HEADTEACHERS have warned the opening of new free schools will pull students away from more traditional institutions.

It comes as three new free schools were given the go-ahead to open in East Lancashire from 2014.

They include Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn, Burnley Free School and the Eden School, which is based in Darwen.

Paul Trickett, headteacher at Rhyddings Business and Enterprise School in Haworth Street, Oswaldtwistle, said: “I think free schools are something we have to come to terms with in the changing educational landscape we have at the moment.

“People will see it as a threat and it is more of a pull on students, particularly at the moment when secondary schools are going through a period of falling roles.

“But just like academies and university technology colleges, they are not going to go away, so we just need to learn to deal with it.”

Free schools are all-ability state-funded institutions free from local authority control, which can be set up by teachers, charities, parents and education experts.

They must still offer a broad and balanced education, but do not have to follow the National Curriculum.

Mike Tull, headteacher at Marsden Heights Community College in Edge End Lane, Nelson, said: “I have concerns about free schools because, in Burnley and Pendle, there are a significant number of excess places already.

“The quality of education in the area is good and improving and I am unclear as to why we would need another school.”

But Simon Corns, headteacher at QEGS, in West Park Road, said free schools would open up new choices for children and parents.

He said: “Becoming a free school allows us the opportunity to bring our ethos of providing a community of learning and teaching, which encourages all pupils to fulfil their potential to many more children from Blackburn and greater Lancashire.”