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Cameron: 'Free schools will drive up education standards'

SCHOOL REFORMS: Prime Minister David Cameron says free school success is good for educational standards

LAST WEEK, the Government made a bold step towards addressing the burning issue of allowing free schools to flourish by announcing the establishment of 38 new schools, which will provide 22,000 places. This brings the total number of open and approved free schools to 331, creating 175,000 new places overall. Here Prime Minster David Cameron writes exclusively for The Voice explaining why free schools will drive up standards. The schools are set up by parents, teachers and charities in response to demand from the local community.

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WE ALL want the best education for our kids. And we want to have a say in how our schools are run and how our children are taught. This is why the government is reforming the system and giving parents more influence in how their sons and daughters are educated.

This country has always had excellent, hard working teachers who do a fantastic job day in, day out. But we know that many parents felt that the system was falling short or even failing to deliver for their children.

The simple truth is that while we have lots of good schools, there aren’t enough of them. We need more good schools and more good school places.

REFORMS

One of our most important reforms has been the introduction of free schools. These new establishments are giving local communities and exceptional school leaders the freedom to set up high quality and innovative schools, within the state sector free for the parents and children that use them, that raise standards.

And I am delighted to say that in just a few years they are already outperforming other schools inspected under the new and more rigorous Ofsted framework. Equally as important they are giving pupils from all backgrounds the chance to achieve academic excellence.

I know that for many years there have been concerns from the African-Caribbean community about educational attainment of their children, particularly boys. Many parents felt that the system was not working as well as it could or should be, and that swathes of young people were expected to fail.

CONCERNS

I share these concerns. I want to make sure that any child, regardless of their gender or ethnicity can get a high standard of education to enable him or her to have the skills and confidence to get a good job.

This is why I am delighted that this week, as we announce the next wave of new free schools across the country, we can include the Powerlist Post 16 Leadership College in London. The new college will attract students from a wide range of backgrounds and combine academic studies with developing leadership potential. This joint venture between the Powerlist Foundation and the Aspirations Academies Trust, which already sponsor a number of academies in the country, looks set to bring in the necessary experience, skills and approach to best meet their students’ needs.

We will also see parents and school leaders starting new free schools in other areas, such as Hackney, Croydon and Crystal Palace, providing hundreds of extra school places in diverse, urban areas.

These schools are just some of a number that are being set up around the country to give parents more choice where they send their children. Many are in areas where lots of parents want them, where people are unhappy with the schools that already exist, or where standards aren’t very high at the moment. That’s great news – for local areas, for parents, and most importantly for the children who go to them.

Too often, the poorest children have been left with the worst education while richer families have been able to buy their way to quality education via private schools or expensive houses.

SUCCESS

As we see and hear more about the success of Free schools they become increasingly popular with parents, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Where data is available nearly half of all pupils in free schools are from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared to a national average of just over a quarter in mainstream state schools.

It is reassuring to see that, while there are concerns from the African-Caribbean community about levels of educational attainment, we are seeing improvements. In the last few years pupils from African and Caribbean backgrounds are catching up. Indeed pupils from black African backgrounds are now performing above the national average in key areas, such as GCSE results. Black Caribbean pupils are making good progress too and since 2010 they have narrowed the long-standing gap with the national average in key areas, such as English and mathematics, and there has been a nine percentage point increase in black Caribbean pupils gaining five A*-C GCSEs.

PROGRESS

These facts show we are making progress, but we know there is still some way to go. That is why we will continue to give the go-ahead to new free schools like Powerlist Post 16 College, we will carry on our reforms of the wider system and we will keep on challenging mediocrity in schools. Delivering the best schools and skills for young people so they can succeed in the global race is a key part of the Government’s long-term plan is to build a stronger, more competitive economy and a fairer society. I’m sure that many parents and those who care about education for future generations would agree.

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