Commenting on the Education Secretary’s announcement which includes 14,000 extra school places as well as new free schools and standalone sixth forms, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“The Government’s approach to levelling up and improving educational outcomes for all pupils is woefully lacking and unambitious. 

“Rather than look at seriously addressing the underlying causes of differing educational outcomes, the government has fallen back into its comfort zone of announcing more free schools. 

“Where new schools are needed then they should be built, but decisions should be based on need with schools rooted in the local community. Sadly the government has removed the ability of local authorities to open new schools where they are needed, and at the same time cut funding for the improvements needed in existing schools. It would be extremely generous to describe this policy as giving with one hand and taking with the other, since very little is being offered, while much has been taken away.     

“The free school programme is based on the damaging idea that increasing competition by opening a new school is the way to drive school improvement across an area. But in reality free schools have often had a damaging impact on local schools. Likewise, new selective sixth forms will increase inequality, not reduce it. 

“Provision of support and education for children in Alternative Provision or special education is vital and there are huge problems with lack of capacity, funding and coordination. None of these problems will be solved with the opening of new free schools. A much more joined up approach, with the coordination of the local authority and local schools is needed. The principle should be to preserve and extend the excellent practice that exists in the state sector, rather than pretend that free schools have all the answers.” 



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