Bizarre assessments don’t inspire confidence
When free school proposals are approved, the Department for Education does a risk assessment before opening. These theoretically estimate the possible impact of a new free school on existing schools.
Risks are minimal, moderate or high. Schools at high risk are where the new free school ‘is likely to affect the long term financial viability of the school.’
Being a good school won’t stop it being at high risk
How was high risk established? Sometimes it was because a nearby school had surplus places. This could apply even when Ofsted judged it good. For example, Harris Academy Peckham and Saint Gabriel’s College, both good schools, had empty places. They were judged at high risk from Charter School East Dulwich.
There’s no justification for setting up a new school when there are unfilled places locally especially if these places are in good schools.
Sometimes it was because a nearby school was less than good or had low results. But schools can improve.
Puzzlement over how assessments were made compounded by other problems
The inconsistency, contradictions and sometimes bizarre conclusions undermine the credibility of free school impact assessments. That said, no free school should be opened if it threatens the viability of another school – it’s poor planning and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The discussion above applied toimpact assessments for free schools opening in 2016. A cursory glance at impact assessments for free schools opening in 2017 show the above problems still occured.
Names of schools, their status and Ofsted judgements may have changed since the assessments were compiled.
UPDATE: 15 August 2018, 11.05. The Notes above have been amended. I originally said there was a case of an impact assessment being done five months after a free school had opened. This was incorrect as the free school concerned didn't open until April 2018, a month after its assessment had been completed, at least in part. I have deleted the incorrect statement.