2. What kinds of Free Schools were set up in the UK?
Of the 24 established in the first round of funding 15 were primary schools, six secondary schools, two were from Y1 right through to Y13, and one was a middle school or intermediate.
The British media reported that four of the schools were faith schools (one Hindu, one Sikh and two Jewish). Strangely this excludes four more schools that have a specifically Christian focus including a Christian Montessori school. There is another school that appears from it’s photos and founders to be trying to attract Muslim students, but doesn’t specifically say so.
Two of the schools already existed as private (or independent) schools and have switched to being publicly funded. Six have been established by already existing education chains such as ARK schools. Some of these have opened primary schools taking Y1 students only, but will probably expand to being Y1 to Y13 schools as their first cohort progresses through.
The remaining schools have been set up by teachers and, in one case, a group led by media personality Toby Young (they teach compulsory Latin at his school until age 14).
One of the schools that was previously private has a special focus on transcendental meditation. It seems a very nice little school with a homogenous white population and I’m sure these affluent parents must now be delighted that the tax payer has stepped in to fund their special interest, high achieving school.
Although British Free schools cannot be run for profit they can buy in services from private firms. Perhaps private firms affiliated with the another wing of the same trust that runs the school? Or perhaps their mates. An American for-profit education provider for charter schools has been approved to sell products to schools in the UK. Anyone can use their services which include specialists in how to start up a new school really quickly. It all dovetails nicely actually. The Toby Young mentioned above writes that his little school couldn’t have opened without generous corporate sponsors including Microsoft (i.e. Bill Gates – a big spending fan of charter schools in the US).
Further proposed/approved free schools include:
- A school owned by a Swedish group. Sweden has free schools (they have fallen down the academic rankings since) that can be run for profit
- A Greek Orthodox school
- An Academy of Entrepreneurial and Sporting Excellence
- A special needs school in Peterborough
- A school run by the Everton Football Club
- The return of the Grammar School in England, a type of school that was described in a 2008 report as the most socially exclusive of school types.