Questions over 'free schools'

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Commenting on recent statements from the UK Secretary of State for Education over the creation of 'free schools' outside local authority control, Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, said:

"To accompany his verbal assurances, the Secretary of State needs to specify more explicitly how hard-line and extreme groups might be prevented from monopolising the new 'free schools'.

"Whether schools are sponsored by community groups, businesses, faith organisations, humanists, or anyone else, they should all have open admissions policies, a policy against discrimination on grounds of belief in employment, a commitment to promoting community and equality, and a willingness to teach a balanced curriculum.

"Free schools ought not to mean a 'free-for-all', in the sense of no effective protection for parents from different backgrounds. Likewise, children with disabilities and from low-income and disadvantaged communities should not find themselves pushed aside in a rush to enfranchise the already wealthy, articulate and assertive.

"From a practical policy perspective, the government has not yet demonstrated how its new 'free school' and Academies programme will work for all, rather than for a minority, with respect to these concerns."