According to a report issued yesterday by the Sutton Trust and the National Foundation for Educational Research, the government’s free schools policy is little short of a disaster. At least, that is the impression given by the press release, which begins: “Free schools are failing . . . ” But if you bother to read the report, you come away with a very different impression.
For instance, the researchers compared the progress and attainment of pupils in secondary free schools with that of a matched group of children with similar characteristics at other types of school and found that the former were outperforming the latter on almost every measure.
The authors of the report claim that the rationale for the policy when it was first rolled out was to promote innovation and encourage parents to set up schools. They then claim the policy has failed because only a third of free schools are innovative and only a fifth of those that have opened since 2015 are parent-led.
But those were secondary justifications. The main rationale, the one repeated by Michael Gove ad infinitum, was that free schools would raise standards, particularly for the most disadvantaged. And according to this report, they have done precisely that. (To read more, click here.)