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New Free Schools to Open in Disadvantaged Areas

free schools

In a mission to drive up school standards, Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has announced today that fifteen new free schools will open in areas where educational outcomes are lowest.

What are free schools?

Free schools are Government funded but they are not in the hands of local authorities. Instead, other organisations run them such as academy trusts, industry and universities. Based on this, strong trusts can open high-quality schools in new areas which have greater freedom to “innovate and drive up standards” due to autonomy over pay for their staff and the content of their curriculum.

Free schools and academies have been central to this Government’s work to raise school standards, with 88% of schools​ now rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, up from 68% in 2010. Free schools also currently outperform other types of non-selective state schools in England as based on last week’s A level results, around 35% of A levels taken by pupils in free schools achieved a grade A or A* compared to 22% studied by pupils in local authority schools.

A wave of new free schools

The Department for Education states that around 12,000 young people in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country will now benefit from a wave of new free schools, another major step in their work to raise school standards and provide children with opportunities.

The new schools will include 3 schools run by the high performing Star Academies and Eton College, located in Dudley, Teesside and Oldham, spreading the highest standards of education across the North East, North West and West Midlands. These schools will help rapidly increase the progression of talented local pupils into top universities including Oxford and Cambridge.

The full list of new free schools that have been approved and are expected to open in 3 or 4 years include:

  • Eton Star, a 16-19 school in Dudley
  • Eton Star, a 16-19 school in Teesside
  • Eton Star, a 16-19 school in Oldham
  • BRIT School North, a 16-19 school in Bradford
  • Great Stall East Academy, an all through school from ages 4 to 16 in Swindon
  • Lotmead Primary School in Swindon
  • Dixons Victoria Academy, a secondary school in Manchester
  • Dixons Wythenshawe Sixth Form, a 16-19 school in Manchester
  • Eden Girls’ Leadership Academy, a secondary school in Liverpool
  • Bolsover Sixth Form, a 16-19 school in Derbyshire
  • Cabot Sixth Form, a 16-19 school in Bristol
  • New College Keighley, a 16-19 school in Bradford
  • Thorpe Park College, a 16-19 school in Leeds
  • UTC Southampton
  • Doncaster UTC – Health Sciences and Green Technologies

Responses

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: We want to make more good school places available to families, and these 15 new free schools will bring brand new opportunities to young people from Bradford to Bristol. Free schools bring high standards, more choice for parents and strong links to industry – and all in the areas where those opportunities are needed most. These new schools build on this government’s work to drive up school standards since 2010, with 88% of schools now rated good or outstanding – up from 68% – and high performing academies and free schools in all parts of the country.

Star Academies chief executive Sir Hamid Patel CBE said: The free schools programme continues to inject innovation and creativity into the school system. We’re delighted our 3 sixth form colleges – being delivered in partnership with Eton College – will be part of the programme and we look forward to working with our local stakeholders to provide more young people with the high-quality education and aspirational opportunities they deserve.

Eton College headmaster Simon Henderson said: We are delighted by this decision. We believe these new colleges have the potential to be transformative both for the young people who attend and for the wider communities they will serve. Collaborative partnership will be key to this project’s success and we are very grateful for the support we have had already from the respective councils, from the local communities and from our colleagues in other educational settings.

Final thought

The Government contends that the free schools programme provides parents with more choice of good schools, helping to level up opportunity across the country. Free schools in this new wave therefore aims to prioritise Education Investment Areas (EIAs) identified in the Levelling Up White Paper and Priority Education Investment Areas (PEIAs) identified in the Schools White Paper.

Curia’s Levelling Up Commission

The Levelling Up Commission intends to consider ways to implement the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper and subsequent Bill from the perspective of local and regional government. Too often the Levelling Up agenda is something being done ‘to and for’ local and regional government, the Commission intends to make sure it is done ‘with and by’ them.

Through roundtable meetings with MPs and senior leaders of local and regional government from across the UK, quantitative data analysis and regional sprints, the Commission intends to set out a series of recommendations to consider how regional inequalities can be reduced from the perspective of public services in four key areas:

Health and Social Care

Housing and Homelessness

Education, Skills and Training

Crime, Justice and Rehabilitation

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