One of the most frequent topics on this Blog has been free schools.
Voice's numerous concerns about free schools include:
- the impact of free schools in terms of their long-term funding and viability and their potential effects on other schools: with our public services facing savage cuts, can the country afford free schools?
- a "buffet approach" to education provision risks causing chaos and confusion for parents, admissions policies, infrastructure planning, employers, staff recruitment and retention;
- importing an idea from a country with a different education system and social attitudes and trying to make it fit here is a risky ideological experiment that could potentially damage children's education if it fails;
- the employment of unqualified teachers (if teachers in academies and other publicly-funded schools have Qualified Teacher Status, why not free schools?);
- the number of people employed in the Free Schools Group;
- the possible classification of free schools as "permitted development", taking away the need to apply for planning permission; and
- schools being set up by those who wish to promote a particular philosophy be that atheist, religious, creationist or political or to make a profit: providing high quality education may not be their priority.
Now, as reported in Education Executive, "Michael Gove is being urged to allow profit-making companies to open and run free schools without the need to become a charity first. Without this change in legislation the free schools revolution will fail, says the Adam Smith Institute."
In Profit-Making Free Schools: Unlocking the Potential of England’s Proprietorial Schools Sector (pdf), "James Croft argues that the crisis of school places can only be met by giving true freedom to Free Schools and allowing profit-making schools to operate within the Free Schools programme".
"Profit-making free school" sounds contradictory. Oxymoron or "giving true freedom to Free Schools"? Do let us know your views…
Update: The BBC reports that: “Only 8% of teachers believe government policy for free schools and academies in England will improve poor children’s education,” according to a National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) survey of 2,199 teachers (pdf) commissioned by the Sutton Trust.