Saturday, 15 December 2012

Free Schools True Cost

A Proposal For A Free School In East Reading Is Controversial. So what is a free school, and is it what is needed by the local community.

Free schools - a flagship government policy - are state-funded but not under local authority control and have more control over teaching and budgets.

Critics say too much public money has been spent on free schools that have faced delays or been abandoned. A study by the National Union of Teachers found that Free Schools are hitting state schools by cherry picking the best pupils.

Free schools can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, and religious or voluntary groups.

Mr Gove said "Every child should have the choice to go to an excellent local school. These new schools have been set up by idealistic people who are determined to give parents the kind of choice that only the rich can currently afford.

Mr Gove argues such schools offer choice for parents but the policy has brought some problems.

On Merseyside teaching unions are threatening legal action over the future of dozens of teachers whose contracts were terminated when the Hawthornes Free School replaced two local authority schools. When the new school opened its doors on Monday morning up to 100 teachers had not heard whether they had jobs there.

In Bradford more than £200,000 had been invested in setting up a free school but just days before the start of term funding was withdrawn because the school had failed to attract enough pupils. The charity behind the project, One in a Million, said it hoped the school would open next September instead.

Last week, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said at least £2.3m had been spent on three projects alone, two of which were abandoned and one of which is half empty. He suggested the true figure spent on such schemes could be much higher because of what he called a "lack of transparency" over the way they are being funded.

Mr Gove told the BBC the 79 new schools included 13 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) also due to open in September 2012. The remaining eight free schools and three UTCs are scheduled to open "later in the year" on a case-by-case basis.

Teaching unions also voiced criticism of the policy. Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers said: "Michael Gove's vision for education is becoming increasingly unfair and chaotic. Dismantling our state education system and parcelling it off to unelected, unaccountable sponsors is a disgrace."

Chris Keates of NASUWT added: "At a time when the education budget has been dramatically cut, funding for free schools comes from top slicing the limited money available for other schools and their pupils."

Many quotes taken from here

The NASUWT believes that all state-funded schools should be directly linked to local authorities to enable effective local planning for the provision of high quality comprehensive educational services, to secure the economies of scale to be realised in procurement and to monitor standards of provision.

Machin and Vernoit, from London School of Economics (LSE), have stated that they are seriously concerned that the proposed extension of the academies and free schools programme ‘will exacerbate already existing educational inequalities; thus strongly suggesting that although the Government may indicate that they are introducing this programme to reduce disadvantage, the reality is that it is wholly an ideological move.

Free schools and academies are the clearest example of the intention of the Coalition Government to turn state education into a free market free-for-all and to provide opportunities for the private sector to make a profit out of state-funded schools.

The Coalition’s flagship Free School programme is damaging children’s education and wasting taxpayers’ money, a probe reveals today.

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