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Free Schools

Volume 587: debated on Monday 27 October 2014

A total of 14 16-to-18 free schools have opened in the last four years, including the highly innovative King’s college London mathematics school and Exeter maths school, which aim to increase the levels of mathematical attainment by the most able students to enable them to study at top-rated universities, and Chapeltown academy, a new 16-to-18 sixth form committed to high-quality academic A-levels.

The academy in Chapeltown that the Minister has just referred to opened in September and has been funded for 90 places, but the numbers recruited fall significantly short of that—I understand that the figure is something like 55. Why are the Government funding institutions that are not recruiting to full capacity while cutting the funding available to 16 to 18-year-olds already in education or training in existing institutions?

The hon. Lady raised her opposition to the establishment of the Chapeltown academy in an Adjournment debate in April, when she said that

“there is no evidence whatsoever that there is demand for these additional sixth-form places.”—[Official Report, 30 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 964.]

In fact, 58 places have been taken up. Free schools often have smaller numbers in the first year than their maximum, but numbers tend to increase in the years ahead. To quote its website, the school wants to

“Increase aspirations to attend the world’s best universities, and boost attainment at A-Level”.

Why can the hon. Lady not support such a school, with such great ambitions for young people?