New schools will be academies or ‘free’ - not council run

NO more new schools will be built in North Somerset unless they are run as academies or parents set one up themselves.

The Government has said it will only fund a new school if it is an academy, with sponsorship, or set up by parents or a community group as a free school.

Cllr Jeremy Blatchford, North Somerset Council’s executive member for children and young people’s services, said: “A free school could be set up by an existing school or it could be set up by a group of parents and it’s funded directly by the Department for Education.

“The group would need to find a building and produce a business plan to take to the secretary of state to try to get money to set up the school and run it on their own. They would then have to set up a governing body and employ qualified teachers.

“It’s a national policy to allow schools to be self-governing. It’s a form of localism.”

A free school would be outside the control of the local authority, but it would still be inspected by Ofsted.

Mr Blatchford said the new types of schools would have more freedom to set their own curriculum and the character of the school, making it ideal for particular faiths, but the initial cost of the project would be huge.

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Government funding is allocated according to pupil numbers and Mr Blatchford said a new primary school would need around 650 pupils to generate enough money to pay for the running of it.

He said: “One of the problems they will have is that teachers are expensive and a free school doesn’t have to comply with national pay scales, so it will get opposition from the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

“The big problem is if the group can’t find a building it will be looking at a massive investment. A 420-place primary school costs �8million to build and a secondary school costs around �24million.

“And where will the group get the pupils from? It’s a massive risk.”

The move could spell the end of community schools as more governing bodies consider academy status.

Mr Blatchford added: “Nationally a lot of secondary schools are looking to sponsor primary schools which will feed into them.

“Schools in different cluster groups could also work together to purchase services and they then effectively become an academy.

“The new policy will be a big cultural change for North Somerset.”