Some free schools were always “bound to fail”, one of the main architects of the programme has admitted.
Lord Hill of Oareford, who served as a schools minister under Michael Gove between 2010 and 2013, told a House of Lords debate today that he has “never believed that structure is more important than people”, and admitted he always expected some free schools to collapse.
The debate was called by Lord Nash, who succeeded Hill at the DfE in 2013 and served until 2017, and sought to recognise the contribution made by free schools to improving educational standards.
Free schools post some of the best progress scores in the country, and many have been singled out for praise by ministers for their results.
However, dozens of the institutions have closed, many after failing to attract enough pupils, and the programme has increasingly moved away from being a way for parent groups to open schools, and is now predominantly a mechanism for academy trusts to swell their school numbers.
“I’ve never argued that academies or free schools would automatically be better than local authority schools simply because they had a different structure,” said Hill.