Free schools are a type of school that differ the state schools. While they are both free, they can choose to follow different rules. Within this one small change, can raise a lot of questions, especially regarding its curriculum.
Free schools do not need to follow the national curriculum. This is because they are not run by the local authorities, or councils, so have more freedom in the choices that they can make.
However, there are still many questions regarding the nature of free schools, and how they regulate. These will be answered in this article, so make sure to read on.
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Do free schools have to follow the national curriculum?
Free schools do not need to follow the national curriculum. While they are funded by the government, they are not run by local authorities. Instead, many different people or organisations can set up free schools. As a result, they have a lot of freedom within what they do, and what they teach.
Due to the fact that they do not need to follow the curriculum, they can be more innovative with the way they teach. You can read about this, on the UK Government’s page by clicking on this link.
What is the national curriculum?
The national curriculum is a set of standards of subjects that must be taught in primary and secondary schools, set by the Department of Education in the Government. It ensures that all students in schools that follow the national curriculum, are taught the same thing.
It covers all of the subjects that are taught in school, and the standard that a student should reach within that subject. On top of these subjects, the schools are required to teach sex and health education, religious studies, and relationships.
The curriculum is spaced out into 4 key stages, where there are regular checks of progress. You can find out about this by clicking on this link, to go to the Governments page.
What is a free school?
A free school is a school that is funded by the government. They are not run by local authorities so have a lot of freedom in what they do. They are “all-ability” schools, so are not selective and allow in all students.
They have a lot of freedom in what they do, like the way the staff works, including pay, the term dates, and the school hours. The main difference of free schools to the standard state school is that state schools are ran by the local authority. This means they have to follow the curriculum, follow the already set term dates and follow the set school times.
There are different types of free schools. Studio schools teach through “project-based,” providing real life situations. University technical colleges teach mostly engineering and construction. Finally, Math schools teach exactly that, mathematics.
You can find out more about free schools by clicking on this link to another Think Student article.
Can free school set their own term dates?
Free schools can set their own term dates, and change the hours of the school, along with setting the pay and conditions of staff. This can help a lot of people and allow for the school to provide more or less activities based on the students. It also allows them to adapt to different situations. This can be found by clicking on this link.
Who can set up a free school?
Free schools are on a “non-profit” basis. As long as the school is on that line, anyone can set up a free school. Usually they are:
- Independent schools
- Community and faith groups
As long as the creator has the necessary capacity and capability, their applications will be assessed very thoroughly and must meet the criteria. This could be the locations of schools or how the curriculum will work based of its budget. You can read more about this, by clicking on this link.
Are free schools better than other schools?
There are over 600 free schools in England, and thousands of students attend them. From reports at the end of April 2022, 86% of all free schools were rated Good or Outstanding, compared to 78% of all schools being rated Good or Outstanding.
From this it could be assumed that free schools are the better option. However, free schools follow the same principal as an academy. Free schools can be considered as “new academies” while other academies converted from a state school to academy later on in its life. As a result, state schools are just essentially academies.
Is it better to follow the national curriculum?
The national curriculum can be helpful to most, but not necessarily to all. The government states that the national curriculum aims to “embody rigour and high standards and create coherence in what is taught in schools.” From this, it can seem that the idea of the national curriculum is better than other ideas.
It ensures that if a student were to move from school to school, they would not be disadvantaged by being too far ahead or behind or having gaps in their knowledge. However, the curriculum may not suit all, such as those with disabilities. Not only that, but teachers also say it is harder to link teaching to real life situations where the curriculum is used. It may also have a lack of balance as to what is taught. It is also harder to adapt to newer standards of living or education if there are strict regulations in place.