Overwhelming demand for two first free schools outstrips available places

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TWO of Yorkshire’s first free schools are already massively oversubscribed with more than four times as many applicants as places for the next academic year, new figures reveal.

Twenty-two of the 24 free schools which opened nationally last September responded to a Department for Education (DfE) survey, with 19 reporting being over-subscribed for places this September.

This includes two Yorkshire free schools: Batley Grammar and the King’s Science Academy in Bradford, which were both more oversubscribed than the national average. Primary free schools attracted more than twice as many applications as the number of places available while secondary, or all-through, schools, received more than three times as many applications.

Batley Grammar which converted from the private sector to become a free school has received 554 parents applications for the 132 places in its primary and secondary phases. The school has the largest waiting list in Kirklees.

The Kings Science Academy, which was set up by Bradford-born teacher and Oxford graduate Sajid Hussain Raza, has received 704 bids from parents for the 160 places it has available.

Rainbow Primary, another free school which opened in Bradford this year, did not provide figures to the DfE survey.

New free schools are being set up by teachers, parents groups, charities and existing schools where there is parental demand in their area.

Three opened in Yorkshire last year and at least five more are expected to open in Bradford, Leeds and Birkenshaw in the next two years.

Schools Minister Lord Hill said: “These figures show how keen parents are to send their children to free schools. They provide the answer to the nay-sayers who said that free schools weren’t wanted or needed – or that no one would be bothered to set them up.”

The Government withdrew its support for a planned free school in Rotherham which had enlisted the support of comedian Barry Elliott – one half of the Chuckle Brothers – because the scheme was not making sufficient progress to be able to open this year.