Setting up a free school: successful proposers' experiences

Paul Miller, Barrie Craven, James Tooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The 2010 Academies Act was significant in introducing Free Schools to the English education system. Opening up funding to new, non-profit entrants on the basis of demand, the policy has aroused support and controversy on political, philosophical and practical educational grounds with implications for social justice in terms of equity and freedom. Given the ostensible quality and empowerment goals of the enacted new (limited) freedoms, the extent of activity towards them is evaluated alongside the Department for Education application procedure's fitness for purpose. Opinions and experiences of free school proposers were gathered through four in-depth interviews and a wider questionnaire yielding data from 19 of 55 successful proposers opening schools in September 2012. Wider policy issues are considered, notably concerning concepts of social justice. While successful applicants appeared to meet the policy's demand and educational quality prerequisites, procedural uncertainties and inefficiencies hampered their progress. Furthermore, political and philosophical opposition and practical limits to time, expertise and resources have constrained the policy's systemic impact. Regarding social justice, whether Free Schools enhance choice or reduce equity remains largely a moot point given the obstacles to system-wide change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-371
Number of pages21
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number3
Early online date14 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


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