Government policy continues to develop. Today’s article in the Telegraph talks about the rush towards Free Schools with a huge rise in applications. Support for Free School applications are managed by Partnership for Schools (formerly responsible for BSF), but whether they have the capacity to cope with so many applications is another question. The full article and associated commentary can be found via the following link:
Hundreds of groups bidding to run ‘free schools’, says Gove
More than 100 schools run by parents, teachers and charities will open in little over a year in a boost to the Coalition’s Big Society programme, ministers will say today.
Some 281 applications have been made in the last three months to establish a new wave of “free schools” – Government-funded institutions run independent of local council control.
New figures show almost six-in-10 bids to open new-style schools have been made by local community groups. Around a fifth come from independent schools seeking to open satellite campuses for parents unable to pay for a private education, it is revealed.
In most cases, applicants are attempting to establish new schools because of a shortage of places in the local area or to “address historic academic failure”, the Government said.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will use a speech today to insist that his free school policy is on-track to meet initial targets.
This comes despite repeated claims from critics that the Government’s Big Society programme – reforms designed to devolve power to communities – has flopped.
Last month, Labour said the reforms were “descending into farce” after Lord Wei, the peer placed in charge of the policy, announced plans to stand down.
It has been attacked for being too “woolly” and being established as a front for public spending cuts.
But addressing a conference in central London today, Mr Gove will point to “extremely promising” recent free school applications as evidence that the reforms are working.
“Our critics said it was impossible to open a school in little more than a year. Several will open this September,” he said ahead of the speech.
“The rationing of good schools must end. Our reforms are about creating a generation of world-class schools, free from meddling and prescription, that provide more children with the type of education previously reserved for the rich.”
Under the policy, any non-profit making group can apply to open their own school free of local council interference. They are given almost complete independence to hire staff, set teachers’ pay, alter the academic year and write the curriculum.
Some 323 applications were made to open schools last year but some 90 per cent were rejected because of weak business cases. Just 40 were improved, with about 14 opening this September.
The application process was toughened up this year, requiring backers to provide in-depth financial plans before being considered.
According to figures, 281 applications have been made under the new regime since March and it is estimated that around 100 of these will open in September 2012.
Of those applications, most are for mainstream schools, although small numbers of bidders are seeking to open institutions for pupils with special needs or those expelled from ordinary primaries and secondaries.
Some 56 per cent of applications are from local groups, figures show, while 18 per cent are from independent schools.
Meanwhile, the Government has also said that 37 applications have been made top open new-style technical schools that pupils will attend to learn a trade.
Children will transfer to University Technical Colleges from the age of 14 to take practical courses, supplemented with mainstream GCSEs in English and maths.