Laura Sharman 08 March 2017

Budget 2017: Funding for new wave of free schools

Budget 2017: Funding for new wave of free schools

Chancellor Philip Hammond has today confirmed a £320m funding package to build 110 new free schools.

In his Budget 2017 announcement, Mr Hammond said the money – which is expected to create 70,000 new school places - would be in addition to the government’s commitment of 500 new free schools by 2020.

He also announced £216m would be allocated over the next three years to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools.

The chancellor also said free school transport would be extended to all children eligible for free school meals who attend a selective school.

Mr Hammond said: ‘We recognise that for many parents the cost of travel can be a barrier to exercising that choice.

‘Pupils typically travel three times as far to attend selective schools, so we will extend free school transport to include all children on free school meals who attend a selective school. Because we are resolved that talent alone should determine the opportunities a child enjoys.’

The Schools White Paper will be published in the next few weeks, which is expected to pave the way for universities and private schools to sponsor new selective free schools and to remove the barriers that stop more good faith-based schools from opening.

However, critics have warned that the new funding will fail to deliver enough school places to meet demand. Mark Robinson, chief executive of the Scape Group, said the Government needed to create more than 1,800 new schools by 2020 to house 730,000 extra pupils.

‘The government’s decision to prioritise grammar schools is a highly inefficient use of resources, because there are thousands of fantastic comprehensive schools that already have the infrastructure in place, and could easily create extra capacity though classroom extensions,’ he said.

‘Instead the government is proposing to build entirely new grammar schools down the road, with a very different operating model and requiring new staff. That cannot possibly happen as quickly and the clock is already ticking on our booming school population. Just last week, over 90,000 pupils missed out on their first preference school this year.’

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