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UK Politics

Free schools are 'shameful waste of public money'

The Government is "shamefully" wasting taxpayers' money on free schools by setting them up in areas where there is no need for extra places for pupils, the Education Secretary Michael Gove will be told today.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, will tell his annual conference that existing state schools are being "thrown into a downward spiral" as they compete for pupils.

In his remarks just a couple of hours before Mr Gove is due to address the conference, he will say: "ASCL has no objection to new schools opening in areas where there is a shortage of school places but we cannot condone the creation of costly school places when other services are being cut.

"We also have serious concerns about the impact of these unnecessary new schools on the quality of education for children in other nearby schools which are thrown into a downward spiral because of falling pupil numbers and lack of investment."

Mr Lightman made it clear he was not against the free schools policy itself – where parents, teachers and charities are given the go-ahead to run their own schools – but was opposed to any new school being set up in a neighbourhood where there is no demand for extra places.

They have been launched at a time of desperate shortage of primary school places – particularly in inner-city areas – with figures showing the need for an extra 450,000 school places in the next three years because of a bulge in the birth rate.