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ASCL says opening free schools may be waste of money

Category: England

Published: 24th Mar 2012 04:44:38

Opening free schools in areas where they are not needed is a "shameful" waste of taxpayers' money, according to the leader of a head teachers' union.

In a speech on Saturday, Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders, will also say free schools may damage existing schools.

"Such experimentation is deeply and unequivocally immoral," he will say.

A government spokesman said free schools would give parents more choice of schooling for their children.

Free schools are funded from the public education budget, like other state schools, on a per-pupil basis.

However, they are run independently from local authority control by not-for-profit trusts, which can buy in private sector services.

In a speech to the union's annual conference, Mr Lightman will say: "ASCL has no objection to new schools opening in areas where there is a shortage of school places but we cannot condone the creation of costly surplus places when other services are being cut."

The union suggests that free schools planned for Suffolk, Essex, Bristol and Teesside are all in areas where there are already surplus places. It is also concerned that free schools may receive more generous funding than other schools and accuses the government of being opaque when it comes to free school budgets.

Mr Lightman will call upon the government to publish spending figures for the next three years for each new free school.

He will say that he wants parents to be able to see how these figures compare to funding for other schools in their neighbourhoods.

His speech will suggest that other nearby schools could be thrown into a downward spiral because of falling pupil numbers and lack of investment.

"Children are not guinea pigs in some educational lab. Schools that have been consigned to the dustbin of our education service in this way cannot be expected to create the conditions which enable them to raise standards.

"No-one in government should be contemplating standing by and watching as some schools fail in order to use it as a lever of change," he will say.

In a statement, the Department for Education (DfE) said: "We cannot continue with a system where thousands of parents are forced to send their child to a school that is either weak or simply isn't right for them.

"Our school reforms will help put this right by creating a system that works for - not against - parents, many of whom live in the poorest parts of the country."

The DfE said that free schools would cost a fraction of schools built under Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme.

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BBC News, 2012. ASCL says opening free schools may be waste of money [Online] (Updated 24th Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1418423/ASCL-says-opening-free-schools-may-be-waste-of-money [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]

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