Included in the most recent groupings of free schools to open in England is one that will be operated by Saracens Rugby Club, as well as a school for children with autism.
The Department of Education announced 77 new state-funded schools to open in the country. The schools will provide 45,000 additional student spots, making this the largest wave of free schools to receive approval this Parliament. The goal of the Ministers is to open 500 such schools by 2020.
Saracens High School will be opened as a secondary school in Barnet, North London. The school was created through a partnership between rugby Premiership and European Cup winners, as well as Saracens and Ashmole Academy, a secondary school that was recently rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, writes Ian Jones for The Mirror.
Discussing the partnership, the department noted that the combination of “high academic standards and the distinctive Saracens ethos will encourage pupils to excel in education, in sport and in life.”
While the NUT argued that the announcement could not cover the fact that “education policy is a mess,” Nigel Wray, chairman of Saracens Rugby Club said the school would provide a “marvelous opportunity.”
“At the Saracens High School we will combine our sporting beliefs to create a unique school environment where every individual student matters, academic achievement is important and a real emphasis is placed on teamwork and the creation of great memories,” said Wray.
The school, which seeks to combine academic excellence with sporting success and teamwork, hopes to open its doors next fall as it serves 180 students. It was decided to place the school in Barnet due to a shortage of student spots there.
Other schools included in this most recent wave of free schools to be approved include Cumbria Academy for Autism, which will be led by a group of local parents who have all autistic children, writes Sarah Harris for The Daily Mail.
More than 25% of the 77 schools listed will be opened by the REAch2 Academy Trust, which has also received permission to open an additional 21 primary schools. The trust is the largest primary-only academic trust in existence in the country.
The announcement made by the department also revealed plans for another 56 schools to open this month, including 42 free schools, 11 university technical colleges, and three studio schools. The new schools will provide 35,000 additional spots for students.
“Our country needs more good school places for children,” said Education Secretary Justine Greening yesterday. “The next wave of free schools means more options for parents so they can choose a place that really works for their child’s talents and needs.”
Greening went on to say that the schools will allow 1.4 million more children to attend good or outstanding schools than did so in 2010.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, agreed, saying that free schools add spots for students that are greatly needed in the country. He added that the association has repeatedly pushed for local oversight of school places, saying that the government has continued to neglect oversight when it comes to ensuring enough places for local children, calling it one of the most basic areas for concern.
Meanwhile, NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney said that although free schools originally claimed to be a parent-led initiative that would offer choice to families, instead there is a clear dominance within the program of only a select few big academy brands, reports Judith Burns for the BBC.
The increase to the free schools program was the result of a Conservative manifesto pledge during the 2015 general election. So far, a total of 429 free schools have opened in the country since 2010.