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Free schools to open next week

England’s first 24 free schools are soon to open, with the majority starting classes next week. They are semi-independent schools, fully funded by the Government, and have been introduced to improve standards and improve parent choice.

Free schools are not obliged to follow the National Curriculum, can vary the conditions and pay of their teachers and are exempt from local authority control and oversight. Some are also bringing in changes to the academic year, shortening the summer holiday to one month and extending the half term breaks to two weeks each.

Further changes include a longer school day, with some schools extending hours from 8am to 6pm. After-school activities will also provide education in a fun format, such as incorporating maths into games like cricket, they say.

Mark Greatrex, leader of the governing body for Aldborough E-ACT primary in Redbridge said: “Teachers' focus will be on high attainment and they will track pupils' progress in every lesson. If a child does not make enough progress in a lesson, they will be asked to stay later that day.”

Critics of the project are concerned that the free schools, which seem to be particularly popular among wealthier, middle-class families, will take pupils and funding from other schools in the state sector.

Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “The free school policy is completely undemocratic and a huge waste of public money, established regardless of need, with contempt for the local community while privileging small sectional interests.”

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