What did the NAO report on free schools (2013) recommend?
The DfE needs to:
1 Strengthen its analysis of applications to ensure they link with wider objectives.
2 Increase transparency of how it uses contextual and practical factors in deciding approvals.
3 Review the reasons why there’s been no demand to open free schools in some areas with significant forecast need.
4 Learn from earlier projects – some approaches such as opening in temporary accommodation or paying over valuation for properties may not offer value for money.
5 Strengthen its framework for intervening in open free schools.
6 Apply lessons from open free schools to approved schools in pre-opening.
7 Assess the effects of open free schools on the quality and viability of other schools (this should be done during the application process to avoid situations where a proposed free school threatens the viability of an existing school or deliberately sets out to attract high- performing children thereby skewing the intake of neighbouring schools).
Note: author's comments are in brackets.
A summary of the report’s findings is here.