House of Commons Library

Free school statistics

Published Friday, December 2, 2016

The creation of free schools was one of the major education reforms introduced by the current Government. The first 24 free schools opened in September 2011 and this had increased to 425 at the start of 2016/17. More than 200 new free schools have had their applications successfully approved and are expected to open in the future.

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The creation of free schools was one of the major education reforms introduced by the current Government. They are state-funded schools with the same legal status as academies but are normally set up where there is thought to be parental demand by groups including parents, teachers, existing schools or academy chains/sponsors. Existing independent schools can also apply to become ‘new’ free schools and receive state funding. Free schools have been controversial and arguments have centred on their value for money, freedoms over the curriculum, how well they meet demand for places and serve the local population.

The first 23 free schools opened in September 2011 and this had increased to 425 by September 2016. More than 200 free schools have had their applications successfully approved and are expected to open in the future.

This note looks at the growth in free schools, their characteristics, pupil numbers and characteristics, performance information and gives a guide to financial information. Readers looking for further policy background should look at the Library free schools briefing note. The Department for Education’s List of all free schools includes basic details about each school and those in the pipeline. Further Government information about/for free schools can be found at: www.gov.uk/schools-colleges/schools-types. The Academies Annual Report 2012/13 also includes a small section on free schools. The Library note Converter Academies: Statistics looks at the growth, pupil intake and performance of these academies.

Commons Briefing papers SN07033

Author: Paul Bolton

Topic: Schools

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