Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Slight setback for free schools

'Free schools' got off to a faltering in  start in February  when the DFE announced that of the 323 proposals received only 41 were approved to move to business case and planning stage or beyond with one proposal subsequently withdrawn. Eight proposer groups were invited to apply through a new application process. The results for all applications submitted since or resubmitted will be announced in September.

A further slight setback for Michael Gove in his rush to get as many built as possible was announced today. The government published new rules for planning which although they say councils should have a 'presumption' in favour of state-funded schools (free schools are funded directly by the state rather than via local government), councils will still be able to veto the new schools on planning grounds. This followed a hostile public reaction in consultation to proposals that free schools could be set up in disused shops, offices, churches and other venues with no requirements regarding play space etc and with no need to apply for 'change of use'.

This will probably just mean delaying free schools, rather than defeating proposals, as far as local authorities opposed to them are concerned. According to the Guardian 'sources close to Michael Gove' said that the government would still be able to be over-turned by the Department for Communities and Local Government and campaigners fear councils will be put off as they may have to pay costs if they lose on appeal.

However delay will give local campaigners more time to assemble the case against free schools when the next tranche are announced in September. It will also give councils more time to find other uses for buildings that free schools were hoping to occupy.

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