The Free School Kit website has been launched which allows parent and community groups to explore the geographical area where they propose setting up a new school, helping them to understand more about the existing educational landscape. Crucially it flags up vacant Government property with Green Flags. The biggest obstacle to starting a free school is finding a site. More information, including surplus land, is to be added.
Using Microsoft Bing maps and Silverlight technology, the Free School Kit makes available for the first time in one place a unique set of information – including pupil attainment, the percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals, Ofsted ratings, and information about surplus places – for every school in England, as well as initial indicative data on possible sites that could house new Free Schools. Groups wishing to set up a Free School are able to hone in on the area they are interested in and view this information overlaid on a map of the local area.
Tim Byles, Chief Executive of Partnerships for Schools, the school building agency responsible for helping groups find appropriate sites for Free Schools, said:
"The Free School Kit is our way of making our technical and specialist advice available to everyone round the clock. Free Schools proposers can now pinpoint a possible location on the map and explore within a five-mile radius to compare the performance of other local education providers. This practical tool will help new school groups to make a sound business case by comparing where existing schools are under or over-subscribed and to start looking for possible sites for their new Free Schools."
"We hope this proves to be an invaluable tool for all parents, not just those wanting to set up a Free School. Not only does this chime with the transparency agenda, but the Free School Kit has been produced at no additional cost to the taxpayer as it was developed and built entirely in-house.
"When we started developing this site at Partnerships for Schools, we were suprised that there was nowhere that brought together useful local data in an easily accessible format. For any parent trying to find out what schools are near them – and how they are performing – this involved searching on various central and local government sites. The Free School Kit makes this information easily accessible on a single website for the first time, arming parents with the information they need to decide which school they would like their child to attend."
Rachel Wolf, Director of the New Schools Network, said:
"This is a welcome tool for anyone thinking about setting up a school – and for any parent wanting to understand more about education provision in their local area. It is essential that information about schools is easily and clearly available to all, and the Free School Kit does this very effectively."
How it works
The Free School Kit brings together data from a number of sources including from the Department for Education and Ofsted to create a user-friendly way to retrieve information, imperative for Free School decision making.
Free School proposers pinpoint where they are thinking about starting a new school. Once a prospective location is chosen, details about nearby schools within a five-mile radius can be browsed. This includes
information for primary, secondary, Free and independent schools.
The online map pinpoints the location of various types of educational establishments in the area:
- Orange flag = Free School applications approved by the Secretary of State to progress to the business case
- Blue flag= Existing primary school
- Purple flag = Existing secondary school
- Green flag = Vacant government property
- Red flag = Location being considered by the person searching the website.
Clicking on the flag for an individual school then provides key performance data including:
- English Baccalaureate;
- Average 5 A*-C GCSE results, including English and Maths;
- Key Stage 2 Level 4 results, including English and Maths;
- Ofsted reports; and
- Percentage of surplus places.
The second phase of the Free School Kit, currently under development by PfS, will also incorporate more up-to-date information about government vacant properties and surplus land to help Free School groups find a site for their new school.