East of England to get 18 more new free schools

The trust which runs Wymondham College in Norfolk is set to benefit following the go-ahead from the Department of Education for 131 new free schools to be built, providing an extra 69,000 school places across the country.

On top of the 124 opened since 2015, there is now a total of 376 new free schools in the pipeline which will deliver the Government’s manifesto promise of 500 new free schools by 2020.

These schools will be led by high-performing institutions, including a grammar-school-led multi-academy trust (MAT) and the largest state boarding school in the country, to demonstrate how existing high-performing schools can help raise attainment more widely, as set out in the government’s education proposals.

A total of 18 new free schools are due in the East of England, offering 8,875 new places, with 450 primary places to be created in Norfolk at the Sapienta Primary Prep School as proposed by the Sapienta Education Trust, which runs Wymondham College, the largest state boarding school in England. The new school, for five to 11-year-olds, “will benefit from the expertise and facilities the trust has to offer”, says the Department of Education.

The full list of Department of Education-approved free schools in Wave 12 of the roll-out is as follows:

  • 111 free schools in total, creating 67,718 new school places:
  • 18 schools in the East of England, creating 8,875 places
  • 9 schools in the East Midlands, creating 8,105 places
  • 7 schools in Yorkshire and the Humber, creating 4,006 places
  • 2 schools in the North East, creating 204 places
  • 5 schools in the North West, creating 4,610 places
  • 27 schools in the South East, creating 15,429 places
  • 15 schools in the South West, creating 7,721 places
  • 12 schools in the West Midlands, creating 9,060 places
  • 16 schools in London, creating 9,708 places

20 local authorities have been given the go-ahead to create special schools to cope with the increase in students with disabilities or with learning difficulties, which will see the number of approvals reach 131.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “We need schools that can bring out the best in every single child no matter where they’re growing up, how much their parents earn, or however different their talents are.

“That’s why these new schools are so important – they give us the school places we need for the future, and they also give parents more choices to find a great school place in their area that’s right for their child.”

The Government has set up a specialist new property body, LocatED, responsible for buying and developing sites for its agenda. The organisation is being steered by experienced property specialists.

Free schools are one of the highest performing groups of non-selective state schools, with 29% of those inspected rated outstanding by Ofsted. Since 2014, more than 80% of mainstream free schools have been approved in areas where there was a need for more school places, while others are opened in response to parental demand to create competition and drive up standards. But they have faced criticism: a recent report from the Sutton Trust, founded in 1997 by Sir Peter Lampl “to improve social mobility through education”, reported that 65% of secondary school heads polled said that their school had cut back on teaching staff to save money – with 50% stating that they had cut back both on teaching staff and teaching assistants, even as free schools were being funded, and 40% cutting back on A-level and GCSE subject choices due to budget pressures.

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