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Government to simplify process of setting up Free Schools

Mon 28 Jan 2013

Parents, charities and teachers could soon find it much easier to set up Free Schools.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), the existing system means interested parties have to go through a "lengthy planning application process" if they wish to set up in a building not previously used for education.

It is therefore keen to simplify the process so Free Schools can be established in vacant and under-used buildings much more quickly.

Michael Gove, the education secretary, said he wants to make it as easy as possible for those who are keen to open a Free School "not only to find buildings but move into them".

As a result, he is "delighted" that the government is actively working to reduce the amount of red tape that stands in the way of these institutions securing a permanent home.

Mr Gove said ensuring Free Schools are able to move into their preferred site more quickly should enable them to focus on "raising standards and providing parents with an excellent school".

Eric Pickles, the communities and local government secretary, added that the coalition is committed to giving children the chance to benefit from a good education.

Therefore, he believes it is vitally important to ensure that Free Schools are able to "plan with confidence to be able to open at the start of the academic year".

Mr Pickles stated that the new planning measures being proposed by the government should be able to offer parents and schools the certainty they require.

Furthermore, he noted that streamlining the system in this way will help to ensure "new schools can open, good schools can expand and all state-funded schools can improve their facilities".

Theresa Kerr, a solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood, commented: "This move shows that the government is eager to remove some of the obstacles that have previously slowed down the process of opening a Free School.

"Any measures that can streamline the process will no doubt be welcomed by those involved in setting up new schools, though it will be interesting to see how quickly the impact is seen on the ground.”

According to figures from the DfE, 80 Free Schools have opened in the last 18 months, while a further 100 will open in September 2013.

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