The government has approved the opening of 102 new free schools from 2013 in addition to the 24 opened last September and the 50 or so due to open this September. A third of them are religious – and the organisation behind The Big Issue is opening a primary in Manchester.
The free school expansion programme will result in a free school for almost every local authority and includes an interesting variety of schools and organisations setting them up, The Guardian reports.
There will be 40 primaries, 28 secondaries, five special schools and 12 ‘alternative provision’. One of the faith schools is a Greek orthodox secondary school in North London – said to be the first in England. Organisations backing them vary from Manchester Football Club to the Big Life Group, the organisation behind The Big Issue, and two will be backed by universities.
Education secretary Michael Gove said: “Free schools are driving up standards across the country. Now more and more groups are taking advantage of the freedoms we’ve offered to create wonderful new schools.”
59 schools are being set up by teachers, existing schools and educational organisations. Rachel Wolf, director of the New Schools Network, said: “We are excited that such a large proportion of the schools are coming from within the education sector. With over half of the groups approved today being school-led, the profession is voting with its feet.”
But the initiative has been criticised by teaching unions. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Despite the spin put on this announcement by Downing Street, this is not a good news story. Children and young people deserve better than to be used as guinea pigs in an ideological experiment.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “There is no justification for the systematic dismantling of the English education system that we are currently witnessing. Schools are desperately short of finances yet money is being found for schools which will educate tiny numbers of children.”
What do you think of the latest expansion programme? Is it damaging the English education system?