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Nicky Morgan lauds free schools as “modern engines of social justice” as next application window opens



Education secretary Nicky Morgan has hailed free schools for “breaking the cycle of disadvantage” as the latest window for new proposals opens today.

Ms Morgan has reaffirmed the  Conservative’s pre-election pledge to open 500 more free schools – equating to 270,000 more school places.

And she is calling on high performing schools, sponsors, charities, community groups and parents to put forward proposals and join her mission to “provide every child with a truly world class education”.

“Free schools are at the heart of the Government’s commitment to deliver real social justice by ensuring all pupils have access to a world class education,” Ms Morgan said.

“This is at the core of our commitment to govern as one nation – creating a country where everyone, regardless of their background, can achieve their high aspirations.”

She said half of the 254 free schools have opened in deprived areas “offering a fresh chance for families to break the cycle of disadvantage by providing a quality of schooling never been seen in many communities.”

She singled out Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford and ARK Conway Primary Academy as examples – both Ofsted rated outstanding – adding: “These are the modern engines of social justice.

“Parents want the best for their kids, and where they are unhappy with the schools on offer locally the free school programme empowers them to demand more and establish new, high performing, community-led new schools.”

Schools Week reported yesterday only three Ofsted inspections into free schools were published in the run up to the election – compared to ten last year.

But more are now starting to appear and five have been published since the election – including two yesterday.

Three schools were graded as requires improvement – Parkfield School in Bournemouth, Reach School in Birmingham and St Mary Magdalene Academy: the Courtyard, in Islington.

Two have been rated as good – Heyford Park Free School in Oxfordshire and Cathedral Primary School in Bristol.

According to research by Free Schools Info 82 of the 254 open free schools have had Ofsted inspections.

Nearly half (49 per cent) have been rated good, 24 per cent rated requires improvement and 23 per cent outstanding.

Three free schools (4 per cent) have been graded as inadequate.

Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall also announced yesterday she supports free schools – in contrast to previous Labour policy.



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4 Comments

  1. John Fowler

    Can somebody explain the difference between a Sponsored Academy and a Free School? It is interesting that the two quoted examples Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford and ARK Conway Primary Academy are, I assume, related to the Academy chains of the same name, and are not led by innovative parent and community groups.

    • Janet Downs

      John – free schools are schools set up by proposer groups. Proposers can include parents (not very common – although the Gov’t mentions parent groups first to imply free schools are set up by plucky pioneers), other schools, faith groups and academy chains.

      Free schools are academies but are given the name ‘free schools’ because they’ve been set up by these proposer groups rather than being existing schools which have converted to academy status (by force if necessary), existing schools handed to a sponsor (by force if necessary), or those academies set up by Labour.

  2. More than three free schools have been judged Inadequate. These are: Discovery New School (now closed); Al Madinah; Hartsbrook E-Act; The Hawthorne’s Free School; IES Breckland, The Durham Free School (now closed), Grindon Hall Christian School and The Maltings Free College (16-19).
    I make that eight (seven if you don’t include the sixth-form). Al-Madinah has been re-inspected and now Requires Improvement. That brings the total which were/are Inadequate down to six.
    So how come the figure’s given as three? It’s because two have closed and one (Hartsbrook E-Act) is bring run by a new sponsor. The DfE rejected my claim (August 2014 on Local Schools Network)that it was being closed. But when it comes to adding up the number of Inadequate free schools, Hartsbrook E-Act has closed.
    Omitting the closed Inadequate free schools and the one that’s closed-but-open, the proportion of Inadequate free schools from about 7% to just 4%.
    Of course, the number of inspected free schools (82)is only small and one more or less Inadequate judgement has a disproportionate effect. But since Morgan likes to boast about the only 4% being Inadequate, it’s important to remind her of the correct proportion. Ignoring the closed Inadequate free schools is rather deceptive.

  3. ‘Half of all free schools are in the most deprived areas of the country.’ said Morgan. But that doesn’t mean they take disadvantaged children. Canary Wharf college in Tower Hamlets, for example, takes only 4.4% of children who’ve been eligible for free school meals any time in the last six years (FSM6)and the West London Free School Primary has just 6.7%.