11th December 2013

Knowledge Type

Lessons learned report Case study


, National Audit Office

Major Project

UK Government Free Schools Programme

Of Interest To

Consultants Public sector clients Academia Contractors Investors Leadership teams Operators Private sector clients

Establishing Free Schools Programme: NAO Summary Report


The Department for Education (the Department) launched the Free Schools Programme in June 2010. Free Schools are new Academies, set up as all-ability state schools, and funded directly by the Department. By September 2013, it had opened 174 Schools, approving them in three annual ‘waves’. It had a further 116 Schools in the pipeline, 105 of which were, at the time of the report, working towards opening in September 2014. The estimated cost of the Programme to March 2014 was £1.1 billion, including £0.7 billion capital expenditure.

This NAO summary report assesses whether the Department has, to date, achieved value for money in establishing Free Schools. The report does not re-evaluate individual projects. Academic performance data is currently limited because the Programme remains relatively new.

This summary report therefore addresses:

• the Department’s approach to selecting Free Schools (Part One);
• the Programme’s costs (Part Two); and
• early indications of the performance and oversight of open Schools (Part Three).