A new National Union of Teachers (NUT) study has found that the free school programme is not resolving the growing shortage of primary school places.
The need for more primary school teachers was highlighted by a National Audit Office report last month indicating that 256,000 additional school places need to be created by 2014-15, due to a surge in the birth rate between 2001 and 2011.
The Department for Education (DfE) expects free schools to play a major part in resolving this shortage, with those schools opening this September expected to create around 50,000 additional places once they have been filled.
However, new research by the NUT examining the location of free schools opening this or next academic year found that these were often creating surplus secondary capacity while a lack of primary school places persists.
Its research revealed that 28 secondary free schools and one primary free school are being opened in one of 24 local authority areas where this will result in more than a ten per cent surplus of places in the phase provided by the free school by the year 2016/17.
These schools make up around 20 per cent of free schools approved by education secretary Michael Gove to open in 2012-13 or 2013-14, while 13 of the local authority areas gaining new and excessive surplus secondary places are also forecast to be hit by a shortage of primary places by 2016/17.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower asserted: "In pursuing his ideologically-driven, costly and wasteful free school programme from Westminster, the education secretary has failed to provide the support to local authorities that would enable them to provide new primary school places in areas of genuine need."
The biggest surplus in secondary school places will be created in Suffolk, where three secondary free schools are being built and capacity will eventually exceed need by 28.2 per cent, while the county will also have 1.9 per cent shortage of primary places which there are no plans in place to redress.
Moreover, Central Bedfordshire will have a 24.1 per cent surplus in secondary school places and a 42.8 per cent deficit in primary provision and Bedford a 25.4 per cent surplus in secondary places and a 38.2 per cent shortfall in primary places.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels