Revealed: how free schools boom helps England’s richest regions

Apr 16, 2017 by

Figures show lion’s share of free schools spending goes to wealthy south

Theresa May’s education policies came under fresh attack on Saturday night amid evidence that the Tories’ flagship “free schools” programme wastes huge sums of public money while benefiting prosperous areas in the south far more than deprived places elsewhere.

With the prime minister already facing cross-party criticism over plans to open more grammar schools, ministers were confronted with data showing that new free schools in England will fail to meet urgent demand for new places, and cost taxpayers vast amounts of money when they fail to get off the ground.

In a further sign of unease, former schools minister David Laws, writing in Sunday’s Observer, called on May’s government to drop plans for more grammars from the next Queen’s speech because they are likely to “make our country a more unequal place”.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said analysis of data about the 111 new free schools announced last week showed that the 20 most deprived areas of the country would get just 12 new schools, with the 20 least deprived areas seeing 18 new free schools. Labour said that government figures showed the new schools meeting 50% of the requirement for new places in the south-east, and just 2% in the north-east.

“This week’s announcement simply does not address the looming crisis in school places,” Rayner said. “The government is completely neglecting certain areas. When the north-east gets two new schools and 2% of the places they need, local parents will know the system simply isn’t working for them.

“This wave of schools is so expensive that ministers haven’t dared publish the price tag, yet it isn’t even creating places in the areas that need them most. And this is at a time when existing schools are facing a severe funding crisis.

Source: Revealed: how free schools boom helps England’s richest regions | Education | The Guardian

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