Unions say public money is being poured into free schools to the detriment of existing schools
Speaking after the Coalition government today announced it had tripled the number of privately-run, but publicly funded schools in England, to 79, the NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “Where free schools have been opened is not the issue.
“The main concern should be that they are being opened at all.
“As more of them open it is essential not to lose sight of the profound implications for the education system of the coalition government’s ideologically-driven free schools programme.
“At a time when the education budget has been dramatically cut, funding for free schools comes from top slicing the limited money available for other schools and their pupils.
“Capital funding which would have allowed existing schools to expand or new ones to be built in areas where there is a shortage of school places has been decimated and allocated disproportionately to the handful of free schools.
“There is no evidence to show that the free schools model raises standards of education, but there is a wealth of evidence to show that it can lead to social segregation, has a poor track record in serving pupils from deprived communities, does not require the employment of qualified teachers and generates a high turnover of staff.
“Public money is being poured into a handful of free schools to the detriment of existing schools and the children and young people who attend them.
“This is a flawed policy where the only aim is to open up state education to the market.”
Critics reject claims from Coalition ministers that free schools save money for central government.
In the last year, they say, at least £2.3m was spent on three projects alone, two of which were abandoned; the other is half-empty.
The government intends to open more than 100 more free schools by the end of 2013.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Michael Gove’s vision for education is becoming increasingly unfair and chaotic.
“Dismantling our state education system and parcelling it off to unelected, unaccountable sponsors is a disgrace.
“To allow so-called ‘free schools’ to open, irrespective of local need and without proper regard to the appropriateness of premises, is not a sensible approach to education provision.
“To ensure that there are sufficient pupil places, there obviously needs to be properly coordinated planning and oversight which is best done by the local authority.
“The Education Secretary claims that allowing a few parents access to huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to set up schools of their choice affords them the same privileges as those parents who choose private education for their children. This simply mirrors the exclusive nature of fee paying schools. They won’t be available to all and they will take resources which should be directed into state education.
“Surveys have shown that free schools are neither wanted nor needed. Creating this patchwork provision will cause serious problems for providing a coherent and equal education system for all children.
“If Michael Gove is serious about competing with private education standards then he needs to reduce class sizes and increase funding and resources to state schools. This will create a level playing field, not free schools for the minority”.
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