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38 more free schools approved

A further 38 new free schools have been approved to open, the Government has announced.

The majority are expected to open their doors in September 2015, according to the Department for Education (DfE) , with half due to be set up in the most deprived communities in England.

Between them, the 38 new schools will collectively offer 22,000 places.

Education Secretary Michael Gove insisted that free schools were giving children from "ordinary backgrounds" the type of education "previously reserved for the rich and the lucky".

"Thanks to our free school programme, many more parents now have a new school in their neighbourhood offering high standards and tough discipline," he said.

"Free schools put teachers - not bureaucrats and politicians - in the driving seat, as they are the ones who know their pupils best."

The latest approvals means there are now 331 open and approved free schools across the country, creating 175,000 school places, the DfE said.

Among the latest schools to be approved are the LIPA Sixth Form College, which is being established by the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a specialist centre founded 18 years ago by Sir Paul McCartney, and The Powerlist Post 16 Leadership College in Lambeth, south London, a partnership between the Aspirations Academy Trust and the Powerlist Foundation.

Natalie Evans, director of the New Schools Network said: "The popularity of free schools around the country shows no sign of abating - be that from groups wanting to set up new schools or from parents wanting to secure a place for their child.

"Just as importantly, these schools are outperforming other state schools.

"Free schools inspected so far were more than twice as likely to be judged 'outstanding' as other state schools."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "ATL believes that the cost of setting up these schools is diverting money that is desperately needed by existing schools - the DfE overspent its free schools budget by £1bn and has had to claw that money back from elsewhere in the education system.

"We are concerned that more than 20% of free schools have been established in areas where there is no shortage of school places and, since they are not part of the local authorities' planning procedure, they make it difficult for parents to get their child into a local school of their choice.

"Allowing free schools to employ unqualified teachers does nothing to improve children's education, and the vast majority of parents would want their child taught by a qualified teacher."

A Department for Eduation spokesman responded by saying: "We have made an additional £5 billion of funding available in this Parliament alone to councils to create new school places - double the amount spent by the previous government over the same period. This is in addition to the budget for free schools.

"We are spending three times as much on addressing the shortage of places across the entire school system as we are investing in free schools - 28% of the Department's capital budget compared to just 10%.

"The average £6.6m cost of a free school is much smaller than the average £25m cost for the last government's Building Schools for the Future programme. Construction costs are up to 45% lower than previous building programmes."


From Belfast Telegraph