No buildings for half of planned new free schools


Half of all free schools due to open this year still have not found suitable buildings, according to new figures.
The problem is worst in London and the South-East where free school groups are already postponing opening because they cannot secure a site.

Seventy-nine free schools have been approved to open in September, with 19 in London, but schools minister Nick Gibb admitted that only “around half” of them have found suitable sites.

Last year, just 24 free schools opened, but the number of applications has grown steadily into the hundreds. Natalie Evans, New Schools Network's chief operating officer, described trying to find a suitable site as the “single most challenging aspect” of opening a free school.

“Finding fit-for-purpose premises for a couple of dozen free schools is one thing, but it is not clear whether the new Education Funding Agency can manage with the number of requests coming through now,” she said.

A spokesman told the Times Educational Supplement: “Finding a site has been our main issue and means 100 children, currently in year six, will miss out on a start to secondary education that they deserve and that their parents want for them.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Over half of the free schools due to open in September 2012 have now confirmed a site, and we are in the middle of negotiations on preferred sites for the large majority of the other projects.”

The DfE spokesman said the government was working with free schools to “help realise their vision of creating great new schools with high standards and strong discipline”.

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