Thousands of new school places will be created across the country following the largest wave of free schools approvals this Parliament, giving more parents the choice of a good school place for their child.

This week the Department for Education has approved applications for 131 new schools, creating more than 69,000 places. These schools will be led by high-performing institutions, including a grammar-school-led multi-academy trust (MAT) and the largest state boarding school in the country, demonstrating how existing high-performing schools can help raise attainment more widely, as set out in the government’s education proposals.

Free schools are one of the highest performing groups of non-selective state schools, with 29% of those inspected rated outstanding by Ofsted. Since 2014, more than 80% of mainstream free schools have been approved in areas where there was a need for more school places, while others are opened in response to parental demand to create competition and drive up standards where existing provision is not adequate.

Today’s approvals build on the government’s strong record in creating more good school places. Already, there are 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools compared to 2010. The new approvals also demonstrate the government’s determination to tap into the expertise that already exists within the school system to ensure standards continue to rise.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said “We need schools that can bring out the best in every single child no matter where they’re growing up, how much their parents earn, or however different their talents are.

“That’s why these new schools are so important – they give us the school places we need for the future, and they also give parents more choices to find a great school place in their area that’s right for their child.”

New free school proposals approved this week include:

  • Stone Lodge Academy – a new secondary school for 11- to 19-year-olds in Dartford, proposed by Endeavour Multi Academy Trust. The trust already runs 2 highly successful grammar schools and will use their expertise running selective schools to open a new non-selective free school
  • Barton Court Academy Trust Free School – proposed by the Ofsted-outstanding Barton Court Grammar School, a new non-selective free school providing 1,050 school places for 11- to 19-year-olds in Canterbury
  • The Flagship School – a parent-led special school to provide 56 places for 9- to 6-year-old pupils in Hastings, which was identified as an opportunity area earlier this year
  • City Enterprise Academy – proposed by the successful City Learning Trust, the school will provide 100 much-needed alternative provision places in Stoke-on-Trent, which was identified as an opportunity area earlier this year
  • Sapientia Primary Prep School – proposed by The Sapientia Education Trust, which runs Wymondham College – the largest state boarding school in England. The school for 5- to 11-year-olds will benefit from the expertise and facilities the trust has to offer, and provide 450 primary places in Norfolk
  • School 21 Campus and School 21 Sugar House – 2 new schools from reception to sixth form in Newham, East London, creating over 2,400 places. The schools will be operated by the trust behind School 21, which has been rated outstanding by Ofsted
  • Rushey Mead Free School – will provide 1,200 new secondary places in Leicester. It will be opened by the trust behind the Rushey Mead Academy – rated outstanding by Ofsted and consistently one of the highest performing schools in Leicester

124 free schools have opened since 2015, with a further 376 set to open by 2020 – including the schools announced today – which means the government is on track to meet its manifesto commitment of opening 500 more new free schools by September 2020.

As part of its work to open more free schools, the government has created a new body – LocatED. The organisation is made up of experienced property specialists to help speed up the process of acquiring sites for new schools and get the best value for the taxpayer.

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