The White Paper says that schools working together leads to better results, so recommends placing less well-performing schools under the wing of either established providers or within new collaborative groups. Some sponsors already oversee several academies in a geographical group, or in chains across the country, Chains are seen as a means for schools to improve more rapidly – by providing a common approach to professional development, sharing good practice, and providing shared ‘back-office’ support.
Background to Free schools
Free schools can be set up under the Academies Act 2010 in both primary and secondary phases. These are academy schools that are entirely new institutions established in response to parental demand where parents are dissatisfied with what is currently available or where an LA has a need for additional school places, and a wide range of kinds of proposers can set them up. To all intents and purposes free schools are simply a different type of academy, as their legal structures are the same. Like all academies they will have: The ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff. Greater control of their budget paid as direct grant. No requirement to follow the National Curriculum. The ability to change the length of terms and school days. Who can set up free schools? There must be evidence of parental demand such as a petition or declaration from interested parents. Proposers might include: Charities, existing academy sponsors, universities, independent schools, community and faith groups, teachers, parents, businesses. They might also include parents and community groups affected by school closures or other organisational changes, looking for alternatives to improve provision. A group of willing but insufficiently experienced parents lacking the expertise to develop proposals and take them forward could commission the running of their proposed free school through an external service provider. This could include an existing academy sponsor or a commercial education sector operator. Some established co-operative trust schools or academies might also wish to set up satellite provision to meet particular pedagogical needs – eg to develop specific provision for excluded groups such as provision for NEETs (not in employment education or training) and PRUs – pupil referral units – generally for pupils excluded from main stream schools; How does co-operation link with free schools? Increased accountability to parents and communities – parents and communities can maintain a democratic or community engagement through a co-operative model for schools.