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Free Schools in England: ‘Not Unlike other Schools’?

  • SUSANNE WIBORG (a1), FRANCIS GREEN (a2), PETER TAYLOR-GOOBY (a3) and RACHEL J. WILDE (a4)

Abstract

The aim of this article is to investigate the argument that choice and competition will unleash entrepreneurial innovation in free schools. Free schools were introduced as a subset of the Academies by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition government, following the general election in 2010. The government made it possible for non-state providers to set up their own independent, state-funded schools in order to create more choice, competition and innovation. We conclude that a higher level of substantive innovation is taking place in regards to management practices than in respect of curriculum and pedagogical practices. Innovation in curriculum and pedagogical practices is very limited. Creating a free school offer that seems to differ from other schools appears to be done through marketing and branding rather than innovation. We argue that parents, OFSTED, and the relative isolation of free schools constrain innovation from taking place.

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