The first 24 ‘Free’ Schools will open in September. These are schools which can be run by businesses, charities, religious organisations or individuals. They are ‘free’ from Local Authority influence, ‘free’ from local accountability and if Michael Gove had got his way would have been ‘free’ of planning laws as well.
These schools are not about meeting the need for extra places, or improving attainment. Gove has driven through his ‘Free’ schools plans as part of his ideological commitment to forcing schools to compete.
Recent leaked information shows that Gove forced through a donation of £500,000 to the New Schools Network, a so-called charity that was set up by former Gove advisor Rachel Wolf and is closely linked to Gove and the Tories.
Whitehall emails reveal the hidden costs of promoting free schools
Because these schools are free from much of the legislation that governs our schools serious questions have to be asked about their governance. In many cases it is unclear who their financial backers are, whether the Trustees have any relevant experience running a school, and in many cases whether the Head’s have any suitable experience.
London’s first ‘Free’ school – The Aldborough E-ACT primary school in Redbridge – will have a 10 hour day and 4 week summer holiday. They boast “Aldborough will not adhere to national conditions of service for teachers”.
10-hour days and 4-week summer break at London’s first free school
Who are the 24?
Of the 24 ‘Free’ schools 11 have some religious association. Several of the schools are formerly private schools which have taken the opportunity to be funded by the taxpayer.
The West London ‘Free’ school syllabus will include compulsory Latin. The Maharishi school in Lancashire will include daily transcendental meditation. Kings Science Academy, Bradford, will teach etiquette, fine dining, horse riding and archery. Two are run by ARK, the Academy sponsors who are made up of Hedge Fund managers, the people who pushed the economy into crisis.
There have been many concerns raised about the impact that ‘Free’ schools will have on the local community. Local headteachers in Bristol have raised concerns that the ‘Free’ school will poach their pupils.
Amongst those proposing future ‘Free’ schools is News International, headed by Rupert Murdoch. Michael Gove had more meetings with the Murdoch empire than any other minister.
Gove’s ‘Free’ schools are modelled on Swedish ‘Free’ schools and American Charter Schools, both of which have caused serious concerns, and both of which allow ‘for profit’ companies to run them.
‘Free’ schools are a dangerous ideological experiment driven by a government determined to introduce competition and the market into education.