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Government to fund 180 new free schools in 2015/16

Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans to fund 180 new free schools in his 2015/16 spending review.

Mr Osborne said the government must “accelerate the [free schools] programme” and announced that it would fund “an unprecedented number” of 180 free schools in the 2015/16 year.

But shadow chancellor Ed Balls said Mr Osborne is “making the wrong choices on departmental spending”.

“Why fund new free schools in areas with enough school places?” Mr Balls asked.

But a DfE spokesman confirmed that the announcement to fund 180 new free schools is a financial commitment and not based on existing applications or interest in any particular areas.

EC Harris head of Education Marcus Fagent commented: “The announcement of funding to create 180 new free schools is well received yet will still only create about 50,000 new school places - only 20 per cent of the number of places which will be needed in 2015.

“It will cost a further £4bn on top of this, which is more than twice as much as has been announced so far.

“The cost of delivering new school places will have to be reduced significantly if they are to be introduced swiftly and efficiently,” he added.

Mr Osborne also announced plans to fund 20 new university technical colleges and 20 new studio schools in 2015/16.

He added that capital investment of £4.6bn in schools “will tackle the backlog of maintenance” in the existing primary and secondary school stock.

The chancellor said the government would also continue with its programme of turning state secondary schools into academies, allowing them to benefit from greater freedoms.

The Department for Education’s budget was protected in the spending review.

Its total budget will rise from £52.8bn in 2014/15 to £53.2bn in 2015/16. Capital investment will remain flat at £4.6bn each year, representing a 1.7 per cent fall when inflation is taken into account, according to construction industry analyst Glenigan.

UTCs are academies for 14-19 year olds that provide technical courses and work-related learning combined with academic studies.

Studio schools are small schools for up to 300 14-19 year olds which deliver academic courses through practical learning.

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