The free school programme in England is set to be redirected towards the North East in a bid to help poor performing areas.

Ministers have revealed that 35 free schools will be created in the lowest third of the worst performing areas.

The move follows critics warning that the government’s free school programme is too focused on wealthy areas in the South East.

Free schools are publicly funded but run privately and all new schools must be free schools and they must be approved by the Department for Education (DfE).

£50 million more to help children with special needs

Also, the government says it’s handing £50 million more to help children with special needs by creating 740 school places.

They say the cash could help create facilities including playgrounds that feature specialist equipment and sensory rooms.

The money is coming from a £680m package from the Department for Education that aims to generate 40,000 extra places in secondary and primary schools by 2021.

The announcement also includes details of extra funding for the expansion of England’s grammar schools.

Redirect the free school programme in areas with poor education levels

The government says it needs to redirect the free school programme in areas with poor education levels but where a free school is most needed.

The Association of School and College Leaders’ Malcolm Trobe said: “It’s crucial for targeting resources in areas that aren’t performing well but places must be directed to where there is a need for extra places because there is demographic demand.

“If you target your money to one area of the country, is there enough demographic demand for new schools in those areas and how you did it deal with demand elsewhere in the country?”

The New Schools Network’ interim director, Mark Lehain, said: “The free schools will make a difference. This will see to great schools being created in areas that need them desperately and we look forward to helping.”

Money for children with special needs

The money for children with special needs may see extra places being created within dedicated schools or helping mainstream schools accommodate these students.

The move follows April’s announcement from the National Education Union that schools are struggling and raised issues with ‘invisible children’.

However, the Local Government Association’s Richard Watts said: “The best way to meet demand for places and set up new schools is to give a council the funds for opening schools where there’s a need for places.

“Councils are responsible for planning places and there’s no sense for them to have the responsibility in planning for this places but not to open schools.”