Office Blocks and Hospitals Could Be Turned into Schools; Law Change Paves Way for Parent Power

Daily Mail (London), June 19, 2010 | Go to article overview

Office Blocks and Hospitals Could Be Turned into Schools; Law Change Paves Way for Parent Power


Byline: Ian Drury

DISUSED shops, vacant office blocks, old hospitals and even homes could be used as classrooms under ambitious plans to set up a wave of 'free schools'.

Planning laws will be relaxed in England to make it easier for parents, teachers, charities and other groups to open taxpayer-funded independent schools, the Education Secretary vowed yesterday. Michael Gove said he believes the biggest shake-up of education in a generation will boost standards and cut the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils.

But union chiefs warned the plan would actually 'privilege the few at the expense of the many'.

Concerns also remain about how much each so-called 'free school' would cost and where the money would come from as the Government tries to tackle debt.

Ministers in the Coalition are determined to smash the state monopoly on education by allowing communities to set up schools outside the control of local authorities.

More than 700 groups have expressed an interest in opening schools - half of them teachers.

A threshold of just 40 or 50 parents would be needed for a primary school bid.

Individuals involved would be vetted to make sure they are not a risk to children, have criminal convictions or been members of outlawed organisations.

Groups applying to open a free school fill out a ten-page form setting out their aims and vision, possible sites for classrooms, teaching methods, a curriculum and proof of demand from families.

The Department for Education was in discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government to make it easier for parents, teachers and charities to acquire land and convert buildings.

Mr Gove said it was 'amazingly complicated' to open a school, with applicants being forced to comply with 'reams of regulations', including rules on bike racks. …

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