Worried about where to situate your free school? Problem solved with PfS's "Free School" kit!

Francis Gilbert's picture
Partnership for Schools, the quango that currently gives funding for capital projects to free schools and academies, has just put a "Free School" kit on its website. You can type in your postcode and find out a) where other free schools are being situated b) where you might possibly situate your own free school.

Why not have a go? If you get lucky, the government might give you millions of pounds to build a school, and the power to appoint staff and set your own curriculum. Qualifications required:

a) You need to have a big ego.

b) Start telling the press that all local authority schools are complete rubbish.

c) Be totally ignorant of what good teaching and real learning is.


Nutters and fanatics jump to front of the queue.
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Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 17/05/2011 - 21:16

Well I guess no national politician except maybe Ed Balls believes LAs can run schools. The thing is I think they are right. I am prepared to see funding flow straight down to teachers and parents, maybe as long as the sharp elbowed parents and the sharp elbowed unionistas can work things out between them.

Nigel Ford's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 08:20

The problem with funding free schools directly is that you get diseconomies of scale as unit costs rise.Free schools will still need to rely on the DfE for school selection policy and other miscellaneous services so a layer of bureacracy will apply.

The advantage of having an LA to is that they provide a legal and regulatory framework as well as back office supports services like payroll, personnel, maintenance contracts, catering, utilities etc which can all be delivered at a lower unit cost when it's not done at a micro level.

Ian Taylor's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 09:09

I tried the Free School Kit for my local area Bath. Great fun! Slight problem was that not all the schools were on the map. When you click on a school to get their results it looks great in principle but some of the schools showed up as having 0 for their GCSE results. So I wonder how useful this resource is. Is this another example of Mr Gove's unfortunate problem with accuracy and the government's tendency to announce things too quickly before thinking them through? Maybe I was just unlucky with my choice of area. Are other areas accurate? Is it really for people who are thinking of setting up a Free School? Wonder how much it all cost too.

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 19:53

I found that many 0 rated institutions were private schools.
Some might be academies.
It would be better if all schools were reporting uniformly. Is there a statutory duty to report irrespective of school origin?
There is also a similar problem with the financial stats on the Department of Education site for school financials (last time I looked). I support academies and free schools, also to an extent funding by the state of praivate schools, but we the public must be given the facts, there has to be transparency.

Ian Taylor's picture
Wed, 18/05/2011 - 22:17

Ben, it is nothing to do with schools not reporting uniformly. For many years all of the schools' data has been collected centrally and automatically by the DfE. The DfE supplies the data to schools so that schools cannot portray the figures in different ways. The DfE publishes the data. The exam results data is fully available on other government websites as are the names of all the schools in every LA area. The data is just wrong in this toolkit. A bit like the list of schools that Mr Gove gave during the BSF cancellation fiasco. I do not have confidence that we have competent people at the helm. I guess when we have Free Schools up and running we may have a problem with not knowing what the accurate data for results is, because Free Schools don't seem to have to follow any regulations that are deemed mandatory for other state funded schools. However, as we know that Free Schools will have 100% exam pass rates guaranteed, according to some Free School sponsors, perhaps there will be no need for them to publish results data!
Perhaps someone will let Mr Gove know that the toolkit is worthless as it currently stands. I guess it might not matter to him, as so far the use of accurate information has been of little importance in his policy development. Sadly, for our school children, he is the King of Spin.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 19/05/2011 - 10:03

Ben - Privates schools claiming charitable status already cost the state around £100million a year so there is no reason for the state to further fund private schools! And especially not now when there is nowhere near enough money to fund state schools. If private schools are getting into financial difficulties because demanding is falling or parents are defaulting on fees then they need to find alternative ways of running their business but getting hand outs from the state is not one of them!

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/05/2011 - 18:11

I had great fun with this. Typed in "Rutland" and it sent me to the Peak District. I wonder if Alan Duncan knows his constituency is near Kettlewell. Tried again with "Deeping" (a village in Lincolnshire on the Cambridgeshire border) and the map zoomed to the area round Skegness (on the coast). No sign of Deeping.

However, I had better luck on the Dorset coast - it found Chideock (lovely village on very busy road, noted for campaign by locals who kept pressing the Pelican Crossing button to draw attention to heavy traffic - not a good site for a free school, then).

Paul Atherton's picture
Fri, 20/05/2011 - 17:35

Ian in all fairness the notes on the Kit do state:

"Academies are not currently included in the data, but will be shortly"

And in the FAQ's

"Why is some of the comparison data missing?

The statistical data for comparison is pulled through from a number of public databases. The data we present accurately mirrors that held on each database, and while the data is as complete as possible and regularly updated, in some cases there are omissions.
Some data, such as Key Stage 2 passes and GCSE passes, only apply to schools in a particular phase of education.

For full details of where each set of data comes from, and how often it is refreshed, see the Where the information comes from section."


Ian Taylor's picture
Sat, 21/05/2011 - 12:50

Paul, of the 7 Comprehensive Schools in Bath, one is missing completely from the map and it is not an Academy. Where there is missing data for schools on the map this is available and shown on the DfE performance data website here http://bit.ly/iz22Ek and it has been there for at least 5 months . So I stand by my comments about the accuracy of the information. It does not "mirror" what is held on public databases. Maybe I should not expect accuracy or truth from the DfE, or rely on what they say. I only checked my local area of Bath, so perhaps the rest of the country is accurate and I have been particularly unlucky in my selection of location.

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