James Forsyth

First free schools will open next September

First free schools will open next September
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Tomorrow’s Guardian front page says Michael Gove dealt fresh blow as only 20 'free schools' approved. But this is actually not a bad rate of progress.

The 20 refers only to the new schools that will open in September 2011, more will open in 2012 and 2013 and so on. One would expect the numbers to increase as momentum behind the programme builds. As soon as parents see what these schools can do, there’ll be greater demand for them.

Ed Balls is out tonight with a typically pugnacious statement claiming that this proves that parents don’t want free schools. But it is worth remembering that Tony Blair, a man who knows a thing or two about what the public want, goes out of his way to praise Tory school plans in his autobiography. 

I suspect that by 2015 Labour will either have to accept these free schools or hand the Tories an electorally potent appeal to the parents of children at the expanding number of these establishments, vote Tory or risk having Labour take your child’s school away.