Free school initiative was launched at BSEC this week

Partnerships for Schools has launched an online search service to help groups interested in setting up free schools find potential sites in their area.

The initiative, which works on similar technology to the Home Office’s crime hotspots tool, allows users to view on a map sites that could be used for a free school around a particular postcode. The tool also picks out data on existing schools, including information about surplus places and pupil attainment, enabling groups to better make their case for a new school in an area.

Called the Free School Kit, the initiative comes after criticism that finding sites for free schools has proved more difficult than the government anticipated, particularly in London. Toby Young, who is behind the West London Free School proposal, has described finding a site as the “most challenging” part of the free school process.

Launching the initiative at the BSEC conference on Thursday, Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, said: “When we started developing this site at Partnerships for Schools, we were surprised that there was nowhere that brought together useful local data in an easily accessible format.. For any parent trying to find out what schools are near them - and how they are performing - this involved searching on various central and local government sites”.