Ten times as many free schools in poor areas

The Times is reporting research that claims ten times as many free schools are located in the most deprived areas than in the richest neighbourhoods…

The independent state schools favoured by Michael Gove, the education secretary, have been criticised for not opening in those areas of the greatest need. However, the New Schools Network (NSN), which helps groups to set up free schools, has assessed the 174 now open in England and the 155 that are due to open in the coming year. It said that 111 were in areas ranked in the bottom tenth by affluence, while only eight were in the top 10 per cent.

Free schools have also been criticised after last-minute problems that have led to funding being pulled from some proposed schools weeks before they were due to open. Others have shut in their first academic year.

A boys’ secondary school in Fulham, West London, was told that it could not open as planned in September because a permanent site had not been found.

Natalie Evans, director of the NSN, said: “With free schools being ten times more likely to be set up in areas of deprivation, we can see that these new schools are going into the areas where there is greatest need. What’s more, free schools are typically being set up by groups of teachers who want to set up brand new schools in the areas that would most benefit.”…

More at: Ten times as many free schools in poor areas (subscription required)

Not sure if any readers would take issue with the research but the fact that free schools are, if true, in areas of deprivation while interesting does not, surely, mean they are necessarily in the areas of greatest need if there is already good provision in these areas? Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Free Schools.


  1. Janet2

    The NSN’s figures are based on 329 free schools (174 open and 155 proposed).  Natalie Evans says 111 of the 329 are in the bottom tenth by affluence but only 8 are in the top tenth.

    Leave aside the question of whether these areas of deprivation actually needed extra places, or whether, like Canary Wharf College, they are in very disadvantaged areas but attract very few disadvantaged children, the NSN calculations omit 210 free schools which could be anywhere between the second top percentile and the second bottom.

    So, it can’t be said that free schools as a whole are “ten times” more likely to be in areas of deprivation unless we know where the 210 omitted free schools are located.

  2. LaCatholicState

    Great.  Free schools are responding naturally to local demand and need, unlike rigid, one-size-fits-all, do as I say, State schools.

  3. Janet2

    LaCatholicState Free schools ARE state schools.  They have a limited number of so-called “freedoms” which come with their academy status. But the Academies Commission found non-academies could do most things academies could do.  (See page 50 of the Commission’s report:
    http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/1008038/Unleashing-greatness.pdf )

    The description of state schools as being “rigid, one-size-fits-all” is lazy and wrong.  All schools are different whether they are free schools, academies, non-academies or faith schools.

    Free schools aren’t all responding to a need for extra places.  The National Audit Office estimated £241m had been spent setting up free schools where there were already surplus school places and only 19% of secondary free schools were in areas where extra places were needed.  You can read a summary of the NAO report on free schools here:


  4. edujdw

    .SchoolsImprove what about the pupils attending the schools? Are they from the very families we would say are in need?

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