Free schools were a flagship policy of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (2010–15), aligned with the broader academisation programme, yet both consolidating and transcending New Labour’s educational narrative between 1997 and 2010. Driven by political ‘modernisers’ such as Prime Minister David Cameron and his Education Secretary Michael Gove, these schools were framed as an innovative and revitalised educational policy approach, aspiring to eclipse previous ‘failed’ policies of both left and right. They proposed greater autonomy and liberation from statist bureaucracy, incorporating non-state bodies as providers, while remaining within the broader state educational structure. Primarily exported from Scandinavia as ‘all-ability’ schools, and with a distinctive autonomous and communitarian element, yet analysis and measurement of the impact of free schools both internationally and domestically has since been mixed. The article seeks (with the benefit of added hindsight and perspective) to focus on the circumstances in which this policy was implemented from 2010, assessing various challenges it faced within a coalition government environment, while ultimately analysing its overall impact on the English educational system in subsequent years.
Williams, B. (2023). The 2010–15 coalition government and the legacy of free schools in England. Policy Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1177/14782103231176360