The Success of Free Schools – Legacy Report

The free school programme is one of the most radical and impactful education policy reforms of the last thirty years.

Since 2010, it has enabled hundreds of communities, teachers, academy trusts, social entrepreneurs and others to open new state schools across England – many of them in areas of significant deprivation and low educational standards.

These schools now outperform other types of state funded schools at every stage of education, with several now consistently ranked amongst the most successful schools in the entire country.

Free schools have also had a much wider impact. By empowering teachers to innovate, enabling the best existing schools to expand their reach and allowing new providers to bring in fresh thinking, they have injected new energy into the school system – helping to improve education for all.

The role that the charity New Schools Network played in supporting free schools also provides a model for how public service reform can be delivered. By acting as an interface between free school founders and the government, it was able to help build the capacity for change in communities around the country and help Ministers and officials improve how the policy was delivered.

In this report for New Schools Network, Public First gathered insights from school founders, former Ministers and thought leaders in education to analyse the legacy of the programme so far and make recommendations for its future.

The report sends a clear message that the programme is now at risk of losing momentum and that Ministers must rediscover what made it successful if free schools are to continue having an outsized impact on the school system.

The report can be found HERE.