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500 New Free Schools


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I have to admit to a little scepticism about anything our Conservative government proposes and a lack in knowledge regarding free schools, so when I saw the proposal I did some research. I have written by findings below in a vaguely academic style, but I have ran out of time so haven't gone very in-depth or attempted any analysis:


Nicky Morgan (Education Secretary) today affirmed the pledge to open 500 new free schools this parliament(1) claiming that those already set up ’are helping to raise standards in neighbouring schools’. Morgan boasts that free schools ensure ‘all pupils have access to a world class education’; offer ‘a fresh chance for families to break the cycle of disadvantage’; ‘are more likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted than other schools’; and empower parents ‘to demand more and establish new, high performing, community-led new schools’ amongst various other positives.

This is backed up by research from Porter and Simons(2), whose positions as Deputy Head and Education and Head of Education respectively implies strong positive bias towards free schools. According to the synopsis on right-leaning policyexchange(2) (the full paper is currently inaccessible to the author), the opening of free schools is associated with substantial improvements for low-achieving primary and secondary schools, with the greatest effects felt in areas where there are surplus school places. The research is also considered able to controvert concerns regarding other schools being damaged.

However, the paper is consider ‘controversial’ by Vaughan(3) from TES, who outlines that the report also found free schools detrimental to the standards among nearby high-performing schools.

NUT(5) ‘does not accept the conclusions’ of the report, stating that:


‘The samples on which the authors base their recommendations are tiny, as they admit in the report, and can in no way be considered statistically robust’


NUT ‘oppose free schools’(4), with criticisms including that they: undermine teacher’s professional status and their pay and conditions; fuel social segregation; and get a disproportionate share of capital revenue funding.

UCU(7) gives 10 reasons why the research should not be used to shape government policy, regarding it as ‘seriously flawed and misleading’.

Green, Allen and Jenkins(6) found that the social composition of current free schools show that they are ‘socially selective’. The research shows that free schools children have a distinctly higher mean score at primary level, are disproportionately non-white, are more likely to live in areas where more children are entitled to free school meals, and are less likely themselves to be entitled to free school meals despite their neighbourhood.




  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/free-schools-drive-social-justice-nicky-morgan
  2. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications/category/item/a-rising-tide-the-competitive-benefits-of-free-schools
  3. https://www.tes.co.uk/news/school-news/breaking-news/free-schools-have-mixed-effect-nearby-schools-research-shows
  4. http://www.teachers.org.uk/freeschools
  5. http://www.itv.com/news/update/2015-03-09/nut-rejects-concluisions-of-report-on-free-schools/
  6. http://www.llakes.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Free-Schools-briefing-document.pdf
  7. http://uculeft.org/2015/03/flawed-research-used-to-justify-free-schools/
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