The Department for Education (DfE) is inviting detailed applications from groups wishing to establish a free school in September 2013.
The first 24 free schools opened in 2011 and a further 55 schools have so far been approved for opening in September 2012, with more planned to come online soon.
Free schools expected to open in 2012 include three special schools, City of Peterborough Academy, Rosewood School in Southampton and Lighthouse School in Pudsey, which has been set up by a group of parents to cater for those with a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder.
The free schools programme is a central part of the Government’s education reforms, which it claims are driving up standards in education, creating greater choice for parents and providing a system which is more responsive and accountable to the local community.
Free schools are designed to provide greater freedom for teachers by giving schools more choice over the curriculum, school hours and how money is spent. However, free schools have been criticised for being elitist, for taking money and resources away from other schools and for fuelling social segregation.