Skip to main content

Article published 29th August 2011

Is someone near you putting together a Free School?

It's a very tempting prospect: a school that is created by its community,  that you can play a part in shaping, that suits you rather than the educational establishment. We have a couple of planned Free Schools near us - a secondary that is just out of reach and a primary that our daughter will be too old for when it gets going. Rats.

But if you have a Free School close by, how do you judge a school that, in many cases you can't yet visit, with no results to show or current parents to consult?

Prospectus promises and pitfalls

The prospectus is a work of fiction. Who knows how things will turn out?

So pay more attention to the spirit of the prospectus than to the promises it contains.

  • Are the school's ambitions in tune with yours?
  • Are they grounded or tenuous?
  • What does the prospectus reveal of the school's attitude to parents, and to children's wellbeing?
  • What is the focus and breadth of the curriculum?
  • Are they committed to getting your child on to the sort of secondary school or university that you have in mind?

Your child and the school will be setting out on a journey together – they’ll have to be in tune to make it a happy one.

Scrutinise leadership

As the boat exists only on paper, pay most attention to the crew.

The head should have a strong CV, a clear vision of where he or she wants to take the school. A leader, then – but not just any leader. One who will be good in the crises that you should expect to hit a new school.

Look at the governors too: they have to provide the experience and judgement. And if they have appointed a teacher or two, spend some time with them: if the school is to be a good school it should be recruiting the best.

Taking the plunge with Free Schools

If you choose to give a Free School a go, keep your critical senses sharp. It is hard enough to make a success of an established school. Have a Plan B, and don’t be afraid to use it. But being part of a new school is a great adventure, inspiring and involving, and could make a real difference to the future of your children.


Related articles

  • Special Needs introduction

    Signs of special needs in school age children; how to get help; which type of school to choose; Education, Health and Care Plans ... Read more ... Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need.  Our SEN team helps…

  • The Good Schools Guide online subscription

    Find the best school for your child. One month subscription - £0.49 per day Three month subscription - £0.41 per day Six month subscription - £0.33 per day One year subscription - £0.29 per day Register for instant access to: ☑ Search for more than 30000 schools in our parent friendly interactive directory. ☑ Create and save lists of schools via My Schools. ☑ Use our comparison grid to get an exam results overview of schools you are interested in. ☑ Find comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs. ☑ Receive our monthly newsletter. For further…

  • Where to find a state grammar school

    Identifying and locating grammar schools. Grammar schools are located in 36 English local authorities. Almost half of these are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools.

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell and Charlotte Church standing. And for some extraordinary - though totally understandable - reason, everyone but us seems blind to our offspring's God-given artistic gifts.

  • State boarding schools: free tuition just pay for your stay!

    If you think your child would benefit from a boarding school education, but are put off by the high fees and consequent limited social mix of a typical independent boarding school, you may find that a state boarding school is the answer

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >


Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Stand by for some myth-busting from our SEN consultants


Just published - The Good Schools Guide 21st edition - 1200 schools fully reviewed and updated. Buy now