Council identifies concerns over free schools’ impact across city

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EDUCATION chiefs in a Yorkshire city at the forefront of the free school movement are to investigate whether the new institutions could detrimentally affect pupil numbers at existing primaries and secondaries.

Two of the first free schools in the country opened in Bradford this year and three more have been given ministerial approval to open in the coming year.

The city also faces a major shortage of school places with 5,000 more needed over the next four years – and more new state-funded free school schools could help meet this demand.

However there are also concerns that those behind new free schools could pull pupils out of existing council-run schools – with negative effects.

A Bradford Council report said: “The development of future free schools, including the ones named as potentially opening in September 2012, will be scrutinised by council officers in their response to the Department for Education consultation. Officers will seek to ascertain if they are to recruit pupils from areas where we consider we have a need or whether they will have a negative impact on the roles of the current schools and what level of impact that may be.”

Councillor Ralph Berry, the council’s executive member for children’s services, has previously warned that creating two more free schools this year after the council’s schools had already gone through their admissions process caused major disruption.

The coalition Government is encouraging parents, teachers, private providers and existing schools to open state-funded free schools if they believe there is a local demand.