Over 2,300 young people have had their education disrupted and faced moving school following the collapse of 22 Government-promoted free schools, university technical colleges (UTCs) or studio schools.
Announcing the opening of these new types of school, former Education Secretary Michael Gove said the Government had “encouraged the blossoming of a rich, diverse ecosystem” in education.
Yet five free schools, four UTCs and 13 studio schools have closed, or are scheduled to close, since 2013 because they failed to attract sufficient numbers of pupils and/or had poor academic results. The 22 schools had managed to fill just 29 per cent of their planned number of places at full capacity.
The closures have disrupted the education of a total of 2,318 pupils who were studying at the schools when they closed or when the closure was announced. One parent at the Midland Studio College in Hinckley said the school has “ruined” the career prospects of its pupils. She added: “My son’s confidence has been completely shattered by it all and he will no longer be able to go to university as they have not delivered enough hours of suitable teaching.”
The schools cost the taxpayer at least £60.7 million in pre-opening, set up and capital costs. This could have provided 4,403 new school places had the equivalent sum been given to local authorities to provide new school places in their area.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“At a time when we are experiencing probably the worst ever shortage of school places and yet local authorities are not allowed in law to directly provide new school places for local children, the failure of these Government promoted new schools really is an utter disgrace.
“The Government is continuing to play politics with young people’s education. It is young people and their families who suffer when schools close as we have tragically seen in the case of these 2,318 students who have been so badly let down by the Government. Students in studio schools and UTCs will have left other secondary school provision to attend these schools at age 14 on a promise of a high-quality education that the Government has failed to deliver. Furthermore, although the Government opposes allowing local authorities to open new schools where they are most needed, it is these same local authorities who are tasked with finding alternative school places for these displaced young people at a crucial time in their academic lives.”
“The Government should also be called to account for the £60.7 million it has squandered on these projects at the expense of good quality school places elsewhere.
“Given the extremely high failure rate of Studio Schools – with around 30 per cent having closed or been slated for closure since 2013 – the Government must now call a halt to this programme and instead invest the funding that has been set aside for further Studio Schools in existing secondary schools that are being starved of fund.