What are free schools?

Free schools are state-funded schools that have been set up in response to local need and are run by a sponsoring voluntary organisation that has knowledge and experience of setting up and running schools.

Free schools are based on the Charter school model used in Scandinavia and the USA.

Why has the Government developed the free school agenda?

  • To facilitate the move from a postcode lottery towards empowering parents to address gaps in education provision.
  • To increase the range of provision.
  • To create the freedom to innovate.
  • To raise standards.
  • To support the localism agenda.
  • To support the long-term (not political) agenda to increase the autonomy and independence of schools.

Why do local authorities support free schools?

  • They have a statutory duty to respond to local needs.
  • In some areas, there has been a five fold increase in the number of school aged children with a diagnosis of autism.
  • Many local authorities have a growing demand for autism specialist provision and are seeking sponsoring organisations to develop provision.
  • Local authorities are receiving less funding from the Department for Education.
  • Local authorities' role is increasingly to procure not provide.
  • Where a local authority identifies a need for new provision they must seek to identify an organisation that can sponsor an academy or free school.
  • They have a duty to address gaps in their local offer.
  • To reduce reliance on INMSS (43% of students placed in autism-specific provision have to go out of the area, a long way from the family home).
  • Local authorities can benefit from leasing or selling a site for a free school to the Education Funding Agency.

Why the NAS develops free schools

We believe that young people with autism have the right to an appropriate education. Autism is a spectrum condition and requires ongoing specialist provision that meets the individual needs of students.  We have over 50 years of experience in providing autism-specific education. Through the free school agenda we can increase the number of young people who benefit from MyProgressTM, our education offer.

We are proud that so many local authorities have asked to work with us because of our reputation in autism-specific education, our links to the larger autism community, the support we provide outside school and our track record in positive outcomes. Our dedicated team of experts has the capacity, experience and authority to lead a successful free school.

If you are interested in setting up an autism specialist free school please contact us at academies.trust@nas.org.uk