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Boris pledges boost for London free schools

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said he will “open up” Greater London Authority’s property portfolio to boost the numbers of free schools.

After he described himself as a “passionate supporter” of free schools and Michael Gove’s reforms, the Mayor told the Conservative party conference that he will set up a group called New Schools for London to help to boost the number of free schools.

Mr Johnson said he wanted to see dozens of new free schools and would use old buildings to accommodate them.

Mr Johnson also insisted he wanted to see more done to promote maths and physics in schools, as despite the “golden age of engineering and construction” in the UK, there are parts of London where A-level maths and physics are “barely being taught” in schools.

The mayor launched an ‘education inquiry’ in November 2011, and is expected to announce the results later this month.

New Schools Network founder Rachel Wolf said: “With nearly 200 schools now open or approved to open, the Free Schools Movement has accelerated at a pace that means the centralised processes around finding sites can’t cope.

“London is particularly problematic, and a number of schools were unable to open or faced delays because of the challenges in finding sites for new schools.  

“We are delighted that the mayor will be helping free schools across the capital find sites and look forward to working with the GLA to ease this bottleneck and secure more great schools for London’s parents.”

He also repeated his pledge to increase the numbers of apprentices in London. He said 76,000 apprentices had already been trained in London but that he wanted to increase that number to 250,000 in the present electoral term.

Meanwhile education secretary Michael Gove has insisted independent schools are the right way to tackle inequality in schools and drive up performance standards.

He told the party conference: “Schools are better when they are independent, when they’re cut loose of bureaucracy” and insisted they should be able to dismiss teachers who are underperforming but “handsomely reward” those doing a good job.

He added: “There are now some fee-paying schools that want to enter the state sector. In Northumberland, Lancashire, Warwickshire previously private schools have now decided to become state schools because they believe this government is committed to excellence.”

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