News that just one Free School project will cost as much as £15 million has sparked criticism over the cost of the government’s flagship education programme
Lauded as a low cost alternative to Labour’s BSF schools building programme, the scheme to establish new facilities in derelict buildings could cost more than originally anticipated.
The government has already pledged or given funding to 15 of the first 35 free schools despite earmarking only £50 million worth of capital for the programme this year, research by BBC Radio4’s Today Programme has revealed.
Francis Gilbert of anti-Free Schools campaign group Local Schools Network, who took part in a debate on the show, said there was a ‘massive lack of transparency’ regarding the schemes’ costs.
Describing the schools building programme as ‘unfair’ he said: ‘At the moment the Free Schools look like they are going to be very expensive indeed.’
Free Schools activist Toby Young explained that a school which he seeks to establish could cost up to a third of a similar BSF project’s £35 million price tag.
He said: ‘We know that that’s a much cheaper way of providing much needed school places.’
It has been estimated that Aedas’ £24 million Christ the King BSF school (pictured) in Liverpool, which is set to close later this month just two years after its opening, could cost the tax payer as much as £157 million - Young said. The extra cost was due to the scheme being PFI, he claimed.