What Are Free Schools?
The first free schools were opened in 2011. Free Schools are independent schools with state funding. Any "suitable sponsor" can apply to the Secretary of State for Education for approval to open a free school including private businesses, academy chains, parents, teachers, other schools, universities and faith groups. Private schools can also apply to convert to free school status to access state funding. Free schools do not need local authority support to open and, despite the shortage of primary places in many parts of the country, many secondary free schools have been approved to open in areas with surplus places.
Free Schools Can:
- set their own pay and conditions for staff;
- employ teachers without qualified teacher status;
- determine their own admissions arrangements;
- decide upon their own curriculum;
- set the length of terms and school days; and
- operate independently of the local authority and outside the local family of schools.
The NUT & Free Schools
The NUT opposes free schools. We believe it is wrong that state funding should be given to small groups of individuals to run schools that are unaccountable to their local communities. We believe that free schools undermine:
- teachers' professional status and their pay and conditions;
- local authorities’ ability to plan and manage school places;
- common admissions’ arrangements and fuel social segregation;
- fair funding for schools – free schools are getting a disproportionate share of capital and revenue funding for schools at a time when education budgets are being cut; and
- democratic local accountability of schools to their communities
Free Schools – Free For All?
The NUT's case against Free Schools and a set of policy recommendations is set out in the following document:
National Audit Office report on free schools
In December 2013 the National Audit Office published a damning report into the free school programme. You can read the NUT’s summary of the findings here.
FAQs on Free Schools
This is a collection of frequently asked questions on free schools.
Free Schools Approved to Open in 2014 or Beyond
The DfE has announced the list of 102 new free schools approved to open in 2014 and beyond. Click here to see if a free school is planning to open in your area. The document also includes a list of those previously approved to open from 2013 onwards.
Click here for the NUT’s press release accompanying the announcement.
Research Shows Primary School Place Shortages Worsen
NUT research shows primary school place shortages worsen while resources being wasted on free schools are adding to surplus secondary places – read the full press release
The impact of Free Schools on Neighbouring Schools
NUT research shows that many free schools will have a negative impact on existing local schools. Read more here.