A generation of new schools being established in office blocks, churches and libraries could open as early as next year, it emerged today.
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
The Coalition gave details of the first 16 “free schools” to be approved under plans to meet local demand for more school places.
In one of the Government’s flagship education reforms, the schools will be state-funded but run by parents, religious groups, charities and childcare providers. Many will be run in existing buildings to keep costs down.
A third of the new schools will be run by faith groups, including proposals for Britain’s second Hindu state school, in Leicester, while a new Anglican school is being developed within a north London church.
One school – the King’s Science Academy – is being opened on the site of an office building in Bradford and another – Burlington Primary Academy – is being established in a library in west London.
In the first move of its kind, one primary school in Slough will be run by a private firm – the Childcare Company, which provides training for nurseries – although it will not be allowed to make a profit.
Another primary in West Sussex is being run by the progressive Montessori movement which believes children learn better at their own pace.
Michal Gove, the Education Secretary, said many of these new schools would open as early as September next year with plans for more in coming years. Up to 700 organisations have pledged an interest in the programme.
Labour branded the announcement “laughable”, claiming that the low number of schools being approved showed there was little support for the reforms.
But Mr Gove said: “We need to reform our education system if we are to accelerate improvement to keep pace with the highest performing systems of the world and ensure that every pupil growing up in this country gets a better chance of achieving their potential.
“Free schools form an integral part of the Government’s education policy to improve choice for parents and raise standards for all young people.”
All 16 proposed new schools have won outline backing from the Department for Education. They will now be required to submit a detailed business plan before being given funding.
The programme has been billed as one the Coalition’s most radical education reforms, modelled on similar schemes already established in Sweden and the United States.
Eleven of the proposed new schools are primaries, four are secondaries and one is an “all through” school for five- to 16-year-olds.
But Ed Balls, the shadow education secretary and Labour leadership candidate, said: “It’s laughable for Michael Gove to claim that just 16 free schools opening next year exceeds his expectations. In the summer he talked about 700 new free schools and a year ago he was talking about thousands.
“He has spent the last four months working on a plan for just a dozen schools, while cancelling hundreds of new schools and dashing the hopes of 700,000 children.”