£1m of public money spent on 21 free schools that have never opened

 

More than £1m of public money has been spent on free schools that have failed to open, new figures revealed last night.

Statistics show that 21 free school projects have been cancelled or withdrawn. One free school closed while another has partially shut because of poor performance.

The total cost of the schools comes to £1.126m. While this is a tiny fraction of the overall education budget, it will fuel concerns that not enough caution is being exercised on free-schools spending. The final amount is likely to be even higher because the figure does not include pre-opening expenditure grants and fees for all cancelled free-school projects.

The latest spending on a cancelled school, revealed through a Freedom of Information request by Steve Reed, the Labour MP for Croydon North, shows that £82,440 has been spent on the Advance School in Thornton Heath, south London, which never opened. The project was cancelled in the summer. The money includes £22,038 for property and planning fees and £60,402 for technical fees.

Separate figures show that one quarter of free schools that opened this year are situated in office blocks, not the "very handsome" buildings that former Education Secretary Michael Gove envisaged for his free schools programme.

Yesterday it emerged that four out of five free schools that opened this year have failed to fill all their places, according to data acquired by Labour.

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