FUNDING has been ringfenced to improve education and provide more free schools and academies, according to the Chancellor’s autumn statement.

Simon Corns, head of Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn, which is applying to become a free school from 2014, said he was delighted with the news and believes the funding and the Government’s interests will benefit a wide number of pupils.

However, union bosses say it is ‘an extravagant waste of taxpayers’ money’ and will create surplus school places at a time when the country is in economic crisis.

Free schools were introduced by education secretary Michael Gove as part of his controversial schools shake-up.

They are independent and receive their payments directly from Government, but are not controlled by the local education authority.

Mr Gove said: “Every child should have the choice to go to an excellent local school.

“These new schools have been set up by idealistic people who are determined to give parents the kind of choice that only the rich can currently afford.”

But Simon Jones, NUT national executive member, said breaking up the current education system was a mistake.

He said: “Michael Gove’s vision for education is becoming increasingly unfair and chaotic.

“Dismantling our state education system and parcelling it off to unelected, unaccountable sponsors is a disgrace.”

Free school supporters say extra places are likely to relieve some pressure, particularly on primary schools due to a surge in the birth rate.

Simon Corns from QEGS said: “The demographic shows that there will be more call for places.

“It will be an element of survival of the fittest. Successful schools are the ones people want to go to. It’s about offering pupils and parents the choice.”

“The Government plans to spend an extra £1 billion on school buildings by 2015 — money from efficiency savings in departmental budgets.

“It will spend £270 million on improving further education college buildings, and a further £1 billion on new schools, and on expanding existing ones.”

ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: “Too often in the last two years, we have seen money poured into new free schools in areas where there is no shortage of good places and no rational need for more schools.

“This is an extravagant waste of taxpayers’ money at a time when the Government cannot afford to be spending irresponsibly.”