of its total workforce – free schools are consuming a
  growing and disproportionate share of the DfE’s diminishing staff.
• In September 2012, the Department’s free school unit was staffed by 204 full time equivalent junior
  staff with salaries totaling in the region of £8 million plus eight senior staff.
• Further staff are employed in executive agencies such as the Education Funding Agency (EFA)8 to
  assist free school groups to locate premises and establish free school funding streams.
• Contractors paid at rates of up to £1,000 a day are working to promote the Government’s academies
  and free school programme.9

Free schools are not the answer to school place shortages
A National Audit Office (NAO) report10 has revealed that there will be a shortfall of 240,000 primary
school places by September 2014 and that 256,000 new school places will be needed by 2014/15. It
also found that one in five primary schools was full or over capacity in May 2012 and that the number of
children being taught in classes of more than 30 children had more than doubled over the last five years.
The NAO analysed the capacity of the 45 free schools that opened in September 2012, and noted that
they would provide just 10 per cent of the new places needed. In addition, just 36 per cent of the free
school places were in primary schools and only 58 per cent were in local authorities with a shortage of
The NUT has similarly examined the 170 mainstream free schools which opened in 2012 or are due to
open in the 2013 and 2014 school years12. Of these, just 68 (40%) are primary schools while 84 (49%)
provide secondary and post-16 provision and 18 (11%) are all-through schools. Furthermore, many of
these are opening in areas which already have a significant surplus of places in the phase provided for
by the free school.

Free schools are opening in areas where new schools are not needed
While some areas are enduring serious school place shortages, elsewhere free schools are opening in
areas which have either sufficient numbers or a surplus of places in the phase of education provided by
the free school.
The NUT compared the location and phases of the 145 mainstream free schools approved to open in
the 2012/13 and 2013/14 school years with Government data on school place capacity up to 2016/17.
This analysis showed that 19 per cent of these schools – 26 secondaries and one primary free school –
had been approved to open in 22 English local authorities where the DfE data projected that there

would be a greater than ten per cent surplus of places in the free
    school’s phase by 2016/17.
    Worse still, 13 of the local authority areas with between them 15
    new secondary free schools, were forecast to have a shortage of
    primary places by 2016/17.13
    Secondary place surpluses ranged from 10.5 per cent in Warrington
    to 27.9 per cent in Kingston upon Hull where the Boulevard
    academy was approved to open in September 2013 at a capital cost
    of £8 million.
    Suffolk has been particularly badly affected by free schools taking
    advantage of empty middle school buildings falling vacant because
    of the Suffolk Organisational Review – a planned reorganisation of
    the county’s schools from a three tier to a two tier system in
    response to falling school rolls. Suffolk has a large surplus of
    secondary places – projected to rise to 22.5 per cent by 2016/17.
    Yet four secondary free schools – Stour Valley, Beccles,
    Saxmundham and IES Breckland – opened in 2011 and 2012. These
    schools have so far received £16.2 million in pre-opening and start-
    up funding and capital costs.
    Not only is this a waste of resources at a time of austerity, it puts at
    risk established schools. Spreading pupils more thinly across more
    schools means reduced revenue funding in each, which in turn
    threatens the curriculum offer, staffing and extra-curricular
    Despite the evident waste of public money, the DfE has made clear
    that the fact that a local area has no need for new school places will
    not in itself be treated as sufficient grounds to reject an application
    for a free school. The NUT believes this approach cannot be

     The NUT recommends that:
     Consideration of the need for new school places should be
     a determining factor in any decision to open a new state-
     funded school.

    Restoring to local authorities the power to plan
    places and open new maintained schools
    The free school programme has demonstrated the drawbacks of a
    centralised decision-making process for establishing new schools.
    The interests of children will be best served by a return to a system
    of co-ordinated school place planning, carried out by local
    authorities with restored powers to plan and provide new school
    places where need is identified.
    Local authorities are best placed to carry out this role because:
    • They have the responsibility for securing education for all local

• They have experience in planning and responding to demographic changes and projections about
  future need.
• They can be responsive to the local community and can engage with parents and local schools about
  new provision where the need is identified.
• They are democratically accountable to local voters for the decisions they take; and
• They control the land and buildings of the maintained school estate and can make decisions about
  their best use.
Under current legislation there is an ‘academy or free school presumption’ whereby a local authority
that identifies the need for a new school must first seek proposals to establish an academy or a free
In 2011, when it was clear that a new secondary school was required, the London Borough of Hackney
consulted on whether local people would prefer a new academy or a free school sponsored by the
existing Mossbourne Academy. No other options were offered since the legislation ruled out a
community school.
Nevertheless some of the 208 people who responded added this option to the consultation form and
voted for it anyway – resulting in twice as many people stating their preference for a community school
over a free school.15
Where there is an identified need for a new school, the local authority should have the option to open a
maintained school where it so wishes. Taking into account the views of the local community, the final
decision about school type should rest with the local authority, not the Secretary of State.

 The NUT recommends that:
 Section 7 and Schedule 11 of the Education Act 2011 is amended and new legislation enacted
 that ensures that local authorities are put back in control of decisions about new schools, in
 consultation with local communities.

The impact of free schools on neighbouring schools
The Secretary of State has a statutory duty to take into account the impact on neighbouring schools
and FE institutions in the area where a new school is, or is proposed to be, situated.16
Following an almost three year legal battle with the DfE, the NUT was finally successful in achieving
the publication in June 2013 of the statutory impact assessments for the first 24 free schools that
opened in 2011.17
It is quite clear from these that some free schools have been allowed to open where it was recognised
that there would be a detrimental impact on neighbouring schools, where local schools already carried
excess places and/or where there was no projected need for new places.
The impact assessment for Priors School, for example, notes that: “Demographic evidence shows that
there is no basic need in the area and data from Warwickshire and Northamptonshire County Council
shows surplus places across the counties. The number of surplus places is forecast to reduce
substantially in the next few years, although it is unlikely that there will ever be a shortage of places
unless there are some school closures.”18
Currently the Government will only agree to release impact assessments once the funding agreement
has been signed – usually immediately before the school opens. Impact assessments should be
published before formal consultation about the new school takes place. Parents and teachers should
be entitled to know whether new places are needed and what the impact on neighbouring schools may
be. It is also important that any misleading or biased information relied upon in the impact assessment
can be challenged and corrected.
The NUT recommends that:
     The impact of a new school on neighbouring schools and FE
     institutions should be a significant consideration of the
     decision maker before a new school is initially approved to
     open; that evidence of this impact should be published and
     available to all local education stakeholders in advance of
     statutory consultation procedures and before a new school
     receives approval to open.

    Restoring local democracy and meaningful
    There is a serious democratic deficit in the mechanism for opening
    a free school. The Secretary of State alone decides whether to
    approve an application to open a new free school, or to convert an
    established private school to free school status, with little or no
    regard for the views of local authorities or local communities.
    Local authorities are permitted to comment on the planned school
    only after the Secretary of State has given initial approval to a free
    school applicant. Even then, in many cases, local authorities’
    concerns have been routinely disregarded. Two examples include:
    • Halton Council told the DfE that Sandymoor School, a 900-place
      secondary free school, could put two of the town’s existing
      schools at risk since they were already operating “significantly
      below their capacity” and that “further loss may impact on their
      future sustainability.”19
    • Redbridge Council passed a motion in July 2011 calling on the
      Secretary of State to change the rules to give the authority more
      influence in deciding whether and where free schools should be
      set up.20
    Local communities have even fewer consultation rights. Section
    10 of the Academies Act 201021 merely requires the free school
    proprietor to consult as they see fit. As a result, free school
    consultations are rarely meaningful. Many free schools consult via a
    simple questionnaire posted on their website which only those
    familiar with the plan would ever see.
    • A high profile local community campaign opposed the opening of
      the Beccles Free School in Suffolk. Cross-party opposition
      included the local Conservative MP and the Leader of Suffolk
      County Council. The formal consultation report produced for the
      DfE by education consultants Cambridge Education admitted
      that: “A majority of people who responded to the public
      consultation did not support the proposal that The Seckford
      Foundation Free Schools Trust should govern Beccles Free
      School on behalf of the Department for Education.” The report
      also acknowledged a petition signed by 3,000 local people
      opposed to the free school.

The NUT recommends that:
 There should be a requirement to engage in meaningful consultation on a proposal to open a
 new school with final decisions being made by the local authority taking into account local views.

Free schools and educational standards
Free schools are the latest experiment in a long line of governmental structural approaches to raising
school standards, although this method of school improvement has no track record of success.
Evidence from the UK and internationally has shown that approaches which focus on high quality
classroom teaching and effective school leadership deliver sustainable improvements.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA)22 have come to the conclusion that securing diversity of
provision within schools rather than between schools is the best route for any government to take if it
wishes to enable all young people to reach high standards of achievement. Government policies for
school provision which encourage parents to choose from a diverse range of schools lead to the social
segregation of the most disadvantaged young people
The London Challenge and City Challenge schemes provide a practical alternative approach to raising
school standards. These schemes led to significant demonstrable improvement in schools in London,
Greater Manchester and the Black Country23. The schemes were based on collaboration, with schools
and local authorities working together and learning from each other, with the aim of improving all schools
across each area, not simply the lowest attaining. As there is no evidence that free school status in itself
improves education, expanding the proven successful approach of the Challenge schemes would be far
more sensible, and certainly far less costly, than pursuing the Government’s free schools programme.
Whilst the NUT does not believe that the current Ofsted framework is a fair method of evaluating
schools’ work, it is the means by which they are judged in England currently. According to Ofsted’s
judgements on the first 24 free schools inspected in 2012/13, free schools performed no better than
local authority maintained schools and were in fact less likely to be judged “outstanding”.24
Moreover, free schools are not comparable in terms of their pupil populations. All four of the free
schools that received “outstanding” Ofsted judgements had a lower proportion of pupils on free school
meals (FSM) than the average for their local authority areas.25 In the most extreme example, one
primary free school had just 3.4% of pupils eligible for FSM compared with 43.7% of primary age
children across the Borough.
The debate about school improvement should not, however, be centred on whether an individual
school succeeds or fails. The focus should instead be on having a system in place that best meets the
needs of all children. The NUT believes that it is a key role of local authorities to provide the framework
for schools to work together to achieve and sustain improvement.
Whilst local authorities are not and never will be perfect, they can be a valuable source of advice and
guidance on a wide range of professional issues for schools, developed locally and based on practical
experience. Unfortunately, current legislation prevents local authorities from working with free schools,
including those which are less effective.

 The NUT recommends that:
 The Government adopts an evidence-based approach to school standards; that local authority
 responsibility for standards of education for all local children is matched by the power of
 oversight of all local state-funded schools; that councils are funded to provide high quality
 CPD for teachers along with school improvement and advisory services which, recognising
 local circumstances, can support all local schools.

Unqualified teachers and free schools
     One of the key “freedoms” given by Government to free schools is
     their ability to employ unqualified teachers. DfE figures show that
     this has been widely adopted. In 2011, the most recent year for
     which data is available, one in ten teachers working in free schools
     was not qualified and almost half (47 per cent) of open free schools
     employed at least one unqualified teacher.26
     It is hard to reconcile the Government’s claims that free schools will
     lead to higher educational standards with the OECD research
     evidence that well educated and professionally trained teachers are
     essential components of high performing school systems. PISA
     found that employing qualified teachers with a university-level
     qualification in their respective subject area was associated with
     better student results. For example, in reading, a 25 percentage
     point increase in the proportion of teachers with a university-level
     qualification in the relevant subject was associated with an
     advantage of nine points on the reading literacy scale, on average
     across OECD countries.27
     Research has clearly demonstrated that the single most significant
     factor in improving levels of educational attainment is the quality of
     teaching.28 The professional expertise of qualified teachers is
     essential to providing effective teaching and learning in schools. All
     pupils from three to 18 should have a guaranteed entitlement to be
     taught by teachers with the pedagogical knowledge, skills and
     understanding consistent with an all-graduate teaching profession.
     Teachers need to be highly motivated which means their training,
     qualifications, skills, hard work and commitment needs to be
     recognised and appropriately rewarded. This means high quality
     initial teacher training followed by access to good quality continuing
     professional development throughout a teacher’s career, with pay
     and pensions’ rewards that reflect teachers’ professionalism and
     It also means that the qualifications of teachers need to be
     respected, valued and protected. Moves to undermine the teaching
     profession by devaluing QTS to enable non-qualified teachers to
     teach in free schools and academies must be reversed and any
     further attempts to erode the principle that all children have a right
     to be taught by a qualified teacher resisted.

      The NUT recommends that:
      All teachers in state-funded schools in England and Wales
      should be required to hold qualified teacher status (QTS)
      or be in the process of undertaking a course of study
      leading to QTS.

Free schools’ admissions
The intake of the first 24 free schools in 2011 was not representative of local pupil cohorts in terms
of the numbers of pupils qualifying for free school meals (FSM) and those with special educational
needs (SEN).29
The proportion of pupils on FSM at free schools in their first year of operation was 9.4 per cent, a little
over half the national average of 16.7 per cent. When compared with data for their nearest five schools
with the same age range, all but two of the free schools were below the local average for FSM. Five
schools had no children entitled to FSM; while in another, two per cent of pupils were on FSM
compared with a local authority average of 48 per cent.
Although the free schools opening in 2012 appeared to be more inclusive overall, their average for FSM
pupils (16.4 per cent) was still below the national average (18 per cent) that year and 29 schools had
lower proportions of pupils on FSM than their local authority average. In some of these, the disparities
were startling:
• Just 3.9 per cent of the Hartsbrook E-Act Free Schools’ pupils were eligible for FSM whereas 28.9
  per cent of Haringey pupils were eligible.
• Just 3.6 per cent of pupils at the Avanti House free school were eligible for FSM against 18.3 per
  cent of pupils in Harrow as a whole.
The Freedom of Information data for free schools opening in 2011 also showed that many of the
schools had low proportions of children with special educational needs (SEN):
• Just 2.2 per cent of the pupils at the King’s Science Academy had SEN compared with 25.8 per cent
  across Bradford as a whole that year, and 30.6 per cent in the five neighbouring schools.
Not only is there an impact on individual pupils with SEN if particular free schools are less inclusive
than other local schools, there is a system-wide impact. If free schools do not operate admissions’
policies in ways that are fair to SEN pupils then neighbouring schools will need to cater for more than
the appropriate numbers of SEN pupils. This is known as the ‘magnet effect’ and is understood to
jeopardise the ability of schools to make appropriate provision for all children in the school.30
While free schools must abide by the School Admissions’ Code, there are a number of aspects of the
admission arrangements for free schools that militate against inclusive and representative intakes:
• The lack of local involvement in the decision to open a free school makes it less likely that initial
  applications will be genuinely representative and more likely that they will be dominated by those
  involved in setting up the school. The first year of intake is important because most schools place
  siblings at the school high on their list of oversubscription criteria. Therefore, the first year intake can
  heavily influence admissions in subsequent years.
• The speed at which free schools are opened means that consultation over admissions cannot follow
  normal timetables.
• Free schools are not required to participate in the local authority co-ordinated admissions’ process in
  their first year of operation – increasing the likelihood of applications coming from a limited section of
  the community.
• The Secretary of State can vary the admissions’ arrangements of free schools through the funding
  agreement that he signs with the school. Annex B of the funding agreement can set out derogations
  to admissions’ law and DfE codes of practice.31 Annex B can itself also be varied by agreement with
  the Secretary of State at any time and without consultation. These derogations have been granted to
  enable free schools to, for example, prioritise the children of their founders in the school’s
  oversubscription criteria or to exempt them from the requirement to consult over their admissions.32

At least 15 per cent of free schools are now prioritising their
     founders’ children in their oversubscription criteria. This practice is
     an unfair form of backdoor selection and runs counter to the rules
     governing other schools which state that admission authorities
     must not, “give priority to children on the basis of any practical or
     financial support parents may give to the school or any associated
     organisation, including any religious authority”.33
     The original funding agreement for the Canary Wharf College, in
     Tower Hamlets, contained a list of 21 “Founders of the College”
     whose children would be prioritised for admission in the case of
     oversubscription. Just 3.4 per cent of the school’s pupils are eligible
     for FSM currently compared to a local authority rate of 43.7 per
     cent.34 The school has successfully applied to open a second free
     school in 2014.
     The Bristol Free School and the Nishkam Sikh primary free school
     had clauses in their funding agreements which exempted them
     from the requirement to consult on their admissions. Just 12.5 per
     cent of the Bristol Free School’s intake are eligible for FSM
     compared to a rate of 23.3 per cent across the local authority.35
     The increasingly fragmented schools’ landscape undermines
     transparency and fairness in school admissions. All state-funded
     schools should be subject to the same admission requirements and
     legal framework.

      The NUT recommends that:
      There should be a level playing field in respect of admission
      arrangements for all state-funded schools; and the admission
      policies and arrangements of free schools should be brought
      in line with those required of maintained schools.

     Free school premises and planning regulations
     Since June 2013, free schools have had dispensation from the
     requirement to obtain planning permission during their first year of
     operation, enabling them to open in almost any building. They have
     also been given extra time to win the permanent planning
     permission required to remain in their buildings after their first year.
     Local authorities have also been instructed to do everything in their
     power to facilitate the necessary planning permission for a free
     The Bedford Free School opened without planning permission in
     September 2012 in a building previously used by Bedford College,
     located on a busy road. Bedford Borough Council had rejected two
     planning applications from the free school due to concerns about
     safety at the start and end of the school day and traffic congestion.
     The Council issued a ‘breach of condition notice’, which would have
     taken effect the following month and caused the school to have to
     move out of the premises. The school then lodged an appeal with
     the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

In November 2012, the school won its appeal against the Council’s decision, after the Secretary of
State for Communities and Local Government decided in its favour.
The health and safety of children in schools should be paramount. Safeguarding the well-being of
children and school staff is not ‘red tape’. On the contrary, local planning authorities provide a crucial
role in ensuring school premises provide a safe and secure environment in which children can learn and
staff can work.
Furthermore, children should have the right to suitable school premises providing, for example, outdoor
play space, library facilities, a school hall and other facilities accepted as standard in maintained

 The NUT recommends that:
 Legal provisions allowing new schools to by-pass planning permission during their first year
 of operation are repealed; that planning powers are restored to local authorities so they can
 carry out their responsibilities to ensure that school premises are safe and secure
 environments for pupils and staff; that all school premises should provide minimum standard
 facilities for their pupils.

Private converter free schools
As well as brand new free schools, former fee-paying private schools are permitted to become free
schools and access state funding. To date ten former private schools have re-opened as free schools
and a further five were in the pipeline for 2013 or 2014.
What is particularly inequitable is that, once converted, some of these former private schools are
leapfrogging over established state schools to access taxpayer funds for capital programmes. The DfE
has confirmed that four of the private schools that became free schools in 2011 have received a total of
£2.43 million to fund capital development and refurbishment costs.36

 The NUT recommends that:
 Former private schools joining the state sector should do so in consultation with local
 authorities; that their impact on neighbouring state schools should be assessed and
 published prior to a formal local authority run community consultation about the school’s
 conversion; that all state-funded schools should have equal access to state funding for capital
 programmes, regardless of their status.

Asset stripping school land and buildings
One of the biggest hurdles free schools have encountered is securing a suitable school building and
site. Staff from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) have been tasked with identifying sites and
finance appears to be no object when it comes to the necessary capital repairs and renovations.
Where local authorities prove reluctant to surrender premises for a free school, the Secretary of State
has far reaching new legal powers37 to requisition land or buildings formerly used by a maintained
school for a free school.
In practice a lucrative land transfer is taking place as taxpayer-owned school land and buildings are
handed over to unaccountable free school operators. The school estate is worth billions of pounds but
free schools are being given valuable state assets on peppercorn leases of 125 years.

• Islington Council funded the rebuilding and relocation of
       Ashmount Primary School to a new site at a cost of £3 million.
       The school opened in its new premises in January 2013.
       Although the vacated land had a market value of £10 million, the
       Council planned to sell the site to a housing association for £3
       million, enabling it to recoup its costs and gain much-needed
       affordable social housing. Instead a bid to open a free school on
       the site in 2014 by two private companies – Bellevue Education,
       and Place Group – was approved by the Secretary of State in May
       2013. The decision leaves a £3 million hole in the Council’s
       schools’ budget which will impact on all Islington schools and
       means local residents will miss out on a new stock of desperately
       needed social housing.
     • In August 2013, Hammersmith and Fulham Council began a
       consultation on a proposal to close Sullivan community primary
       school to free up a prime site in South Fulham for a secondary
       boys’ free school which had been forced to delay its opening due
       to the absence of a site.
     • The Ark Conway primary free school opened in Hammersmith
       and Fulham in September 2011 in premises which had been in
       use by Wormholt Tenants’ and Residents’ Association since the
       closure of the former Wormholt Library.
     Local authorities are legally responsible for securing sufficient
     school places to provide pupils with education that meets the
     needs of different ages, aptitudes and abilities. This means that
     they need to review provision, particularly in relation to maintaining
     the right number of places for children and young people with
     special educational needs, including behavioural difficulties.
     Currently this planning function – vital for ensuring the needs of all
     local children are met - is undermined because of free schools.
     Councils may have sensible reasons for re-organising schools or
     temporarily leaving buildings vacant. The power of the Secretary of
     State for Education to requisition these buildings throws off course
     well laid out plans for premises and places.

      The NUT recommends that:
      Free school leasehold arrangements are phased out and in
      the meantime schools retaining such leases are required to
      pay a market rent; legislation is enacted to prevent the sale
      of any land or buildings controlled through a leasehold
      arrangement by a free school; in the longer term the land
      and buildings currently occupied by free schools are
      returned to the local authority; the legal provisions that
      enable the Secretary of State to requisition local authority
      controlled school property are revoked and publicly-funded
      school land and buildings returned to local authorities.

  Vaughan, Richard. Glory Days of Parent Power Prove Short Lived, TES, (24 May 2013, p.14)
[accessed: 12 August 2013].
  Department for Education. School Workforce in England, November 2011 (SFR 06/2012)
workforce-in-england-november-2011 [accessed: 12 August 2013].
  Department for Education. Three-Quarters of Free Schools Rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted at First Inspection (Press Release, 1 August 2013)
st-inspection [accessed: 12 August 2013].
  Brennan, Kevin. Free Schools Less Likely to be Outstanding than Other Schools, More Likely to be Inadequate (Labour Party Press Release, 1 August
2013),2013-08-01 [accessed: 12 August 2013].
  National Audit Office. Capital Funding for New School Places (London: The Stationery Office, 2013, p. 9)
for-new-school-places/ [accessed: 12 August 2013].
  £4.3bn in capital funding being allocated by the Department to local authorities for new school places in England from 2010 to 2014 plus £982 million
through the Targeted Basic Need Programme, ibid, p. 4 and paragraph 2.8.
  Project development grants cover costs such as appointing staff and curriculum development – details are available at: Department for Education.
Open Free Schools: Free School Pre-opening Expenditure (2013) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
  Department for Education. About the Education Funding Agency (EFA) (2013) [accessed: 12 August 2013]. and Department for Education. About the
Education Funding Agency (EFA): Capital (2012, p.2) [accessed:
12 August 2013].
  Holehome, Michael. Tax Questions for Michael Gove’s £1,000-a-Day Advisers. Daily Telegraph (12 August 2013) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   National Audit Office. Capital Funding for New School Places.
   Ibid, p. 9 and paragraphs 2.5 and 2.6, pp. 25-26.
   National Union of Teachers. NUT Research Shows Primary School Place Shortages Worsen While Resources Being Wasted on Free Schools are
Adding to Surplus Secondary Places (2013) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Education Act 2011 (London: The Stationery Office, 2011, Schedule 11, pp. 98-102) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Stewart, Henry. Can the Claims of Free School Advocates Be Trusted? Local Schools Network Blog, 19 September 2011 [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Academies Act 2010 (London: The Stationery Office, 2010, Section 9, pp. 6-7) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Department for Education. Request for Impact Assessments for Wave 1 Approved Free Schools (FOI Release, 28 June 2013) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Department for Education. The Priors School. Annex A: Impact Assessment – Section 9 Academies Act Duty (FOI Release, 28 June 2013)
[accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Smith, Mark. Proposed Sandymoor free school in Runcorn could put future of existing schools at risk claims Halton Council report. Runcorn and
Widnes Weekly News, (15 December 2011)
[accessed: 12 August 2013].
   Curtis, Joe. REDBRIDGE: Government Rejects Council Bid for Greater Say Over Academies. East London and West Essex Guardian, (8 November
[accessed: 12 November 2013].
   Academies Act 2010, Section 10, p. 7 requires the person opening the free school to “consult such persons as the person thinks appropriate”… “on
the question of whether the arrangements should be entered into.” DfE advice merely says that free school groups should consult “as they deem
appropriate”. Department for Education. Free School FAQs – Local Authority Role: How Does Consultation Take Place (2012) [accessed: 13 August 2013].
   OECD. Are countries moving towards more equitable education systems? PISA in Focus No. 25, 2013/02 (February)
[accessed: 5 September 2013].
   Department for Education. Evaluation of the City Challenge Programme. (London: DfE, 2012) [accessed: 5 September 2013].
   Department for Education. Three-Quarters of Free Schools Rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted at First Inspection.
   Department for Education. Schools,Pupils and Their Characteristics: January 2013 (SFR 21/2013, 20 June 2013) [accessed: 13 August 2013].
   Department for Education. School Workforce in England, November 2011.
   OECD. Knowledge and Skills for Life, First Results from Pisa 2000. (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2001) [accessed: 5 September 2013].
   Sharples, Jonathan, Slavin, Robert, Chambers, Bette, Sharp, Caroline. Effective classroom strategies for closing the gap in educational achievement for
children and young people living in poverty, including white working-class boys. Schools And Communities Research Review 4, January 2010 [accessed: 5 September 2013].
   Gooch, Rachel. Free Schools and Disadvantaged Children: The Data, SchoolDuggerys Blog, 14 November 2011
[accessed: 13 August 2013]. FOI requests were made to individual schools and none of the results have been questioned by schools, except in relation
to the figures for West London Free School. In this case the school admitted an error in its own figures in relation to pupils with SEN but did not
provided a new figure.
   MacBeath, John, Galton, Maurice, Steward, Susan, MacBeath, Andrea and Page, Charlotte. The Costs of Inclusion: A Study of Inclusion Policy and
Practice in English Primary, Secondary and Special Schools: Commissioned and Funded by the National Union of Teachers. (Cambridge: University of
Cambridge, Faculty of Education, 2006) [accessed: 13 August 2013].
   “c) the admissions policy and arrangements for the school will be in accordance with admissions law, and the DfE Codes of Practice, as they apply to
maintained schools, subject to any exceptions in Annex B” Department for Education. Model Free School Funding Agreement 2014 (2013, p.8)
[accessed: 13 August 2013].
   Department for Education. School Admissions Code 2012 (London: DfE, 2012)
2012 [accessed: 13 August 2013].
   Department for Education. Schools, Pupils and Their Characteristics: January 2013.
   Department for Education: Open free schools: Free school capital expenditure (28 June 2013) [accessed: 12 August 2013].
   The Academies (Land Transfer Schemes) Regulations 2012 (London: The Stationery Office, 2012) (Statutory Instrument; 2012 No. 1829) [accessed: 13 August 2013].

follow us on


     Designed and published by The Strategy and Communications Department of The National Union of Teachers –
            Origination by Paragraphics – Printed by Ruskin Press – – 8963/09/13
You can also read