Free schools 'harm education of children nearby'

 

The Government's flagship free schools are seriously damaging the education of children in neighbouring schools, according to research published today.

Analysis of those free schools already approved by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, reveals that many have been set up in areas where existing schools already have surplus places.

Their arrival has caused a loss of pupils for existing comprehensives – threatening their viability, says the report. In one school – an academy highly rated by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog – the headteacher estimated he will lose £1m a year as a result of a new free school being set up.

So far, 24 free schools have been opened by the Government – run by parents, teachers and faith groups. A further 70 will open in the next 12 months.

Kevin Courtney, the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers which published the survey, said the free-school policy was "a waste of taxpayers' money". "It is damaging children's education," he added.

The threat to neighbouring schools comes at a time when there is real pressure to open more primary schools because pupil numbers are rising by 450,000 as a result of an increase in the birth rate. However, many of the free schools are secondary schools, the report observes.

Cases cited in the report include the Beccles Free School in Suffolk – which, its opponents argue, could jeopardise the future of the highly rated Sir John Leman Academy. Jeremy Rowe, the academy's headteacher, has described the new free school as a "disaster", adding: "You can't invent children: there are a given number who go to school in Beccles." He estimates that the new school, supported by his local Conservative MP Peter Aldous, could cost the academy £1m.

A Bristol free school is being set up in an area of the city where four new schools have been built, and which already have 300 surplus places between them. In September last year, the free school was well below its target figure of recruiting 150 pupils – taking in just 70.

Becket Keys Church of England School in Brentwood, Essex, is being opened on the site of a secondary school closed because of a fall in pupil numbers. Neighbouring schools already says their rolls are down this year.

In Chorley, Lancashire, a free school with provision for 500 children will open in September despite the fact there are already 400 surplus secondary places in the town.

"It is not just the usual suspects that are against this," said Mr Courtney.

Under the legislation setting up free schools, Mr Gove is required to carry out an impact assessment of the effect any new school will have on the neighbourhood. However, a Freedom of Information request from the union to see his assessments met with a refusal on the grounds that he is allowed to withhold the information if it is to help him make a political decision. The NUT is now complaining to the Information Commissioner, claiming that it is in the public interest to publish the assessments.

Today's report says: "There is evidence that the views of local authorities are currently being ignored where they have raised concerns about the negative impact of a new school. This cannot be in the interests of pupils, parents or the taxpayer."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Many of the first free schools were set up by talented heads and teachers with years of experience in state schools. These professionals listened to what parents had to say and responded with more local choice for children. As a result, the vast majority are oversubscribed.

"It is disappointing that the work of these teachers is being overlooked by the NUT."

Meanwhile, Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, claimed Mr Gove was "intent on recreating the world of the 1950s grammar schools".

In her speech to her conference in Birmingham, she said that was "a time when élite universities had control of school examinations which were essentially entrance examinations for Oxbridge".

"This is not an education service fit for the 21st century – these are regressive, elitist education policies designed to set up a quasi-independent school sector funded by the state," she added.

CLASS WAR: PILFERING PUPILS

The Bristol Free School has created empty places in four surrounding schools, including Henbury School, an academy in north Bristol.

 

The establishment of Lancashire's Chorley Career and Sixth-Form Academy will directly affect the nearby Runshaw and Preston colleges.

 

Derby Pride Academy – an alternative provision free school – will threaten the viability of Kingsmead Pupil Referral Unit in Derby.

 

Becket Keys Church of England School in Brentwood, Essex, is to be given free-school status despite neighbouring Shenfield High and Brentwood County High reporting that their admissions are down.

 

Sir John Leman High School in Suffolk estimates it will lose £1m a year as a result of the establishment of Beccles Free School.

 

Sandymoor School, a 900-place free secondary in Runcorn, Cheshire, could put two of the area's other secondary schools at risk. They already operate below full capacity.

 

Of the 60 children enrolled at Canary Wharf College – a free infants' school in London's Docklands – 16 transferred from a neighbouring school.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Cover Supervisor

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor jobs...

PE Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Being the UK market l...

Science Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Science Teacher Lon...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: The school, the child…We are proud to su...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players