Commenting on Free Schools in England – 2019 Report, published today by the Education Policy Institute, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“This report is an important reminder of the reality behind the Government’s rhetoric on free schools. This includes the bogus claim that free schools empower local communities and parents. We now know that nearly all new free schools are delivered by existing academy chains, with many opening where they are not wanted or needed.

“It is a disgrace that such a vast amount of money and resources have been poured into the free schools programme, while other schools have been starved of funds and local authorities have been prevented from being able to meet the challenges of growing pupil numbers effectively by opening their own schools.

“Allowing free schools to open where there are already enough school places is completely wrong. It is unfair on existing schools – which as this report shows are frequently very successful in their own right – and creates unnecessary problems for local authorities trying to manage the fall out.

“This report once again confirms the trend of free schools’ intake not being representative of the areas they open in - primary free schools still do not have as many disadvantaged pupils as might be expected given the areas they serve.

“The free schools policy cannot simply be tweaked or amended to overcome the problems identified here. Allowing chains to open new schools via an application to central government is fundamentally illogical, undemocratic and wasteful – and that is why the programme must be ended. What we need instead is to restore powers and funding to local authorities so that new schools are opened where they are needed and following proper consultation with existing schools and the local communities.”