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Free Schools

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

3. What estimate her Department has made of the number of free schools that will be in operation by 2020. (901088)

Free schools are helping to raise academic standards and tackle disadvantage, ensuring social justice is at the heart of our education reform programme. Over 250 free schools have opened since 2010, and our manifesto commits us to at least 500 more during this Parliament. By 2020, free schools will have created over 400,000 new school places.

For every part of England to benefit from the spread of free schools, restrictions on their expansion need to be removed and capital attracted. What will the Minister do to remove those restrictions and overcome the reactionary blob in his Department?

The only restriction that applies to the establishment of new free schools is that there must be demand and need for those free school places. That is our policy. I would be interested to know the policy of the UK Independence party, and indeed Labour, on free schools.

What assurances can the Minister give me regarding securing buildings for free schools? In my constituency, east Twickenham is in desperate need of free schools but there are very few suitable sites.

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We need local authorities to be co-operative and to work with us to identify sites for free schools. This is an important way of improving the quality of schools and the number of school places, and we expect local authorities to work with us to identify suitable sites.

Does the Minister share my concern about the standards in these free schools? Is he concerned that they might not actually provide the improvement in the quality of education that the Government claim, and can he point to any evidence that free schools have improved the standard of education in any areas where they have opened?

I can give the hon. Gentleman this piece of evidence: 25% of the free schools that have been inspected so far are rated outstanding, compared with just 19% of other schools.