Hammond announces funding boost for free schools programme

8 Mar 17

The government has pledged to create 110 new free schools, which have the potential to become grammars.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the additional money in today’s Budget, which is expected to create more than 70,000 new school places.

He also promised £216m to rebuild and refurbish existing schools, and to extend free school travel to pupils at selective schools. Free school travel is currently only available for pupils at non-selective schools.

Around £20m will be made available to support new free schools in 2017-18, rising to £30m in 2018-19, £50m in 2019-20 and £280m in 2020-21.
Hammond confirmed this would “enable the creation of new selective free schools”.

Theresa May, writing in The Telegraph yesterday, said her education plans would allow “the most academically-gifted children get the specialist support to fulfil their potential regardless of their family income or background.”

“If we are to give our children and grandchildren a fair chance to succeed in an ever more competitive world, we have to build a future where every child can access a good school place,” she added.

In his statement today, Hammond also announced that free school transport provision would be extended to include all children on free school meals who attend a selective school. The government was committed to ensuring that choice was available in education, but recognise that for many parents “the cost of travel can be a barrier to exercising that choice”.

The free transport expansion would cost £5m annually from 2018-19.

“We are resolved that talent alone should determine the opportunities a child enjoys,” Hammond added.

The prime minister wants to reverse the ban in law on the opening of new grammar schools, which was brought in by David Blunkett with the Schools Standards Act of 1998.

A schools white paper is expected to be published in the coming weeks and will ask universities and private schools to do more to provide school places, such as through sponsoring free schools.

Free schools are funded by the government but are not run by the local council. They are run on a not-for-profit basis and can be set by groups such as charities, universities, independent schools, community and faith groups, teachers, parents and businesses.

May calls herself a “passionate advocate” of free schools, and had previously argued for their introduction as shadow education secretary.

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