Plans for “free school” in Hackney come one step closer to fruition

But opponents say “free schools” are a money making venture for private companies and leach money away from state schools

Plans to open a new secondary school in Hackney came one step closer to fruition this week.

The team of educational experts and residents preparing the application for Hackney New School is delighted they have been called to an interview at the Department for Education (DfE) next month.

Only about a third of the 330 free school applicants this year will reach this second stage, before a final decision is made this summer.

If approved by the Department for Education (DfE) the school would open in September 2013, and the team hope the school will help meet the demand for secondary school places in the borough.

There are currently 500 parents who have signed up interest, but the school team is hoping more parents will sign up at before their meeting with the DfE.

“Living in De Beauvoir, on the border between Hackney and Islington, the choice for schools is very limited and so far we’ve had to look to Islington for our daughter’s primary school,” said one mother when the school’s website launched last year.

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But not everyone is as enthusiastic, and a group of parents and teachers set up the Hackney Says No to ‘Free’ Schools group last month.

They believe free schools equate to money-making ventures for private companies, and fragment the state education system.

Free schools were a centrepiece of the Conservatives’ election manifesto - the idea of local people setting up schools fitting in with its Big Society agenda

Similar to academies, free schools are semi-independent and outside of local authority control, funded directly by Westminster, with the freedom to vary the school day, terms, the curriculum and teachers’ pay and conditions.