Are the public paying the price for free schools?
What is the justification for private schools to be given free-school status, thus saving the parents thousands a year in fees?
When it was announced last year that Batley Grammar school, a private school near Leeds, was to become a free school – meaning parents would no longer have to pay fees of up to nearly £9,000 – some were understandably delighted. One excited parent told Channel 4 news that it was "like winning the lottery".
Batley Grammar, an elegant Victorian building with many original features and a slightly shabby feel about it, is one of five independent schools out of the total of 24 that opened as free schools last month.
Others are keen to follow suit. According to the Department for Education, 40 of the 281 proposals in the second wave of applications were from private schools. Only two of these were among the schools approved for conversion by the DfE today. But a spokesman said others could follow later on.
While Christmas has come early for previously fee-paying parents, critics say that the policy is in effect using public money to fund private education. "State money is being used to better the education of a minority, a small number of children and their parents, and that is wrong," says Alasdair Smith, of the Anti-Academies Alliance. "Some of these new free schools are boasting class sizes of 15, but not everyone benefits. Essentially, this is about private education cornering a market for themselves at the expense of the taxpayer."
Read more ... (The Guardian - 10 October)