A free school that hoped to cater for 300 students has only received 37 applications for the forthcoming school year, according to The Guardian.
The Beccles free school in Suffolk is due to open for children aged 11-16 in autumn, yet one year group has only ten applicants.
Education secretary Michael Gove hoped for a “superb new school in every community”, but plans for free schools – a key Conservative policy before the election – have been scaled back due to costs and fear of failure.
Jeremy Rowe, headteacher of Suffolk’s Sir John Leman high school, said:
“There’s a really good choice already of good and outstanding schools. People have not been persuaded by the free school. They have voted with their feet and their hearts for a good comprehensive school that has served them for years.”
“If this school ever moves, we will be the only town in the country with a population of 9,000 and two secondary schools. You can only grow at the expense of another school so it means we will have to cut what we offer – cut courses, cut opportunities and pastoral care.”
Left Foot Forward previously reported that the expense of academies and free schools is rarely compensated by accelerated results.
• Left-wing snobbery does state schools no favours 15 May 2012
• Academisation, academisation, academisation 5 Apr 2012
Founder of the Locals Schools Network, Henry Stewart, wrote:
Academies where less than 35% of students in 2010 achieved the benchmark of five GCSEs including English and Maths (35% being the government’s ‘floor target’ for schools). Their results grew from an average of 29% of students achieving the benchmark in 2010 to 37% in 2011, growth of 8 percentage points. This is impressive.
However, take the same sample of non-academy state schools, those with less than 35% in 2010,and you find the percentage of students achieving the benchmark grew from an average 30% in 2010 to 38% in 2011, exactly the same 8 point growth.
Faced with underperformance some local authorities chose to go down the academy route, encouraged by the large amounts of money available. Some chose other routes. These figures reveal that, despite receiving less funding, the local authorities that chose the non-academy route did just as well with their schools as those choosing the academy route.
It seems Michael Gove struggles to stay out of the news following recent revelations of his plans to reintroduce O-level style exams. This recent failure of one of the coalition’s flagship free schools to appeal to local families will be another kick in the teeth for an education secretary who just can’t seem to get it right.