Press release: PM: We will not waver in free schools pledge

  • First wave of free schools to be announced this Parliament – and pledge to deliver 2 waves of new schools every year until 2020
  • The 18 new schools announced today bring the total places created by free schools to 236,000 – making it the most successful new schools programme

Prime Minister David Cameron vowed today he will “not waver” in his commitment to open 500 new free schools over the next 5 years – as he announced the first wave to be approved this Parliament and pledged to deliver 2 waves of new schools every year until 2020.

The government’s commitment to open 500 free schools over the next 5 years will create 270,000 school places across the country – giving parents more choice while challenging existing schools to up their game.

Today, the first 18 projects of this Parliament have had the green light – creating more than 9,000 places across the country and giving more families the choice of an excellent education for their children than ever before. They will join the 252 already open and the 52 new free schools opening up their doors as schools head back this week. These will bring the total number of free school places created since 2010 to more than 236,000 – making this policy the most successful new schools programme, with schools being created more quickly than ever before.

500 more free schools

The government has committed to opening 500 more free schools in this Parliament, creating good school places in communities across the country. To achieve this, 2 waves of schools will be announced every year up to 2020, with application deadlines in March and September. The latest application window to set up a free school opens on 28 September and runs until 7 October, with pre-application registration opening today (Wednesday 2 September).

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan today called on more groups to step forward, invest in the next generation and reap the rewards that opening a free school can bring. To help them do that she has committed to streamlining the process for existing high performing schools and encouraging businesses, charities, cultural and sporting bodies to enter the programme.

Find out more about how to set up a free school.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

As a ‘one nation’ government we are clear that every family should have access to a great local school and every child should get the very best education – and free schools are a crucial part of that aim. The aim of this policy is crystal clear – to increase the number of good and outstanding school places so that more parents have the security of knowing their child is getting a great education.

Today’s announcement shows that we will not waver in pressing ahead with our plans to open 500 more of these innovative and exciting schools over the next 5 years, creating 270,000 places, delivering an excellent education and giving parents across the country real choice for their children.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

The free schools programme has sent out the message loud and clear, that parents should never have to settle for anything less than the best for their child. Right across the country, these innovative, community led schools are helping to fulfil our ‘one nation’ commitment to educational excellence for every child.

We know that free schools don’t just give parents greater choice, they also force existing schools to up their game. Today’s news sends a clear message that we are committed to extending this unprecedented level of choice to more parents than ever before.

The 18 new schools announced today include a number that will be set up by teachers themselves, showing the programme is putting power back in the hands of those who know children best. These include Solihull Alternative Provision Academy, set up by 3 headteachers of high-performing schools in Solihull, West Midlands, which will help transform the lives of local children who have fallen out of mainstream schooling.

Other innovative schools due to be created include:

  • XP East, a new secondary school for 350 children in Doncaster. XP East will have a deliberately-small campus feel, like its heavily-oversubscribed sister school, the XP School, and is influenced by a number of charter schools in America.
  • Gipsy Hill Secondary School, which will provide a classical and aspirational education for up to 1,600 children in South London. Opening in 2017, the school will educate children based around the classical ‘trivium’ – a system of thinking developed as far back as Ancient Greece that sees logic, grammar and rhetoric as the foundations of learning.
  • CAPA College, a specialist performing arts college in Leeds through which pupils can look forward to the opportunity to perform in world class venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Piper Hill Vocational Learning Free School, a special school in Wythenshawe, Cheshire, which will help children with severe learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorder to improve their independence and employability skills through a range of courses that include horticulture and animal welfare.

Free schools

Free schools are brand new schools set up by parents, teachers, charities, academy sponsors and existing schools in response to demand from the local community, either where there is a shortage of places, or where the parents are not happy with the places on offer.

The new schools announced today, on top of the 252 already opened, and the 98 in the pipeline, will meet the growing demand of parents for more excellent local schools with high standards and strong discipline.

74% of open free schools are located in areas where there was a need for more school places and around half are in the 30% most deprived communities in the country. They are also more likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted than other schools – and research has shown they are helping to raise standards in neighbouring schools by introducing fresh ideas and competition.

The free schools programme is also transforming the lives of many of society’s most disadvantaged and disaffected children. 17% of all free schools are dedicated to special needs or alternative provision, giving more help to those most in need.

Policy Exchange research shows that as well as providing an excellent education to their own pupils, they are also associated with improvements in local poorly-performing schools. And more than two-thirds of free school heads say they are having a positive impact on schools in their local area – driving up standards and ensuring more parents have a great school in their neighbourhood.

Building on the success of the programme, the government is now allowing free school applicants to apply for nurseries as part of their bid. This is all part of meeting the government’s pledge to provide flexible, high-quality childcare that allows parents to return to work.

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