What is a Free School?

A Free School is a new type of state school that is funded directly by the Department for Education (DfE).

Free Schools are typically established in areas of strong local demand, where parents and educationalists are able to demonstrate a shared desire to improve the educational prospects for children in their community.

Because it is directly funded by the government, a Free School is independent from local authority control and has the power to set its own financial priorities. For example, a Free School may choose to spend more of its budget on teaching, or direct its resources towards supporting smaller class sizes. A Free School also has the power to set its own curriculum and may even vary the length of the school day if it wishes.

In addition to having to meet the DfE’s rigorous application procedure, all Free Schools are continuously inspected by OFSTED in order to ensure they continue to achieve high standards.

Since the government launched the Free School scheme in 2010, over 300 Free Schools have now opened or been approved to open across the country. So far, nearly every Free School that has opened has been oversubscribed by its second year of operation, with Free secondary schools on average three times oversubscribed. Corby Technical School, which opened last year, received 250 applicants for its 75 places this year.

The Education Act 2011 now requires any local authority planning a new school to seek proposals for a Free School. The authority may only propose a traditional school if no such proposals are forthcoming

For more information on Free Schools, please visit the Department for Education website www.gov.uk/dfe