Free schools are the “modern engines of social justice” according to education secretary Nicky Morgan, as she today confirms the government’s plans to open 500 new free schools during the course of the current Parliament.
Marking the opening of the latest application window for teachers, parents and other parties looking to open a new school, Ms Morgan said that free schools had the power to “break the cycle of disadvantage”.
The government has committed to opening 500 more free schools during the next five years, creating 270,000 additional school places around the country.
“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. “Half of all free schools are in the most deprived areas of the country, offering a fresh chance for families to break the cycle of disadvantage by providing a quality of schooling never before seen in many communities.”
So far, the government’s free school programme has led to the opening of 254 schools, offering 125,000 places. Of these, 72 per cent are in areas which previously had a shortage of school places.
But recent research conducted by right-leaning thinktank Policy Exchange finds that free schools make the greatest difference to communities in areas where there are surplus school places.
As TES reported in March, a study published by the thinktank reveals that competition from free schools helps to boost attainment in areas with surplus places. This, however, is only true of low-performing schools; high-performing neighbours tend to experience a decline in standards.