“Free” school flagship springing leak

Press Release

For immediate release



The Secretary of State for Education has hitched his fortunes to the success of “free” schools. So after the debacle at Pimlico primary yesterday, Gove and his sidekick Lord Nash must be feeling a little seasick.
One of the additional hazards of being an unpopular education minister is that the people who work for you can sometimes want to torpedo you.
Last week the Anti-Academies Alliance received, anonymously, a pile of documents through the post. We are not sure where the data comes from or its veracity. But having, analysed it we believe Mr Gove has some questions to answer.

gove1. Mr Gove claims “free” schools are popular with parents. Yet the data show that many “free” schools are seriously undersubscribed.

Furthermore, many “free” schools are under reporting the number of surplus places they have – and the situation is getting worse. Looking at the 2011 openers:

According to the self-reported figures from “free” schools, just 17% were undersubscribed BUT according to the Autumn Census, 42% were unsubscribed.

Of the 2012 openers:

A massive 74% of “free” school reported surplus places, whilst the Autumn Census reported an even larger 86% of “free” schools having empty places.

Over the 2 years, only 78% of the places at “free” schools have been filled, at a pre-opening cost of nearly £18,000 per pupil.

2. Mr Gove claims that “free” schools are about giving parents more involvement in running schools. Yet the data show that the profile of groups setting up “free” schools has a declining proportion of parent, community, or teacher led groups and an increasing role for existing sponsors.

  • In 2012, 38% of groups applying were parent led or community led groups. In 2013 this dropped to 21%, with only 17% of the groups interviewed coming from parent/community led groups.
  • In 2011, only 11% of applications came from academy sponsors. In 2013 this has risen to 22%, with over 38% of those interviewed being existing sponsors.
  • Applications from teacher led groups went from a high of 26% of applications in 2011 to 10% in 2013.

We can’t be certain of the provenance of the data we received. Nor can we judge its accuracy. But then again we are not sure who else could have collected such data. Only the Secretary of State has the power to demand it.

So Mr Gove, is the data correct? And if so will he explain to Parliament why there is such a surplus of “free” school places, especially at a time when some areas have such a shortage of school places?

Alasdair Smith

National Secretary AAA


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