More free schools given green light

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron
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David Cameron has reaffirmed his commitment to the Government’s controversial free school programme as two new projects in Yorkshire are today given the green light.

The Prime Minister said the new schools - including ones in Leeds and Doncaster - would drive up standards and create more choice.

But critics say they lead to scarce resources being concentrated on a small number of institutions at the expense of the rest of the system.

And the largest teachers’ union, the National Union of Teachers, accused the Government of “pursuing the wrong policies while ignoring the very real challenges facing schools.”

Mr Cameron said: “As schools head back this month, the total number of free schools here in Yorkshire and Humberside will rise to more than 20 – creating over 11,000 school places.

“Today’s announcement is a clear sign that we will not waver in pressing ahead with our plans to open 500 more of these innovative and exciting schools over the next five years, delivering an excellent education and giving parents across the country and right here in the Yorkshire and Humberside, real choice for their children.”

The new schools include the CAPA College of performing arts in Leeds and a new secondary school for 350 children in Doncaster called XP East, whose sister school the XP School, is heavily over-subscribed.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, free schools have already created more than 9,000 school places.

Three more opening this term include the 1,000-place Elliott Hudson College for 16 to 19-year-olds, opposite the White Rose Shopping Centre, which will be run by the Gorse Academy Trust.

Hunsley Primary School, which is opening in Brough, East Yorkshire, will be run by South Hunsley Secondary School and Sixth Form, and will create 210 places for four to 11-year-olds.

The third, Temple Learning Academy for four to 16-year-olds in Leeds, is supported by The Temple Newsam Learning Partnership Trust.

However Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, said: “The Government seems determined to start the new school term in the manner in which it concluded the last – peddling a series of untruths and misrepresentations about the ideological academy and free school programme.

“The Prime Minister says he will ‘not waver’. This is despite the growing body of evidence that the Government is pursuing the wrong policies whilst ignoring the very real challenges facing schools.

“The Prime Minister has reiterated his manifesto pledge to open 500 new free schools in this Parliament. It is worth noting that the Government has also recently amended regulations so that any new school will now be legally designated as a ‘free school’

“This is clearly to help David Cameron hit his own target. The NUT believes this to be an acknowledgement that most of these schools will not be led by genuine parent or community led groups.”

She added: “While the Government continues to play politics with schools in pursuit of its own ideological agenda, schools in the real world are suffering the fall-out from 10 per cent budget cuts in real terms, and a growing teacher crisis as fewer recruits enter the profession and more experienced teachers choose to leave it.

“The school places crisis has also ballooned on their watch. It is on these matters that the PM should focus his attention.”