The education secretary Justine Greening has approved 111 new free schools, including one sponsored by a grammar school and another by England’s largest state boarding school.
Twenty councils have also been granted permission to open new special schools. The councils will be required to select academy trusts to run the schools.
The government claims the long-awaited approvals mean it is on-track to meet its manifesto commitment of creating 500 new free schools in this parliament, but as Schools Week reported last month, many of the schools will open in September 2020, missing the original commitment deadline.
These new schools give us the school places we need for the future
Schools approved today include the 1,500-place non-selective Barton Court Academy Trust Free School in Canterbury, proposed by Barton Court Grammar School, which the government states is an example of an existing high-performing school raising attainment more widely.
The government’s impending education white paper is expected to set out how ministers will enact their plan to open new grammar schools and encourage existing selective institutions to sponsor non-selective schools.
Other approved schools include Sapientia Primary Prep School, proposed by the trust which runs Wymondham College, the largest state boarding school in England, and The Flagship School, a parent-led special school in Hastings.
The School 21 Trust, the group behind high-profile School 21, opened by former Labour advisor Peter Hyman, has also been approved to open two new schools – School 21 Campus and School 21 Sugar House – in Newham. They will create more than 2,400 places.
Rushey Mead Free School will provide 1,200 new secondary places in Leicester, which recently topped the list of local authorities facing the biggest pressure to create places.
When opened, the new schools will provide more than 69,000 places in total, including 4,000 for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
Of the 111 free schools approved in this round, 27 will be in the south east, 18 in the east of England, 16 in London, 15 in the south west, 12 in the West Midlands, nine in the east midlands, seven in Yorkshire and the Humber, five in the north west and two in the north east.
Greening also approved councils to open special free schools in Bedford, Blackpool, Bradford, Bristol, Cheshire East, Croydon, Doncaster, Enfield, Essex, Hampshire, Havering, Hereford, Hounslow, Manchester, Portsmouth, Redbridge, Sheffield, South Gloucestershire, Suffolk and Sunderland.
“We need schools that can bring out the best in every single child no matter where they’re growing up, how much their parents earn, or however different their talents are,” Greening said today.
“That’s why these new schools are so important – they give us the school places we need for the future, and they also give parents more choices to find a great school place in their area that’s right for their child.”
Toby Young, director of New Schools Network, added the geographic spread of the free schools show the “government’s commitment to extending the benefits of the free schools policy to all parts of the country”.