Parents ‘not involved’ in new free schools

New research by the Sutton Trust has revealed that parent groups have only been behind about one in five of the free schools that have been opened.

The flagship free schools policy was formed in 2010 with the intention of bringing innovation and more parental choice to schools in England, but the foundation claims that ‘very few are fulfilling that original purpose’.

The latest study, from the Sutton Trust social mobility charity and the National Foundation for Educational Research, says new free schools are now much more likely to be created by expanding academy trusts, with many set up in areas with a need for more school places.

The report, Free For All? Analysing free schools in England, 2018, says that if free schools are now very likely to be part of academy chains there needs to be more clarity about how they are funded and supervised and to make sure they represent ‘value for public money’.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust, said: “Free schools were supposed to bring new and innovative providers into the education sector, to drive up standards and improve school choice. But as our research shows, very few are fulfilling that original purpose.

“Our research finds that while free schools are often located in disadvantaged areas both primary and secondary free schools have lower proportions of disadvantaged pupils than their catchment areas. This is unacceptable. Free schools need to make serious efforts to recruit more students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”