Cameron hails free schools as ‘great success’

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David Cameron has insisted that the Government’s free schools programme is a “great success” after announcing plans to create a further 102.

The new schools – including seven in Yorkshire – are set to open in time for the new term in September 2013.

Those named as having successfully applied regionally were: Bradford Girls’ Grammar School; Khalsa Science Academy in Leeds; Leeds Jewish Free School; The Free School Leeds; The Leeds Retail and Financial Services Academy; The Maltings Free College in Calderdale; and the Northern Lights Primary School, also in Calderdale.

The Prime Minister insisted that many of the new schools are “massively oversubscribed” and are driving up standards elsewhere.

“I think its been a great success. What we are seeing is real quality, real choice for parents and it’s a great part of our school improvement programme.

“Many more children are getting the education they, and their parents, want and deserve.”

Free schools are established by groups including parents, teachers, faith groups and charities and have powers to decide how they spend their budgets and set their own curriculum, teaching hours and term times.

But teaching unions have claimed that they adversely affect neighbouring schools when they open in areas with no shortage of spaces.

One free school, at Beccles in Suffolk, sparked controversy last month when it emerged it had received only 37 applications for 162 places when it opens this September.

Mr Cameron said: “Almost all free schools are over subscribed.”

He added that they are “really delivering” in terms of quality and competition, driving up quality elsewhere.

“The problem in our education system has always been that while there are good schools, there aren’t enough good school places.”

Free schools are addressing that issue, Mr Cameron said.

The Department for Education said 88 per cent of the primaries approved for next year onwards are in areas with a shortfall of places and 63 per cent in an area with a severe need for more places.