Plans for the University of Birmingham to open its own secondary school designed to get city children from all backgrounds into top institutions have been backed by the Education Secretary.
Michael Gove has approved the university’s plans - revealed last month in the Birmingham Post - for a “free school” which will be funded directly from the Department for Education without involving the city council.
Free schools are controversial and teaching unions claim they undermine existing schools.
The proposed University of Birmingham School and Sixth Form will serve 1,150 pupils aged from 11 to 19, at a site close to the university’s Edgbaston campus.
It will open next September and focus on academic subjects with the aim of getting pupils into leading universities.
There will be no entrance exam, and places will be offered to pupils across Birmingham, with a limited amount available in each part of the city.
This is designed to ensure youngsters from a range of backgrounds are able to attend, and not just those who live near the school. It will also be used for teacher training, givingtrainees at the university’s School of Education a chance to gain first-hand experience in the classroom.
But they will assist a permanent staff of highly experienced and qualified teachers, the university says.
Professor David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said, “This is a very significant time in the university’s history and ensures that we extend our commitment to our founder Joseph Chamberlain’s vision of establishing a ‘great school of universal instruction’ in Birmingham.”
Mr Gove gave the green light to a total of 102 new free schools across the country yesterday. They also included The Titan Partnership Trust School and REACH, which will both specialise in helping pupils who have been excluded or are at risk of being excluded from other schools.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Free schools symbolise everything that is good about the revolution that we are bringing to Britain’s schools.
“Choice for parents. Power in the hands of teachers. Discipline. Rigour. High quality education in areas that are crying out for more good local schools.”
But Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said: “Free schools are opened at the expense of neighbouring schools whose already diminishing budgets will be top-sliced to fund them.”