Sutton Council and local schools respond to news from the Department for Education regarding status of local free schools

26 Aug 2021

The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed its decision regarding the plans for two new free schools in the Borough. 

The decision on the building of free schools rests with the DfE and not with any other body or authority. Sutton Council has welcomed the DfE proposal to create a new, 56-place free school in the borough for pupils living with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), known as ‘Sutton Free School 2’. 

The Council also confirmed its support for local secondary schools, who earlier in the year  told the DfE that they should be able to meet the demand for school places and that there was no need to build a new school. Government ministers have since considered the plans, alongside the context of COVID-19, Brexit and falling birth rates in the Borough. As a result, the DfE has decided to cancel plans for an additional free school for mainstream secondary pupils, known as ‘Sutton Free School 1’.  

Following the decision from the DfE, secondary schools in the borough will work in partnership with Sutton Council to make high-quality, additional places available over the next 5-6 years. This will be as an alternative to the now cancelled mainstream free school.

Additional places have been agreed with the following secondary schools: Carshalton High School for Boys, Carshalton High School for Girls, Cheam High School, Glenthorne High School, Oaks Park High School, Overton Grange School, St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls.

The schools providing additional places have shared their thoughts on this decision in a joint quote:

“This is welcome news for children and young people in the borough. In the shorter term we can provide high quality school places from within existing schools. This also avoids additional or surplus places in the longer term when the forecast demand for secondary school places falls.”

“Unfilled places at a school can lead to a reduction in that school's provision for students. This impacts upon all students, and particularly the most vulnerable, which we want to avoid.”

“Ongoing unfilled places undermine the staffing and support levels in any school, including those graded good or outstanding, and this has a long term impact on our children’s education."

“Our schools will continue to work collaboratively with Sutton Council to manage the period of increased demand for school places. This is to ensure that we best support the outcomes for children and young people of Sutton.”

People Committee Chair, Councillor Marian James said: “We very much support the plan to increase capacity in the borough for children with special educational needs through Sutton Free School 2.”

“It is important to remember that the decision on free schools lies exclusively with the Department of Education and not with Sutton Council. However, the Council has been working closely with schools across the borough and it has been positive to see the joint working between school leaders and Council staff - especially with regards to additional secondary provision.”

“This collaborative approach will ensure that all pupils receive an excellent education in Sutton and plans for additional school places are well managed, resourced and have our children and young people’s futures at its heart.”


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