The government is due to announce that it will spend an extra £600million on building 100 new Free Schools. This is expected to happen over the next 3 years.
12 of the schools are to be selective specialist maths schools, which will worry some people, but be good news for those who see selective schools are a way of improving standards and stretching talented children. The specialist schools are proposed for 16-18 year olds, the age group that study for A levels. They will have strong links with good university maths departments. The idea is that they will help create outstanding mathematicians.
Central government fund Free Schools but they are run by independent providers, which can range from parents to universities and businesses. It is expected that the money will not come from the existing education budget, but we won’t know until Tuesday when the plans are announced.
Our question is about where these new schools will be built. Hopefully they will be built where there is demand for them, not where the government want them to be built. Free Schools are generally approved if there is a demand for places or they are to be built in a ‘deprived’ area. We know there are many areas where pupils struggle to be offered a place at their preferred schools. So it is no surprise that parents and other interested parties have taken matters into their own hands and taken advantage of the relaxed government education policy which allows people other than the state to open community schools, and organised new schools to be built or used buildings within their communities for educating local children.
The selective nature of some of these schools appears to be going against what Free Schools are supposed to be, indeed, on a government website it states:
Free Schools are all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to what local people say they want and need in order to improve education for children in their community. (http://www.education.gov.uk/freeschools 27/11/11)
Has government policy changed? Either Free Schools are for all children regardless of their ability or they are not, the proposed situation leaves us with many questions which hopefully will be answered very soon.