Friday, June 18, 2010

Today’s free school revolution?

There has been a lot of discussion about the academies bill (and a few postings on this blog!) which will potentially cut loose high-performing schools. There has been less attention (until today) given to the Conservative proposals for free schools - allowing parents, teachers, charities etc to set up independent state-funded schools.

While the free schools idea builds on provisions introduced by the Labour government for parent-sponsored academies, the new Coalition is planning to clear obstacles to such schools. In particular, they promise to make it easier to secure sites for new schools by allowing a wider range of sites, including residential and commercial property, to be used as schools without the need for ‘change of use’ consent and by creating a presumption in planning guidance in favour of setting up of new schools.

There is still a lot of scepticism about free schools and whether "parents really want to run schools".(Of course, in headteachers will play the leading role in running free schools albeit with accountability to parents.) Often the most sceptical are people who would normally be keen on co-operatives.

The examples of Swedish free schools and American Charter Schools show how free schools here offer an opportunity to transform education in this country - particularly if a pupil premium for disadvantaged children is given sufficient financial weight.

The government has published information on the Department for Education website and encouraged anyone interested to link up with the New Schools Network who already have hundreds of local groups interested in setting up their own schools.

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