The Telegraph has reported that over half of free schools have been established in areas with staunch support for the Labour Party, which will be as much as two-thirds when more free schools open in September.
The paper suggests parents in Labour-leaning areas are more likely to turn to free schools in an attempt to create more school places as an alternative to the existing offer. The figures also appear to contradict claims that free schools – once dubbed a “vanity project for yummy mummies” by Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary – are only popular in middle-class, Conservative-voting communities.
The move comes despite a pledge from Labour to stop the programme if it wins the next general election, with no more free schools being allowed to open beyond 2015. School that are open – or in the planning stages – will be allowed to remain. The party has also attacked rules that allow them to employ unqualified teachers
Using the results of last week’s local elections, research by The Telegraph shows that 56% of schools are in Labour-controlled authorities and 30% are in Tory-run areas. Some 14% are in councils with no overall control and just two are in Liberal Democrat areas. Among schools due to open in September, 64% are in Labour areas, 28% are in Tory councils and eight per cent are in authorities with no overall control.