Parents are being pushed out of their children’s education as new figures suggest the proportion of free schools led by mum and dad has dropped sharply in the last five years.
New analysis revealed that the proportion of parent-led free Schools that the Government has approved has plummeted from over a third in 2011 to just 3 per cent this year.
The revelations emerged as it is expected schools will no longer be required to have parent governors, potentially leaving out thousands of parents out of governing bodies.
The analysis of approved free school applications has revealed that just 1 out of 40 (3 per cent) applications approved this year has been led by a group of parents, compared to 14 out of 40 (35 per cent) in 2011.
However, the Government has insisted free schools are at the core of improving educational standards and that parents favour them.
ormer Secretary of Education, Michael Gove, established the free schools programme in 2010 in order to get parents more involved in the education of children.
In a 2011 speech, Mr Gove noted the policy was largely about parents, at the time noting that “half of applications…came from teacher, parent or community groups.”
He said: “It’s about meeting parents’ desire for a good local school – a school that’s easy to get to, that feels like part of the community. Unsurprisingly, a number of applications come either from community groups trying to save a beloved local school or start one in a hitherto neglected area…Over half of applications…came from teacher, parent or community groups, ready to play a bigger role in shaping local children’s futures.”
But now Labour are accusing the current Government of diluting its original ethos.
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, said: “It’s increasingly clear that the government’s original concept of a Free School is all but dead.
“It is completely disingenuous of government to suggest that parents are at the centre of the schools system. All the evidence shows they are relegating parents’ voices.”
A DfE spokesman said: “We have opened more than 300 free schools and plan to create at least 500 new schools by 2020 – offering more choice of a good local school for parents than ever before.
“Free schools are at the heart of our drive to spread excellence everywhere and are proving highly popular with parents.
“We also work closely with existing schools, high performing trusts and sponsors, charities, businesses and local authorities to set up free schools and we encourage all groups to consider taking this transformative step.”
Applications from parents and community groups are welcomed and there are “no plans to change this”, the spokesman added.