New School Network response to Labour proposals is wearily predictable

Janet Downs's picture

 Free schools ‘best means’ of addressing rising school numbers, says NSN

The need for more school places is best met by opening free schools, says Mark Lehain, interim Director of the New Schools Network, the charity which supports free schools.  

Lehain was responding to proposed Labour reforms, summarised here and here by Schools Week, which would end the free school programme and allow local authorities (LAs) to open schools.    

Labour recognises the need for new places is not best met by waiting for a free school proposal to appear.  It’s best met by allowing LAs to commission new schools where school places are needed.

Misleading free school data repeated

Lehain repeated data about free schools which this site has debunked in the past (see here,  here,  and here ).

But, as I’ve said before, comparisons between free schools and the rest are misleading: the number of free schools either inspected or which have entered pupils for exams is too small. 

Free schools are explicitly targeted in areas of basic need and poor performance’, says Lehain.  But that explicit criteria only came into force in May, as Lehain himself describes.    Setting up a free school in areas of poor performance is not as cost-effective as improving struggling schools.   And many free schools supposedly set up to tackle poor performance have been judged inadequate or have shown poor performance themselves*.


Help!  I recently read an article saying that many free schools won’t be at capacity when they’ve filled all their year groups.  But I can’t find it.  If anyone could provide the link I’d be very grateful.


*4% of free schools were inadequate at their last inspection compared with 2% of all types of school (as at end of August 2017).    However, this data should be used with caution as the number of free schools is too small to come to a reliable conclusion about the relative merits of free schools and other school types.

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