‘Ministers are choosing to give billions of pounds to build new free schools while existing schools are crumbling into disrepair, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.
The National Audit Office has calculated that £6.7bn is needed to bring existing school buildings in England and Wales to a satisfactory standard.
The then education minister Michael Gove pledged two years ago to create 500 free schools by 2020. Auditors have concluded that the Department for Education is facing a £2.5bn bill to purchase land to build them.
In a report released on Wednesday, auditors have questioned whether the plans for so many new free schools will be value for money.
Responding to the report, Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the public accounts committee, called for the money assigned to new free schools to be diverted to existing buildings. “This is taxpayers’ money that could be used to fund much-needed improvements in thousands of existing school buildings,” she said.’ - Guardian
‘Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner, called on the Government to scrap “arbitrary” free school targets and focus on repairing existing schools.
She told The Independent: “The Tories are wasting millions on free schools in areas that do not need them and where there is no demand, while a crisis is looming in the condition of many of our state schools.
“It is unacceptable that money can be found for the Tories’ pet projects, yet there are major defects in the fabric of state schools which are not being repaired.”’ - Independent
‘While free schools were originally introduced to meet demand for additional school places, the NAO claims many have been built in areas with plenty of capacity, meaning many are struggling to recruit enough students to break even financially.
Free schools also receive 60 percent more funding per pupil than local authority run schools, with spend per head averaging £7,761, compared to just £4,767 for pupils enrolled at local authority-run schools, according to figures from 2013-14.
However, they remain the worst performing schools in the state sector according to the Government’s performance indicators, with 84 percent receiving a negative Progress 8 score for this year’s GCSE league table rankings.’ - Telegraph