New Schools Network welcomes Budget announcement of £320m new money for free schools

++ Funding commitment paves the way for Green Paper ambitions ++++ Over 1,000 free schools to open by 2022 ++

The New Schools Network (NSN) welcomed today the Government’s continued commitment to free schools as additional funding was announced in the Chancellor’s Budget. The £320m that has been set aside for new free schools will pay for a further 110 free schools on top of the 500 already budgeted for in this Parliament. Before this announcement, the Department for Education estimated that 883 free schools would be open by September 2020. With this extra money, the number open by 2022 should be well over 1,000.  

According to the DfE, a further 420,000 new school places are needed between 2016 and 2021. The case for meeting this need by building new free schools was strengthened by the National Audit Office’s recent report into school capital, in which it said that on a like for like basis, free schools cost 29 per cent less than the last administration’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Not only are free schools a cost effective way of creating new school places, they are also more popular with parents than any other type of school and more likely to be rated Outstanding than the national average. To date, 28 per cent of free schools have been ranked Outstanding.

The extra funding in the Budget will mean the New Schools Network can work with groups that want to set up specialist maths schools, like the King’s College London Mathematics School whose students have had 14 Oxbridge offers this year, as well as the institutions identified in the ‘Schools that work for everyone’ Green Paper. That will mean more good schools opening between now and 2022, most of them in deprived areas. Two-thirds of new free schools are in deprived parts of the country, like Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford, which was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2014.

Toby Young, Director of the New Schools Network, said:

“I’m delighted that the Government has renewed its commitment to free schools. It’s a recognition that free schools are the most cost-effective way of providing much-needed new places, as well as popular with parents and more likely to be ranked Outstanding by Ofsted.

“This extra funding will give a turbo boost to the most successful education policy of the last 25 years. I’d like to see more free schools being set up in cities like Birmingham and Manchester, as well as ‘Opportunity Areas’ like Stoke and Doncaster, and this new money will help to make that possible.”

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