New research released today by the National Foundation for Educational Research, commissioned by New Schools Network, shows the positive impact free schools have had on the education system.

The research, commissioned to mark ten years since the first free schools were approved to open, covers pupil attainment, popularity with parents, and teacher workforce.

Findings show free schools are the top performing type of school at GCSE; that 16-19 free schools are the highest performing post-16 providers; that free schools are more popular with parents than the closest neighbouring schools; and that free schools are more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

The report also shows that pupils at free schools are not typical of the wider sector: free school pupils are less likely to speak English as their first language, and pupils at secondary free schools are more likely to come from a disadvantaged background.

Research also shows that teachers in free schools are more likely to be younger, usually equated with poorer outcomes for students, which appears not to be the case at free schools which are the highest performing types of school at Key Stages 4 and 5.

In response to the findings, Unity Howard, Director of NSN, said:

“This report clearly shows how effective the free schools programme has been, particularly for the most disadvantaged children in the country. The evidence is clear: free schools have been instrumental in improving outcomes and giving parents genuine choice.

“I hope the findings in this new research will be used by policy makers to set the future direction of the free schools programme in years to come. It is critical that future generations of free schools can continue the work of those already open to improve outcomes for more communities across the country.”

The full report can be read here.