Commenting on the Department for Education’s launch of new application criteria for free schools, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Free schools are an inefficient, costly and undemocratic way of creating new schools. This announcement is yet more spin for a failed project and simply confirms what the programme has become – a way for central government to impose its preferred school operators on local communities.

“Far from benefiting communities, free schools often open where they are not needed or wanted. The surplus places created by free schools have had a negative effect on neighbouring schools, while there is clear evidence that free school pupils are more affluent than the average for the neighbourhoods from which they recruit. This is to say nothing of the many failed free schools that have either failed to open or have closed. In the latter case it is local authorities who have to pick up the pieces. 

“Damian Hinds has again used a discredited statistic about 1.9 million more children being in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools since 2010. Last year the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority wrote to the Education Secretary censuring him for the use of this figure saying that ‘instances such as these do not help to promote trust and confidence in official data, and indeed risk undermining them’. Clearly the Education Secretary is not overly concerned with accuracy when it comes to justifying his Government’s disastrous education reforms, and anything he says about the performance of free schools needs to be taken with a massive pinch of salt.”

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