Government 'wasted millions' on now-closed free schools

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

The government has been accused of wasting millions on opening free schools which have now closed.

Analysis of government data by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) estimated that at least £138.5 million had been wasted by opening 62 free schools, university technical colleges (UTC) and studio schools which have either closed or failed to open at all.

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary, said: "That sums of this magnitude have been thrown away at a time when schools across the country are crying out for funding for staff, to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and to ensure essential resources and equipment are available, is criminal.

"Ministers should apologise to teachers and parents."

Education Secretary Justine Greening announced this week that more than 130 new free schools had been approved by the government, creating around 69,000 places for pupils.

In total, 124 new free schools - which are not under local council control - have opened since 2015, with 373 more due to open.

The NUT said the £138.5 million would fund the employment of 3,680 teachers for a year.

Mr Courtney warned the figure is likely to be much higher.

He added: "The ideological drive to introduce markets and competition by creating yet more types of school has been a disaster pursued without thought for its financial cost or the price paid by those children and their families whom the Government has so badly let down."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "There are 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and free schools are playing a vital role in creating those good school places.

"They are popular with parents, ensuring thousands more families have the choice of a good local school. The construction costs of a newly-built free school are 29% lower than those built under the previous school building programme."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "Billions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been sunk into free schools but there is still little evidence that the Government is creating new places for children in the areas that they are most needed.

"Ministers should start ensuring that taxpayers' money is not being wasted and keep their promise to protect the funding that follows every child."