MINISTERS are considering axing plans for hundreds of free schools as they try to plug a gap in the education budget, it was revealed yesterday.
The government is struggling to keep a Tory general election manifesto pledge to increase the education budget by £4 billion, forcing ministers into yet another policy U-turn.
They had promised to build at least 100 new free schools each year.
NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney welcomed the news, though he said it was “not before time.”
He told the Star: “The NUT has argued since its inception that the free schools programme is an expensive and irrational way to provide the new school places we so desperately need.”
Mr Courtney argued that the free schools programme was “driven by ideology, not evidence,” causing damage and disruption to local schools that are unable to balance precarious budgets.
The free schools budget has been slashed from £2.3bn in 2015-16 to £1.3bn in the current financial year.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “The free schools programme is a key component of the government’s work to raise standards, increase parental choice and provide the new school places that we know we will need in the years ahead.”