Free Schools

What are Free Schools?

Free Schools can be set up by a wide range of proposers, including charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, teachers and groups of parents, in response to parental demand, to improve choice and drive up standards for all young people, regardless of their background. Free Schools will provide an inclusive education to young people of all abilities, from all backgrounds, and will be clearly accountable for the outcomes they deliver.

These new schools will have the same legal requirements as academies and enjoy the same freedoms and flexibilities to help them deliver an excellent education and drive up standards in our schools across the country, particularly in disadvantaged areas. These freedoms include

  • the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff
  • greater control of their budget
  • freedom from following the National Curriculum
  • freedom to change the length of terms and school days
  • freedom from local authority control.

Like academies, they will be funded on a comparable basis to other state-funded schools and will not be profit making. Free schools are funded by the government but aren’t run by the local council. They have more control over how they do things. They’re ‘all-ability’ schools, so can’t use academic selection processes like a grammar school. They don’t have to follow the national curriculum.

Free schools can:
  • set their own pay and conditions for staff
  • change the length of school terms and the school day
Free schools are run on a not-for-profit basis and can be set up by groups like:
  • charities
  • universities
  • independent schools
  • community and faith groups
  • teachers
  • parents
  • businesses

Types of free school

In most cases, free schools will be in one of four categories.
  • mainstream: an all ability school, which must cater for children of statutory school age, offer a broad and balanced curriculum, and have admissions arrangements in line with the School Admissions Code;
  • 16 to 19: a school catering principally for pupils aged 16-19. The school does not have to offer a broad and balanced curriculum or comply with the School Admissions Code. Students can be selected, following an interview if desired, on the basis of prior achievement or other criteria;
  • special: a school specially organised to make educational provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), which is designated for specific types of SEN. Traditionally special schools have only been able to admit children with statements of SEN (other than in certain specific circumstances). However, s pecial Free Schools can admit children with SEN, both with and without statements. The admission of children without statements is limited to those that have a type of SEN for which the school is designated. If a school is oversubscribed for non-statemented places, the admission of those pupils must be in accordance with the School Admissions Code
  • alternative provision: a school catering princip ally for children of compulsory school age who may not otherwise receive suitable education. The School Admissions Code does not apply, and pupils are referred to the school by commissioners ( generally schools, Academies and local authorities). The curriculum provided must be broad and balanced, which is defined as including English and maths as part of an appropriate, varied and stretching curriculum for the expected pupil cohort
There are also:
  • University technical colleges University technical colleges specialise in subjects like engineering and construction - and teach these subjects along with business skills and using IT. Pupils study academic subjects as well as practical subjects leading to technical qualifications. The curriculum is designed by the university and employers, who also provide work experience for students. University technical colleges are sponsored by:
  • universities
  • employers
  • further education colleges
Studio schools Studio schools are small schools - usually with around 300 pupils - delivering mainstream qualifications through project-based learning. This means working in realistic situations as well as learning academic subjects. Students work with local employers and a personal coach, and follow a curriculum designed to give them the skills and qualifications they need in work, or to take up further education.

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