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 – the Facts
Get the facts on free schools in the NUT’s Edufact.
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:
Pay and Conditions in Free Schools
Free schools are legally designated as academies and therefore have the same freedoms to set their own pay, conditions and working time arrangements. Read the NUT’s guidance on pay and conditions in academies here.
Parliamentary Watchdogs’ Reports on Free Schools
In May 2014 the Public Accounts Committee delivered a damning report on the free schools programme. The full report can be accessed here.
This followed the National Audit Office’s highly critical report into the process of establishing free schools which was published in December 2013. The NUT has produced a summary of this report which can be downloaded here.
Free Schools Opening in 2015 or Beyond
Consult the DfE’s list of open or approved free school projects to see if there are plans for a free school in your area. The list can be downloaded here.