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Next tranche of 102 free schools approved

102 more free schools have been approved to open in England next year. The first 24 opened last September and around 50 more are expected to open this year.

The schools are set up by groups, including charities, teachers, parents and religious bodies. The Government states that they will bring parents choice and drive standards up, but opponents of the scheme believe they will take pupils and resources from state schools.

Once the 102 open in 2013, free schools will provide up to 100,000 extra places for pupils. This will mean a free school in nearly every local authority.

The new schools consist of 40 primary, 28 secondary, 10 ‘all-through’ schools combining primary and secondary, five independent schools, five special schools and 12 alternative provision schools, for pupils expelled by mainstream schools.

On a visit to a school later today, Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to say: “Free schools symbolise everything that is good about the revolution that we are bringing toBritain’s schools.

“Choice for parents. Power in the hands of teachers. Discipline. Rigour. High quality education in areas that are crying out for more good local schools.”

Rachel Wolf, the director of the New Schools Network, added: “Today’s announcement sees the free schools movement well on its way to delivering a great new school for every community.”

But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “There is no justification for the systematic dismantling of the English education system that we are currently witnessing.

“Free schools are neither wanted by the majority nor needed by the system, as we have seen with the Beccles free school inSuffolk. They are wreaking havoc with co-ordinated pupil placement, creating surplus places and pitching schools against each other.

“Schools are desperately short of finances yet money is being found for schools which will educate tiny numbers of children.”

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