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First flagship free schools open

The first of the Government's flagship free schools are opening their doors.

Aldborough E-ACT Free School in east London and Krishna-Avanti primary school, Leicester, are greeting pupils for the first time.

But as the schools open, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), warned that the Government's free school policy is "undemocratic and a huge waste of public money".

Aldborough Free School will take children aged four to six to go into reception and year 1 classes this year. The school, which aims to have 420 pupils up to age 11 by 2016, will have a shortened four-week summer holiday, and may extend some half terms.

The school has been established by E-ACT, an education organisation that already sponsors academies. E-ACT director general Sir Bruce Liddington said the opening of free schools marked the end of an old school system.

"Traditionally, schools have been given to parents by local authorities, and this is the end of that system," he said, with parents now having more input.

The Krishna-Avanti primary school will give pupils a Hindu faith based education, with daily Hindu prayers, a vegetarian diet, and the chance for pupils to take part in yoga, meditation and the arts.

In total, 24 free schools, which are semi-independent state schools set up by parents, teachers, faith groups and other organisations, are to open this month.

But Dr Bousted criticised the initiative.

"The free school policy is in fact completely undemocratic and a huge waste of public money, established regardless of need, with contempt for the local community while privileging small sectional interests," she said.

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