Only 16 free schools will open next year, but education secretary says he is not disappointed

Sixteen schools are set to open next year as part of the coalition government’s first wave of the free schools programme.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, education secretary Michael Gove denied this was a disappointing number given more than 700 groups had expressed interest and around 100 had applied. He said the number was well in excess of his hopes.

Legislation to allow charities, parents, businesses or religious groups to set up new schools was passed before parliament went into summer recess.

The so called ‘free schools’ will be state-funded and free from local authority control. They are also a key part of the government’s education policy and it initially hoped to open 20 of them, having set aside £50m this financial year for pilot projects, a figure that may grow substantially in future.

Critics claim the niche schools will spring up in wealthy areas and that they will drain resources from existing schools.

The first round of schools are set to be open by September 2011.


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