A PARLIAMENTARY candidate in Rugby has spoken out against the town’s first Free School, as the government announced a nationwide expansion of the Free School programme.
Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition spokesman and parliamentary candidate Pete McLaren said he was sceptical about claims that Free Schools raise educational standards, as Rugby Free Primary School secured government funding for its September opening.
Prime Minister David Cameron approved 49 new Free Schools on Monday (March 9), saying they would “provide thousands of good school places for children”.
Mr Cameron said: “Free schools are not only outperforming other schools, but they are raising the performance of those around them, meaning more opportunities for children to learn the skills they need to get on in life.”
Citing a National Union of Teachers survey, Mr McLaren said: “That is not always the case. A number have been judged to be ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, with 45% of Free School pupils judged to be in schools that required improvement or were classed inadequate.
“The way Free Schools are approved, by the Department for Education not the Local Authority, means there is less local planning for places.
“They can employ unqualified teachers – 13 per cent of teachers in Free Schools were unqualified in November 2013.
“Free Schools are unaccountable to their local communities and are run by unelected individuals. The cuts they will make in order to create profits will see children suffer.
“We have many very good state run primary schools locally – why do we want or need a new school outside the state sector?”
But a spokesperson for the new school said it would have one qualified teacher for every 20 pupils, and plans to offer extra tuition for those preparing for the 11 Plus or common entrance examinations.
And prospective head teacher Susan Milewski said a funding agreement agreed last week with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan reflected well on the school.
She said: “It is a clear sign that the Department for Education is happy that we are in a strong position to deliver a high-quality education to the children of the local community.”
MP Mark Pawsey said Rugby Free Primary would provide families with more choice in local education.
He said: “Free schools offer excellent value for money. They give more parents the choice of a decent local state school, with high standards, firm discipline and dedicated staff.
“I am firmly of the view that money invested in the Free School programme is money well spent and I look forward to Rugby’s newest school opening its doors.”
The school is set to open this September with two reception classes at the iKon building in the Central Park development to the north of Rugby. Visit www.rugbyfreeprimary.co.uk for more information.