Updated: May 16
Article originally published in 2016.
Authored by James Goad and Jill Perry.
Free schools are those established by individuals or organisations and, while funded by the government, act autonomously to provide education to all students, as they are non-selective, unlike grammar schools. They are also set up as not-for-profit organisations.
Free schools have provided a source of controversy, as some see them as a backdoor privatisation scheme, while others believe they can be used by radicals to provide a biased level of education, and that the central authority should provide education to make sure all students receive the same standard of education.
Proponents of the scheme see them as a chance to provide specialist education for free, as the free school can be a ‘university technical college’ that teach practical subjects, leading to technical qualifications.
Free Schools are a success (James Goad):
The educational mix should be as diverse as possible. We should make it possible for grammar schools to come back into existence, alongside specialist technical colleges.
Removing schools from local authority control is fundamentally a good thing, as it reduces government control of education, as well as creating a more diverse and flexible schooling system that caters for children’s different aptitudes and capabilities better than at present.
The only proviso regarding free schools is that they should be supported and funded only if they are open to the whole local community, uphold British values (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs) and do not discriminate against any section of society.
Free Schools are a failure (Jill Perry):
The current mix of schools (Local Authority, private, faith, grammar, academy and free) just reinforces divisions in society.
They are basically unaccountable, free to decide their own curriculum, admissions policy and whether to employ unqualified teachers or headteachers/principals with no formal teaching experience or qualifications.
I'd like to see them taken back under Local Authority control and I believe a comprehensive intake and mixed ability teaching, coupled with equitable funding based on need, will extend equality of opportunity. (I have been a teacher)