Rob Higham

Project  Summary

An Investigation into Free Schools in England

The Government’s Free Schools (FSs) policy allows parents, teachers and community groups to apply for funding to set up and take responsibility for new state schools. By November 2010 Government had received over 180 formal FS proposals. Yet despite their policy significance we have little empirical evidence with which to interpret these emerging forms of state-sponsored civil society action on public services.

This study has two main objectives. First, to explore the social profiles of FSs proposers, the contexts in which they are working and whether and how these influence the vision and aims of the schools they seek to develop. Second, to explore the public/private/Third Sector expertise that proposers seek out as they progress and the influences these have on how FSs are led, governed and, potentially, contested.

Following a ‘mapping of the landscape’ to identify as many proposers as possible, a survey will sent to all lead proposers to collect data on the core team, their rationale and context, expertise and governance and parental support. Six case studies will also be developed through in depth interviews with the proposal chair, the wider team, LA officials, and neighbouring head teachers. FSs public events will be observed and the research will also be open to interviewing wider local networks of support and resistance.

(Rob Higham, Institute of Education, London)

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