Thirty five new free schools announced

Thirty five new free schools have been announced by Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, during her Conservative party conference speech.

The announcement takes to 363 the number of free schools that have either opened or been approved to open.

In a statement released following the speech, 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 have been crucial to that change – with more than two-thirds of free schools meeting this high standard.

“We are giving thousands more parents a choice of high-quality local schools that offer the excellent standard of education that all pupils deserve.”

There are currently 251 free schools open, with a further 112 now approved to open. The newly announced schools will provide an additional 22,000 places, the Department for Education said.

Of the schools newly approved today, four are special schools and a further four alternative provision schools.

Seventeen of the new free schools will be in London.

Several of the schools had been set up by groups of headteachers, the Department for Education said – among these are Pinner High in Harrow and the SASH 2 school in Slough.

Responding to the announcement, Tristam Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said: “David Cameron’s free school programme has diverted millions of pounds of school funding away from areas experiencing acute shortages in primary school places.

Schools Week has exposed the myth peddled by ministers that free schools are being created in line with parental demand [link to story]. But instead of showing leadership, Nicky Morgan has revealed herself as ‘Continuity Gove’.

The news was welcomed by Natalie Evans, director of the New Schools Network, which supports free school proposers, who said that the announcement reflected the growing popularity of free schools.

Ms Evans said: “We’ve seen the popularity of free schools across the country continue to grow – amongst both groups wanting to set up new schools and parents wanting to secure a place for their child.”

“In a recent survey of parents by Populus, 81 per cent of parents who expressed a view said they would welcome a free school in their local area and 73 per cent said they would consider sending their child to a free school.”