Briefing: Why you should say no to ‘Free’ schools

This Briefing argues why you should say no to ‘free schools:

  • Because they take pupils and money from existing schools.
  • Because they increase social segregation.
  • Because they aren’t the answer to raising standards.
  • Because they will be run by business for profit.
  • Because they threaten pay, working conditions and union rights.
  • Because they are not democratically accountable.


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20 Responses to Briefing: Why you should say no to ‘Free’ schools

  1. Rodger Williams says:

    I see Mossbourne Academy is being taken to court over its admissions policy:

  2. Janet says:

    Have you actually read Henry Stewart’s analysis, Andrea?

    Because what it actually shows is that academies do LESS well than other schools in terms of GCSE results and improving the performance of disadvantaged pupils.

  3. Andrea Wilson says:


    The new Bolingbroke Academy has a very fair admissions procedure which was consulted on widely.
    You live in Wandsworth could you tell us all about the local secondary schools which have a fairer admissions policy and what is it ? The Bolingbroke Campaign was for a local school for local children – a slogan shared by by many campaigns – are you against this principle?
    You constantly state that this new school was neither needed or wanted, have you any proof of this ? Do you know if the school is oversubscribed ? Is it correct that you campaigned for the Bolingbroke Hospital to be converted into luxury flats rather than a local community school and GP practice?

    The Local Academies in South London are the only ones I am familiar with, ARK and Harris in particular, and Henry Stewart’s research acknowledges that these chains do a fantastic job and are very successful in raising achievement for all pupils, in particular those in deprived backgrounds.

    I am glad you share my experience that the majority of teachers put the welfare and education of their pupils as a priority. I only wish the unions which claim to represent us would not blindly oppose every change/improvement in education as they currently appear to do.

  4. Jane says:

    In her last post, Andrea is wrong on several counts.

    She is well aware of the campaign in Wandsworth to force the Bolingbroke Academy to have anything approaching a fair intake policy. Specifically, the original catchment area was defined by 4 primary schools and a 5th primary was excluded. This last just happened to be the primary with the highest levels of deprivation in the borough but was actually closer than one of the 4 included schools. If that wasn’t social exclusion I don’t know what is. Even now that the Bolingbroke was forced to accept the 5th school, the admissions code means that very few pupils from the 5th school will be accepted.

    In terms of extra money, it needs to be remembered that considerable extra money was poured into the academies with 3 year start up funding, allowing for extra staffing, etc. This together, with the disproportionate number of new builds in the academies programme, should mean (on Andrea’s argument) that academies should be performing better than they are. As reported on this site and elsewhere, Henry Stewart demonstrates that the academy programme has not proved itself.

    Finally, I notice that several of the ‘free’ school proposals have been headed by teachers who are currently either deputy heads or assistant heads, rather than parents. This argues against teachers ‘blindly opposing’. It is incredibly insulting to claim that the only concern teachers have is the protection of their pay and conditions. Yes, the conditions under which they work has to be a consideration – stressed, bullied and exhausted teachers cannot be effective in their work. However, the vast majority of teachers I have known have, as their priority, the welfare and education of their pupils as their priority. They do not play games of chance with that, unlike the current government.

  5. Musejs says:

    The poll on Free Schools mentioned above does NOT indicate that most parents are supportive of the policy. Read the full results of the survey here:

    The NUT position is also very clear:

    The NUT & Free Schools

    The NUT opposes Free schools. We believe it is wrong that state funding should be given to small groups of individuals to run schools that are unaccountable to their local communities. In Sweden, where the Free Schools policy originated, three quarters of Free Schools are run by profit-making companies and there is clear evidence that they have resulted in segregation. The evidence on US charter schools is no better. We believe that Free Schools:

    are an attack on teachers’ professional status;
    will undermine national pay and conditions for teachers;
    will undermine local authorities;
    will break up common admission arrangements
    will damage local democratic planning of school places;
    will redirect hundreds of millions of pounds that would be better spent on supporting existing schools.

  6. Joy Hunt says:

    I agree with Mr Marchant in that it benefits pupils to have happy and supported staff teaching them. Also it’s worth remembering that we educate our children in order to prepare them for participation in the world as adults, in particular the world of employment. This means that they are being taught in order to become the teachers (shop asssistants, entrepreneurs, artists, plasterers, architects, farmers…) of the future. It’s a simbiotic relationship: teachers are there to teach children, children are there for teachers to teach.
    And we should look after school staff because they are people, who deserve to be looked after as much as the children do. We shouldn’t expect any service to be provided to the detriment of the provider.

  7. Andrew Marchant says:

    “Education should always focus on the pupils and their outcomes”.
    This argument is always rolled out by management when any member of staff challenges their decisions, what they forget is that an unhappy staff is not the best for the pupils education or social welfare, a happy and well treated workforce who are not worried about their futures promote the most advantageous conditions for the pupils education.

  8. David Phillips says:

    We should all read School Wars The Battle for Britain’s Education by Melissa Benn a compelling read which as a deputy head I can validate, it explains clearly for those disbelievers why free schools are an abhorrent idea and socially divisive.

  9. Janet says:

    Could you post a link to these NUT run polls please?

    And data on the populations sampled?

  10. Andrea Wilson says:

    The facts are there as 24 Free Schools are open and many more approved. None are run by profit making organisations and non are increasing social segregation. Facts.

    While there are many successful LA Schools there are too many that do not serve their pupils correctly. They have been given both time and money to improve over many years but continue to fail pupils. This is just one of the drivers for Free Schools and Academy conversion. To ignore this and blindly oppose parents wishes is wrong both democratically and morally.

    Most people commenting on here are teachers and appear to be only concerned about themselves and their employment terms. Education should always focus on the pupils and their outcomes. Even NUT run polls have shown majority of parents are in favour of Free Schools and Academies.

  11. Jane says:

    Andrea: still no facts. True that time will tell but should we really be spending such a large proportion of the education budget on vote rigging, vanity projects. Surely, since we have successful local authority schools it makes more sense to look at what makes those successful, rather than offer up a spurious “choice”.

  12. andrea wilson says:

    Apologies if its incoherant – I typed on train on my phone in 2 mins.
    Points are insubstantial because the claims made are simply incorrect.

  13. Janet says:

    Your attempts to ‘disprove’ are somewhat insubstantial and incoherent.

  14. Andrea Wilson says:

    I have and I can say that the key points, as made in above bullet points, are clearly wrong.
    Blindly opposing all Free Schools is wrong as many are clearly needed and wanted (democracy?).

  15. Pete jackson says:

    Maybe you should read the Briefing. You’ll find lots of evidence that shows the damage similar policies have caused in Sweden and America.

  16. Andrea Wilson says:

    The bullet points are simply wrong and using these arguments plays into the hands of proposers.
    Increasing social segregation is clearly nonsense as free scoops have to abide by same admissions as any other state school. In all free schools opened so far there is no evidence of any social segregation.
    No Free Schools are run by profit making organisations – it’s against the law.
    Funding is same as other state schools, remember the money follows the pupil.
    how do you know they are not the answer to improving standards – only time will tell and real evidence.
    Academies and free schools may well offer improved terms to teachers, it is the choice of a teacher to work where they want and agree the terms they are happy to work to.
    Democracy in schools now – you are having a laugh aren’t you? Also quite hypocritical when you claim any governing body that converts to academy status is undemocratic…..

    Sorry I have not the time to go into detail on these but most are simply wrong and make you look a bit silly.

  17. rosemary fergusson says:

    The positive side of free schools is that it removes the odious spawn of the free school supporters from being a negative influence in my child’s school environment.

  18. Jane says:

    clearly the supporters of ‘free’ schools are going to refute the arguments – they have vested interests. That’s like the bankers saying they didn’t lend money unwisely before and had no part in the current financial problems. Unfortunately, simply saying “it isn’t true” just sounds like a child in the playground stamping their foot and saying “it’s not fair”. Janet is right – they need to provide evidence and not just one or two examples based in the US but a factual analysis of the whole Charter movement and the whole Swedish experience, anything else is just pie in the sky.

  19. Janet says:

    Disprove them then.

  20. Andrea Wilson says:

    The bullet points above are easy to disprove and refute by the supporters of Free Schools. Poor effort.

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