THE GOVERNMENT has approved four more free schools to open in Yorkshire which will provide more than 3,000 new places - mainly in sixth form.
The majority of these are in Bradford where a girls school and two new sixth forms have been approved.
The 77 projects given the go ahead nationally also include an alternative provision free school, in Leeds, which will taken 300 pupils of all ages.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said the new wave of free schools would allow parents to “choose a place that really works for their child’s talents and needs”.
But the leader of a head teachers’ union warned that free schools “were no substitute” for strategic planning to create schools where places were needed.
A total of 429 free schools are now open - around two per cent of the total number of schools in England. Over half are based in the South, with 133 in London alone.
Bradford has been at the forefront of the free school movement and is now set to get three more.
The trust behind Feversham College, the first ever Muslim state school, have been the go ahead to open Bradford Girls Academy. This will be an 840-place, non-faith school for girls aged 11-18 in the city. Feversham College is rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
The Department for Education said the school would meet a rising need for places and “will build on the trust’s existing successes to deliver a high-quality education in a non-faith environment.” The DfE said school will develop a strong base in science and mathematics to increase access for female pupils to further study and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Dixons Free Sixth Form has also been approved - run by the Dixons Academy chain. Dixons City Academy was one of the first academies to open 11 years ago and the organisation now runs several free schools including Diixons Trinity which was the first secondary free school to be rated as outstanding.
Dixons Free Sixth Form will provide 880 places for pupils aged 16-19 in Bradford.
The trust behind the outstanding rated New College Pontefract will also open a new 16-19 free school catering for 1,200 young people in Bradford. They are also set to open a sixth form college in Doncaster which was approved in an earlier wave of free school applications.
The DfE said: “The school aims to improve standards in Bradford and prepare students for the competitive jobs markets or for life at university. Students at New College Bradford can look forward to an ambitious curriculum offering high-quality academic and vocational education in a supportive environment.”
An alternative provision free school in Leeds is the other project in the region to have been given the go ahead. The Stephen Longfellow Academy is being sponsored by Gorse Acadmies Trust. It will open next year at Phoenix House, near the White Rose Centre which is currently the home of the Elliot Hudson College, a sixth form free school - which is moving to a permanent home.
The Stephen Longfellow Academy will have 300 places for primary and secondary aged pupils. It aims to provide for vulnerable and challenging pupils. Gorse Academies executive principal Sir John Townsley said the school would serve pupils across the pupils with a wide range of needs.
Elswhere Saracens High School will be established in Barnet, north London, and is a partnership between the rugby club and Ashmole Academy.
Chairman of Saracens rugby club Nigel Wray welcomed the news as a “marvellous opportunity”.
He hoped the school would “combine our sporting beliefs to create a unique school environment where every individual student matters, academic achievement is important and a real emphasis is placed on teamwork and the creation of great memories”.
Another school to be approved is the Cumbria Academy for Autism, which will be led by a group of local parents of autistic children.
Among the 42 free schools that opened this month is the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) 6th Form, a performing arts college whose patron is Sir Paul McCartney.
The Government is aiming to open 500 new free schools by 2020.
Commenting on the government announcement on the biggest wave of free school approvals this Parliament, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “we welcome additional school places in a system crying out for greater capacity.
“Free schools can add much needed capacity, and are increasingly run by established school groups, but where they set up can be a random combination of desire and drive, rather than a strategic plan to create school places exactly where they are needed. Free schools at best deliver extra capacity in particular areas, which is not the same as a coordinated and measured approach to place planning. As a result a quarter of open free schools are not in areas of basic need and over half are serving more advantaged communities. This is not an ideal allocation of scarce resources.
“We have continually stressed the need for local oversight over school places. The government has neglected strategic oversight in one of the most basic areas - creating enough school places for local children.”