What is a free school?
Sparkwell All Saints Primary School opened its doors in September 2013 as a Free School (after the original Victorian village school had been closed in the 1980s), set up by a committed group of prospective parents and members of the local community. The school is not a church school, but retained the name from the original school adjacent to All Saints Church.
It is a single Free School, that is not attached to a chain of other free schools or academies. In 2015 the Trust was successful in securing money to build a new purpose-built school and this opened in January 2016. Free schools are funded by the government but aren't run by the local council. They have more control over how they do things, but receive the same amount of funding per pupil as state or maintained schools and still are subject to Ofsted inspections. They are run on a not-for-profit basis by a charitable trust. They are ‘all-ability’ schools, so can’t use academic selection processes like a grammar school.
Free schools can:
- set their own pay and conditions for staff
- change the length of school terms and the school day
- be more creative in what and how they teach as they don’t have to follow the national curriculum. However they do still have to follow national assessment procedures (the 'SATs') and are inspected by Ofsted.
A Free School will be operated by a charitable company limited by guarantee. It has two tiers of governance like any company:
- The members of the company have rights and powers under company law to change its constitution, remove directors, receive the annual accounts of the company and attend and vote at company meetings (the same powers shareholders have in a company limited by shares).
- The directors of the company, who are often referred to as the governors or trustees, are responsible for the management and strategic direction of the company and therefore the school. In addition to their legal duties and responsibilities as company directors, they also have duties under charity law as charity trustees. The latest finance report is available on the governors' page.