Socialist Worker

‘Free schools’ disaster looms

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2267

Tory education secretary Michael Gove has announced that 24 “free schools” will open in September.

He didn’t say that a group setting up the schools received fast‑tracked public money—as the Tories slash state education.

Civil servants were told to give the “charity”, the New Schools Network, “cash without delay”.

The organisation, run by Gove’s former adviser, got a £500,000 grant. No other organisation was invited to bid for the work.

This reveals the lack of transparency surrounding these schools. The government refuses to disclose the costs, but says that buildings will cost between £110 million and £130 million on buildings alone—up to £80 million more than first estimated.

It has also refused Freedom of Information requests to identify who has applied to open the schools. It doesn’t want its real agenda exposed—the privatisation of comprehensive education.

Free schools are virtually the same as the academies launched by Labour. They are outside local authority control, free from national union pay and conditions agreements and able to set their own admissions policies. They don’t have to follow the national curriculum.

Most applications are from companies that want to make a profit. Religious groups make up a third of applications.

Zenna Atkins, chair of Ofsted until last year, now heads a company called Wey Education. This offers a “model” which “ensures that a surplus can be generated annually based on state per pupil funding”.

A Swedish report found that “children from highly educated families” gain most from free schools.

Studies show that free schools increase social segregation, prioritising “academic” pupils.

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Article information

Tue 30 Aug 2011, 17:11 BST
Issue No. 2267
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