Socialist Worker

Academies and free schools - part of the school places problem

Issue No. 2351

The NUT teachers’ union has exposed the illogical result of the government’s commitment to academies and free schools.

Tory education secretary Michael Gove approved 29 free schools to open in the current or next school year in areas that already have over 10 percent “surplus” places.

This means that 20 percent of the free schools opening in this or next school year are significantly adding to surplus places.

Suffolk is projected to have a 28.2 percent surplus of secondary school places by 2016-17. Yet three secondary free schools opened there last September.

Kingston Upon Hull has a 28.1 percent surplus of secondary school places. This is projected to remain high. 

Yet the government has approved a 600-place secondary free school, The Boulevard Academy, which is due to open this September.

The Barrow 1618 Church of England Free School opened in Shropshire last September. 

The surplus of primary school places there is estimated to be 11.5 percent by 2016-17.

Academies and free schools are outside local authority control—making centralised planning and coordination impossible.

London schools created an extra 20,000 primary school places between 2011 and 2012—often by expanding schools or creating temporary classrooms.

But academies are under no obligation to expand because they are outside local authority control. 

The number of students they take is based on individual agreements with the Department for Education.

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