There’s an historic tinge to proceedings this morning, as Michael Gove prepares to
release an application form by which parents, charities and other groups can establish free schools. In effect, this is zero hour for the policy that The Spectator described as "reason enough to vote Conservative” a couple of months ago. The coalition is hoping that
the first of the new breed of schools will appear in September next year.
Much of it will come down to take-up: how many schools are set up, and when. So it’s encouraging that people and organisations are already expressing heavy interest in the government’s plans.
As Michael Gove revealed in an excellent speech yesterday, almost 1,800 schools have replied to his
invitation for them to become academies – and that includes 70 percent of those secondary schools rated as "outstanding". And the New Schools Network, an independent charity,
reports that over 600 groups have already got in touch with them about setting up free schools.
To turn these promising early signals into something more substantial, the government will need to concentrate on both selling their policy to the public and on making the applications process as
straightforward as possible. We’ll soon be in a position to judge whether or not they’ve succeeded on both counts. Here’s hoping.