Go-ahead given for eight new free schools

Only eight new free schools are certain to open their doors at the start of the next academic year in September, it has been revealed.

When he launched the programme - which allows parents, companies or charities to set up schools within the state system but free of council control - last year, Education Secretary Michael Gove said he had received more than 700 expressions of interest.



Mr Gove insisted that the rate of progress had been "phenomenal". He expects "more than 10" free schools to be ready for the new academic year, but said many more would follow over the following three years.



The Education Secretary refused to set a target for the creation of free schools, telling Channel 4 News last night: "One of the things I'm chary of is engaging in what the Prime Minister calls dartboard politics, which is allowing an obsession with numbers to supplant a debate about quality."



The Department for Education has confirmed that it received 323 applications to open free schools, of which some 26 have so far been approved to enter the "pre-opening stage".



It will be officially confirmed next week that eight schools have signed funding agreements, giving them the green light to take pupils from next term. Channel 4 News research suggested that a further 16 are hopeful of opening in September.



The schools with funding agreements are understood to be Batley Grammar School in Kirklees, Nishkam Free School in Birmingham, Bradford Science Academy, St Luke's C of E Primary School in the north London borough of Camden, Eden Primary School in the north London borough of Haringey, Stour Valley Community School in Suffolk, Free School Norwich, and West London Free School in Hammersmith & Fulham.



C4N reported that of the 24 schools hoping to open this year, just two - both primary schools with a combined total of 160 pupil places - were in the 10% poorest boroughs in England. Nine were in the top 50% better-off areas, four of which were existing independent schools applying for state funding under the free school status.



Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham told the programme: "Money is being siphoned out of our schools around the country to pay for a free school programme that actually is going to areas where the greatest challenges don't exist."



But Mr Gove said it was "fantastic" that private schools were joining the state system as free schools.



"In effect, we are doing what progressives like you and I have long wanted to do, which is break down the barriers and nationalise private education," he told interviewer Jon Snow.



Children from modest backgrounds would for the first time be able to go to the independent schools taking part in the programme, which will be "socially comprehensive but aspirational", he said.



Mr Gove dismissed suggestions that he was disappointed with the number of free schools coming through in the first year of the programme.



Previous reforms of the educational system had been "painfully slow", including Labour's academy programme which took three years to deliver its first three schools, he said.



"Less than 15 months after the legislation was passed that enabled free schools to be set up, we are going to have more than 10 of them being established and we will have more flowing on from those," said the Education Secretary.



"If you look historically at the rate of school creation, it's phenomenal."



Groups who have succeeded in gaining approval to open in September 2011 had been working "incredibly hard at breakneck speed".



"What we know is that in the years to come, in the lifetime of this coalition Government, more and more groups will be coming forward, many of them with increasingly impressive proposals, so I expect that many of those expressions of interest will materialise into new schools being created in areas where there is a desperate need for them," said Mr Gove.



The Department for Education later confirmed that eight would-be free schools had secured funding agreement, clearing the way for them to open in September.



A further 21 are at "pre-opening stage" and three at the less advanced "business case and plan stage".



Of the total of 32, some 24 were aiming to open in September 2011 and eight after 2011, said a spokeswoman.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Tradewind Recruitment: Graduate - Newly Qualified Teachers Required For Sept 2015

£21000 - £50000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Graduate Teachers/ Newly Qua...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required for a 'Good@ school - Ofsted 2015

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: My client primary school loc...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers Required in Norwich and Great Yarmouth

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am working on behalf of a ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map