The government has got the ball rolling on its pledge to deliver a new cohort of free schools by launching a new public property company.
This new company, LocatED, has been created to acquire land and buildings across the country to help the government with its plans to build 500 new free schools by 2020, and create 600,000 new school places by 2021.
Campaigners reacted with anger when the plans were announced, saying the money being ploughed into this project would be better spent on existing schools that are facing cuts of £3bn in the next three years.
However, the government believes this will be a valuable investment, allowing children of all backgrounds achieve their full potential.
Schools systems minister Lord Nash said: "Part of the government’s plan for Britain is building a fairer society, with a good school place for every child. Free schools are playing a vital role in creating those school places. They are popular with parents, ensuring thousands more families have the choice of a good local school.
"We need to secure hundreds of new free schools in order to keep pace in creating 600,000 new school places by 2021. LocatED has the skills and expertise to find and secure land and buildings to ensure our free schools ambition becomes a reality."
According to recent Ofsted figures, 29% of free schools inspected were rated as outstanding.
More than nine out of 10 free schools have been approved in areas where there was already a need for more schools places, and the rest have been created by local communities that decided they wanted more choice for their children.
LocatED will now act on behalf of the government to secure the right sites, at the right price, to ensure hundreds more free schools will be able to open in the coming years.
LocatED’s chief executive Lara Newman MBE said: "We understand the scale of the challenge and the property landscape. LocatED has the expertise and will operate at pace to negotiate with multiple partners across the private and public sector. We work directly with landowners, agents and developers to secure sites for new free schools, whilst ensuring the best value for the taxpayer."