The Conservative government had pledged to open 500 new free schools over the next 5 years. This is a great new policy as it will create 270,000 additional school places across the country. This will give parents more choice…but most importantly it will create enough school places for the ever increasing population.
The free schools are new independent state schools, set up by parents, teachers, academy sponsors and charities with the aid of existing schools in response to growing demand from the local community. They cater for the existing shortages of places or where parents are unhappy with the places on offer.
Free Schools offer the freedom state schools don’t – they have independent control over what they teach, who teaches (and what pay/conditions they should receive); they also have control over their budget. Although they are independent, they are accountable to their governors and inspected by Ofsted.
Some of the freedoms they have include extending the school day with optional extra-curricular activities; this is super handy as they assist working parents. They also offer longer school years, including holiday programmes. Some interestingly even allow parents to apply for holiday leave within the school year. I think it is a definite plus if you think about how many parents have recently been fined for going on holiday.
Free schools don’t have to teach the curriculum, or they can follow it but enhance it in different ways. It is clear that these types of schools offer something that little bit different to the ‘norm’ and they are achieving results – they are twice as likely to be judged ‘Outstanding’ in a like for like comparison with other state schools!
This year’s budget has also announced an interesting switch – plans are to force all schools in England to become academies by 2020! This is whether teachers, pupils or parents want to or not! George Osbourne’s vision is to allow schools their independence back.
I wonder what choice would you make if you could? Would you send your child to a free school?