Michael Gove is giving a big speech tomorrow on free schools amid evidence that the policy is beginning to gather momentum. The papers report today that there have been 281 applications to set up free schools in the round that closed this month alone (sentence updated).
One of the best known of these planned free schools is the one being set up Tony Blair’s former strategist Peter Hyman. Ever since The Spectator revealed back in May that Hyman was planning to take advantage of the Tories’ reforms to start his own school, there’s been considerable interest in what Hyman is up to. In today’s Sunday Times he eloquently defends his project, arguing that free schools are just the logical continuation of Blair’s education reforms.
But the question hovering over the policy is whether it can ever reach critical mass unless providers are allowed to make profits. Gove conceded in his interview with us this week that "it’s possible" that there would be more free schools opening up if those running them were allowed to make money. Given how many new schools are going to be needed given the baby boom currently going on, allowing schools to make money might be the only way to provide enough good school places.