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Free schools programme 'must change to survive'

August 13, 2019 / Martin George

The free schools programme could “grind to a halt” if the government does not change rules that restrict them to areas with a shortage of places, a prominent Conservative MP has said. The warning follows reports that free schools are among the “three Fs” priorities of new education secretary Gavin Williamson, along with funding and further education. When free schools were first introduced by Michael Gove in 2010, a key goal was to increase competition in the system, with parents encouraged to set up innovative new schools that would create surplus places and give parents more choice. However, the Department for Education has since tightened the criteria so that new free schools can only be opened in areas with poor results and a shortage of school places. Now, this has been criticised in a Centre for Policy Studies report by Suella Braverman MP, a former Commons Education Select Committee member who helped found the Michaela free school in Wembley. A press rele...