Premier League hopes to set up free schools

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

Image caption, Concerns have been raised over the state of English football in the wake of the World Cup

England's football Premier League is considering how it might set up its own education system under the government's free schools policy.

The Premier League is keen to harness the talent of budding English football stars of the future, as do dance or performing arts schools.

It says boys in its existing academies only get five hours of training a week.

Free schools can be set up by parents or other groups. They are state-funded but free from government control.

The Premier League already runs football academies at all its clubs. These academies take scouted young footballers, aged nine to 16, offering them specialist training and coaching.

But the league is frustrated that the average contact time these youngsters have with coaches is just five hours a week, compared with 15 to 20 hours for their counterparts in other European countries.

Now it is exploring how the new government's free school policy could allow it to better develop young talent.

Director of Youth for the Premier League Ged Roddy said clubs were currently working extremely hard to develop young players, but the aim should be to increase training to 15-20 hours per week.

"Part of the difficulty has been a lack of flexibility in our education system," he said.

"But if new measures proposed by the government allow us to create more flexibility - be that through forging closer links with schools or looking at the possibility of setting up specialist sports schools that cater for the needs of a young athlete - then that is something we should explore."

'Premier-league education'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We want every child to have a premier-league education and would be very happy to talk to the Premier League about setting up schools in communities across the country, where there is a local need.

"We would be delighted if they joined the hundreds of passionate and talented groups that care about raising standards for all children and are interested in setting up new schools."

Under the Academies Bill, free schools are set up as academies and are funded directly from central government, rather than via local authorities.

The policy, put forward by Education Secretary Michael Gove, attracted a lot of attention in the run-up to the general election.

The scheme is similar to the Charter School system in the United States and the system in Sweden, where non-profit and profit-making groups can set up schools - funded by the government - but free from its control.

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