THOUSANDS of schoolchildren are being educated in old office blocks and warehouses as a third of free schools are still housed in temporary accommodation, Labour revealed yesterday.
The party said the Tories’ flagship free-school policy was “in chaos,” with 110 not in proper school buildings, including some based at former care homes and car parks.
Official data shows that since the programme began in 2010 up to half of the 429 free schools have been opened in temporary accommodation.
Most spent years without a proper building while struggling to secure a site, the findings from a written parliamentary question reveal.
Harpenden free school in Hertfordshire opened in a 14th-century tithe barn before it finally found a permanent site.
One free school, opened in 2011, has been in temporary accommodation for over five years.
And one in six has experienced delays in opening, leaving hundreds of children without a school place at the last minute.
Shadow schools minister Mike Kane said: “Ministers at the Department for Education are in disarray. Their flagship policies are failing and children and parents are paying the price.
“Their free-school failure means children in unsuitable temporary classrooms disrupting their education and threatening school standards.”
According to the government, at least £2 million has been wasted on free schools that failed to open.
However, Labour believes the figure is likely to be closer to £4.5m, as some — including Harperbury free school, which was aborted at an estimated cost of £1.9m — are not included in official data.
The Department for Education admitted that it can take time to secure a permanent, high-quality site that meets the needs of the school and provides value for the taxpayer.