Free schools analysed in independent EPI report

Education Executive reports that the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published a new report analysing the latest data on Free Schools to understand and assess the impact that the programme is having within the education system

Free Schools in England is the most detailed, independent, assessment yet of this new and much debated reform of the school system. The analysis uses the latest data on free schools to assess the impact of the programme on several measures, including pupil performance, inspection outcomes, popularity with parents, composition of pupils from different backgrounds and the extent to which the schools are addressing shortages of school capacity and high quality places.

Some of the key points made in the report are as follows:

  • In spite of the growth of the programme since 2011, two thirds of areas in England are not within a reasonable distance of either a primary or secondary free school.
  • Free schools are helping to meet the need for new school places – and growth has been higher in areas of ‘basic need’.
  • Free school pupils are much more likely to have a first language that is other than English than pupils in other state funded schools. In primary free schools just 33% of pupils are white British, compared with 67.2% of pupils nationally.
  • Free schools appear to be less popular with parents than all other school types, measured by parental preference data. However, free schools appear to become more popular with parents the longer they are open.

In reaction to the EPI’s published report into the government’s flagship Free Schools programme. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said commented: “At least 200,000 more primary school places and 80,000 more secondary school places are needed in the next five years. The Local Government Association puts the cost of creating all the necessary places over the next decade at £12 billion.

“The current approach to planning and providing enough school places is incoherent, expensive and inefficient. At present local authorities, academies and central government are all taking decisions in isolation and the free schools programme is little more than an expensive free for all. Ultimately whether or not you have access to a good school place is still down to luck, and that’s a poor reflection on the government’s ability to deliver a stable system for teachers to work in and pupils to learn in.”

Read more findings and analysis Free schools analysed in independent EPI report

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