In this article I tried to gather your best English schools topic of synthesis was drawing on some wonderful stuff from the site: http://en.wikipedia.org
A free school is a school in England funded by the taxpayer, academically non-selective and free to attend, but not controlled by a local authority. The concept is based on similar schools found in Sweden and in the United States, where they are known as charter schools. Free schools were introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition following the 2010 general election making it possible for parents, teachers, charities and businesses to set up their own schools. Free schools are an extension of the existing Academies Programme. The Academies Act 2010 authorises the creation of free schools and allows all existing state schools to become academy schools. The first 24 free schools opened in autumn 2011. Free schools are subject to the School Admissions Code of Practice, other than that they are allowed to give priority to founders' children. To set up a free school, groups submit applications to the Department for Education. Groups include those run by parents, education charities and religious groups, although Education Secretary Michael Gove said he had ruled out religious fundamentalist groups being able to set up free schools. Ongoing funding is on an equivalent basis with other locally controlled state maintained schools, although grants to create schools are also paid. Free schools are expected to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. They are still subject to Ofsted inspections and are expected to comply with standard performance measures.
Supporters of free schools, such as the Conservative Party, claim that they will "create more local competition and drive-up standards". Supporters also feel they will allow parents to have more choice in the type of education their child receives, much like parents who send their children to independent schools do. Many of the first 24 schools have a curriculum and/or ethos that is currently exclusively (or almost exclusively) available in independent schools at present. Supporters also argue that insisting that all schools are the same implies there is only one 'correct' way to educate children. Rather, they believe that there are many effective methods of education, from which parents should be able to choose based on their knowledge of their children. Critics have argued that the policy will benefit only middle-class parents with the time to set up free schools and that they will divert money away from existing schools. Paul Carter, a Conservative councillor, has stated that under present funding arrangements, "The more academies and free schools you operate, under the current academy funding arrangements, the less maintained schools would get." Peter Wilby, writing in The Guardian, suggests that free schools will be run by private companies rather than parents, teachers or voluntary groups. The Daily Telegraph describes the National Union of Teachers (NUT) warning that the policy would "fuel social segregation and undermine local democracy". The NUT also says that free schools are neither wanted nor needed based on a survey of a thousand parents. A 2010 paper by Rebecca Allen reviewed available research on the Swedish model that partially inspired the policy. It concluded, "The econometric evidence on the impact of the reforms suggests that, so far, Swedish pupils do not appear to be harmed by the competition from private schools, but the new schools have not yet transformed educational attainment in Sweden."
BBC News online has published an extremely hostile piece about free schools this morning that is almost comically misleading. The headline reads "Free schools 'will not boost access to good schools'", a conclusion that's purportedly based on "a new study" carried out by Bristol University's Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO). The author of the piece, Hannah Richardson, says this "research" proves that free schools won't raise standards in under-performing schools because too few of them will open to create an effective "competitive mechanism". Here's the key passage from the "research" that Richardson quotes: But there are two reasons why free schools are unlikely to be the best answer to this. First, there are very significant set-up costs, both in time and energy from the founders, but also in the straightforward sense of acquiring premises. While currently these are being generously funded by the government, this cannot continue if the policy matures and spreads. It seems inconceivable that any local area with one free school and plenty of spare school capacity would be offered the resources for many others. So as a performance discipline device, this is a one-shot game, not a process of continuing pressure on low performing schools, which is what is needed. Now, this is a perfectly reasonable point to make. I, too, worry that not enough free schools will open in the lifetime of this Parliament to have a significant impact on falling standards in state schools. However, the quote isn't taken from a new research paper published by the CMPO. Rather, it's taken from a three-month-old blog post – essentially, an opinion piece – by a couple of academics. Yes, the blog is on the CMPO's website, but that doesn't mean it's a "study". Moreover, the post in question wasn't hostile to free schools. On the contrary, it was supportive, suggesting that while there might not end up being enough of them to force under-performing schools to raise their game, they had the potential to be "very valuable" as "incubators for radical new teaching ideas". If you think I'm misrepresenting the tenor of the post in question, don't take my word for it. Rebecca Allen, co-author of the post and a senior lecturer in the economics of education at the Institute of Education, has been on Twitter this morning expressing her dismay at the manner in which the BBC has misrepresented her. Here's one of her tweets: @drbeckyallen: pretty annoyed that bbc have taken a blog that was supportive of free schools and written a very negative article. To recap, Hannah Richardson has taken a three-month-old blog post that was supportive of free schools and presented it as a new, authoritative "study" carried out by Bristol University that discredits the free schools policy. The co-author of the original blog post has disowned the article. Isn't it about time BBC did too? Update published on 9th January 2012 at 18.23: Hannah Richardson, the author of the BBC News online story, has responded to me via email, more than 48 hours after I first emailed her about it. Here is her email: Dear Mr Young, I am writing about about your blog entry – BBC News Online publishes grossly misleading, anti-free schools article – published on Saturday, which reported that I had mis-represented comments made by Dr Allen, and described my report as "almost comically misleading". You suggested the quotes were taken from an old blog, and that they were used selectively to create the false impression that Dr Allen's post had been negative about free schools. In reality, my report was based on a new article published in the journal Research in Public Policy by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, which was released to the media under embargo for Saturday morning. I provide a copy of the press material below. Here is a link to the full article: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/publications/bulletin/winter11/allenburgess.pdf As you can see the quotes in my piece are accurate, and are also an accurate reflection of the tenor of the CMPO article. The CMPO director Simon Burgess, the co-author of the new piece, has taken no issue with the way the BBC has reported the story. +++You sent me an email in which you accept that new research has been published, and that many of the same phrases have been used in both the blog, and the research article – so I am surprised to see that you have not corrected your blog post and hope that you can do this as as soon as possible.+++ Yours sincerely, Hannah Richardson My response: Dear Hannah, Thanks for getting in touch. I sent you two emails before writing my blog post, but you haven't responded until now. I think my main point stands, namely, that Dr Allen and Simon Burgess's thoughts about the impact of the free schools policy are not based on a new piece of research carried out by the CMPO, but are simply their thoughts as academics. You refer throughout your article to "research" – it's there in the opening paragraph in bold – and that's misleading. Allen and Burgess have not carried out a piece of research on the impact of free schools which is not surprising since the first ones only opened in the autumn. The main quotation in your piece does appear in the Allen and Burgess blog post I refer to – the one which was broadly sympathetic to free schools – but I accept that you didn't take it from there but from this new article in which Allen and Burgess clearly repeat a lot of what they'd said in their earlier post, word for word. It's an understandable mistake since you didn't post a link to the new article, so a Google search only turned up the old one. It's also a mistake you could have corrected by responding to my emails. Nevertheless, I'm happy to clear this up by including this email exchange at the bottom of my blog post and I hope you will now correct your article to reflect the fact Allen and Burgess's conclusions are not based on a piece of research. In the interests of accuracy, all references to "research" in your piece should be deleted. I’m relieved to hear that Simon Burgess doesn't have a problem with your article, but the fact remains that Dr Allen does. Kind regards,
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