Myths, evidence and innovation: a guide to making the most of Free School freedoms

Briar Lipson

This booklet is intended to encourage free school proposers to consider educational evidence, innovation and early free school experience in their own decision-making.

Free schools have an important role to play in driving up educational standards in a number of ways:

  • By increasing the number of places in the system, they will help generate a competitive market that responds to what parents and pupils want.
  • Like academies, they will use their various freedoms to innovate and find new ways to meet parents’ and pupils’ needs.
  • By empowering parents – not just those with the option of looking to the independent sector – with more choice about where their child is educated, they will help shift the divide between the UK’s state and independent schools.

Demand for new free schools is usually driven by one or other, or a combination, of:

  • the lack of school places in an area – quantity-driven demand
  • the lack of enough quality school places in an area – quality-driven demand.

Clarity about which of these is the driver in your own case will be useful when it comes to determining the vision for the school and designing the educational model. In particular, this will determine the extent to which you might draw on other local schools for ideas and inspiration. If quality is a driver in your application, the Ofsted reports of local schools are a good place to start identifying those areas that may need particular focus if your school is to succeed where others currently fail.