Michael Gove approves 38 new free schools


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The Independent Online

Education Secretary Michael Gove has given the go-ahead for 38 new free schools, bringing the total number in the country to 331.

The latest batch of approvals appears to confirm a trend towards free schools being operated by multi-academy chains, rather than individual groups or parents seeking to open them.

In addition, there appears to be a trend away from faith groups opening schools, one of the aspects of the programme which has proved controversial in the past.

Amongst the new batch is a sixth form college for the creative industries in Liverpool run by the organisation behind the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, cosponsored by Sir Paul McCartney.

One parents' group which has drawn up a proposal is the Crystal Palace Primary School in South London which, in addition to the national curriculum, offers its pupils help to develop "determination, optimism, curiosity and a hard work ethic".

"Free schools are giving thousands of children from ordinary backgrounds the kind of education previously reserved for the rich and lucky," said Mr Gove in announcing the proposals.

Of the 38, 35 are scheduled to open in September 2015. 18 are primary schools, with eight secondary, seven all-through schools with an age-range from three to 19, while five are for 16-to-19-year-olds. Of them, 84 per cent are in areas where extra school places are most needed, a figure that is likely to attract criticism from teachers' leaders and Labour, who will point out that means 16 per cent are not.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The Education Secretary persists in the fantasy that free schools will offer an education unavailable in every state-funded school. The reverse is true. What is being offered to parents and pupils is an untested experiment with children's future. Many free schools will employ unqualified teachers."