Jeevan Vasager , the education editor of the Guardian hints today
that Michael Gove and the DFE maybe going a little cold on the free school idea. That chimes with reports I have heard that the DFE is realising that they underestimated the difficulty of finding sites and the cost of converting existing buildings . If we are indeed only going to see a further 50 free schools this September - making a grand total of 74 after two and a half years of the coalition government and 16 of which will by UTCs specialising in vocational training for 14-19 years olds- it really does sound as if the policy is shaping up to be a bit of a flop. This may be why the government has switched attention back to academy conversion, forcible or otherwise.
The New Schools Network, a charity set up by Michael Gove to help deliver free schools, appears to think that free school bidders should either just be given cash directly by government and then allowed to find and negotiate for own premises or they should be allowed to raise private capital, presumably in return for delivering a profit - an idea that is always lurking around in the background of the policy.Rachel Wolf, director of the NSN, says: "It is clearly true that if you allow an injection of private capital, you allow new institutions to form."
I have got a better idea. The money set aside for free schools should now be re-directed towards capital investment in existing school buildings and the creation of new primary places in existing schools where the demand is highest. I believe this would be popular with many schools and parents and it would save Mr Gove from having quite a lot of egg on his face at the end of this Parliament.