Free school impact assessments are compiled when a school is at the pre-opening stage. They are not published until after a school has actually opened. This means local parents and schools are kept in the dark not knowing whether a proposed free school is a threat.
The impact assessments for free schools opened in 2018 have only just been published*. These appear as a spreadsheet for the first time and show a degree of consistency lacking in the past.
Most of the free schools weren’t assessed as posing a high risk, although there were some oddities which will be the subject of a future post. Those that were named as being at high risk are:
John Wallace (sic) CofE Academy, an all-through school in Kent, at high risk from Chilmington Green Primary School. John Wallis was judged good in 2014. This was confirmed in a short inspection in 2018. It had 225 surplus places (capacity 1720).
Three Wiltshire schools,were at high risk from the Great Western Academy. They are Kingsdown School (required improvement at the time, now an academy), Abbey Park School (inadequate, now an academy) and Swindon Academy (good). All had spare places.
Droylsden Academy, an 11-16 secondary school in Manchester, at high risk from 11-18 Laurus Ryecroft. Droylsden required improvement at the time but is now good. It had 553 surplus places but has reduced its intake from 1400 to 900 and is now full.
St Martin’s Garden primary school, Bath, at high risk from Mulberry Park School. St Martin’s became an academy in 2016, had 90 spare places and no Ofsted grade. The predecessor school required improvement. The academy was judged to require improvement in 2019.
Kingsmeadow Community School, Gateshead, and Discovery School, an inadequate free school in Newcastle with 530 surplus places, were both named as being at high risk from North East Futures UTC. Kingsmeadow required improvement at the time but is now good. It had 365 surplus places but this has fallen to 157. Discovery School was closed after a second inadequate judgement. It cost £9m to build.
Southfield Primary School, Brackley, at high risk from The Radstone Primary School. Southfield required improvement and had 154 spare places (capacity 420). It has since been judged inadequate and the number of spare places has risen slightly to 157. Before Southfield became an academy in 2012, it was good.
Pembroke Park Primary School, Salisbury, at high risk from St Peter’s CofE Primary School despite being good. It had 209 surplus places (capacity 420). The number of extra places has now fallen to 46.
As I’ve said before, the only valid reason for opening a new school is that extra places are needed. But many the schools above had surplus places. Some were good (or have since become good). This suggests no new school was needed.
EXTRA: 13 February 08.23: Shooters Hill Sixth Form, Greenwich, is assessed as being at high risk from Leigh Academy Blackheath, an 11-18 free school.
*Impact assessments and methodology downloadable here