THE IMPACT OF FREE SCHOOLS ON NEIGHBOURING SCHOOLS
Summary of Key Concerns
- There is ample evidence that many of the 24 open free schools or those that are due to open later this year will have a negative impact on existing good or outstanding local schools. Some examples are provided on pages 3-5 of this Briefing document and the NUT has more detailed case studies in respect of five of these free schools. Those referred to in this document are not presented as a complete list of those free schools where there is, or there is anticipated to be, a negative impact. They are merely a sample of those where NUT members and others have raised concerns with the Union.
- There is a lack of transparency regarding the extent to which the impact on existing schools in the area of a new free school is being weighed by the Secretary of State. The NUT’s request for details of the impact assessments made by the Secretary of State has been turned down by the DfE on the grounds of exemptions under Section 36 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
- There is evidence that the views of local authorities are currently being ignored where they have raised concerns about the negative impact of a new school. Local authorities are well placed to assess impact on existing schools. They are in a position to determine the extent to which an additional school may be necessary to meet current or anticipated demand for additional school places. Equally they are able to advise on any negative impact an additional school may be expected to have. For example, there is evidence of the negative impact of new free schools in areas where there is already a surplus of school places or sufficient places to meet local need. In these localities the newly open or proposed free school is merely competing for pupils against good neighbouring schools. This cannot be in the interests of pupils, parents or the taxpayer. The NUT believes that the views of local authorities should be given serious consideration before approval is granted for the establishment of a new school.
- The NUT believes that the views of local head teachers and governing bodies of existing schools in an area where a free school is proposed should be canvassed and given serious weight alongside that of the relevant local authority.