What is a free school?

Free schools are independent, state-funded schools. They have the same legal status as academies.


What’s the difference between free schools and academies?

Free schools:

  • Are funded by the government but aren’t run by the local council.
  • Have more control over how they do things.
  • Are ‘all-ability’ schools, so can’t use academic selection processes like a grammar school.
  • Don’t have to follow the national curriculum, can change the length of school terms and the school day.


  • Are publicly funded independent schools.
  • Get money direct from the government, not the local council.
  • Have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools.
  • Don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times.


Are free schools able to make a profit?

No. Free schools can only be set up and run on a not-for-profit basis by a charitable Trust. The school will be run by the Principal and their leadership team and they will be answerable to a Board of Governors.


Are free schools selective?

No. All free schools have to follow the Admissions Code in the same way as all state-funded schools. The Thomas Lucas Academy Admissions Policy will satisfy requirements of the School Admissions Code, the School Admissions Appeals Code and admissions law. The admissions process will be inclusive, open, fair and transparent.

In accordance with the law, children with statements of Special Educational Need or with an Education Health and Care Plan will be admitted to the school where the Local Authority has specifically named Thomas Lucas Academy as the most appropriate placement. The School will adopt a medical needs criterion to prioritise vision impaired children supported by a letter from their doctor.


If the school opens, will that mean less money for the other schools in the area?

No. Funding for free schools will be equivalent to the funding of maintained schools and academies in the same Local Authority area.

The opening of a free school does not mean that the overall funding available in an area goes down. However, the total funding an individual school receives will depend on the number of pupils attending.


Will the School be inspected by Ofsted?

Yes. All free schools are subject to inspection in the same way as other academy category schools. The school is also inspected by Ofsted prior to opening and will be subject to termly visits from the Department for Education during its first year.


Have you chosen a Principal for Thomas Lucas Academy?

No. We would expect to appoint a Principal to start with the school in 2019. Once approved, we will be advertising this position nationally to attract the best candidates.

How do you know that all students will do well if you have a focus on teaching vision impaired students?

A study by Kansas University on schools with a fully inclusive education model, similar to the one being proposed by TLA, demonstrates that academic outcomes improve for all students and that every student ‘identified ways in which inclusion helped them in their learning’. They wanted each and every student to get the support they needed and not to limit certain groups of students.

There is also evidence that by focusing on a specialism, standards across a whole school community improve, for example, during the Specialist School movement period in England.


How will TLA meet the needs of children with other SEN?

Children with other SEN will also receive excellent support in line with our inclusive agenda.


When will the proposed Thomas Lucas Academy open?

The proposed opening date for the school will be September 2019, subject to Department for Education approval.


Where will the Thomas Lucas Academy be based?

The school plans to open in the south or the west of Redbridge, although the preferred site has not yet been confirmed. Several areas are being assessed for the school’s location based on the local requirement.

If approved to the pre-opening phase by the Department for Education, one of the first tasks of the Education Funding Agency will be to secure a suitable site for our school. By necessity any potential sites will remain undisclosed until they are secured.


How many vision impaired children will there be at the proposed Thomas Lucas Academy?

The school will have a six form intake each year. So initially, the school will open with 180 Year 7 students, growing to full capacity of 1,140 including a Sixth Form by 2022. TLA is able to accommodate up to 5% of the student intake per year to be vision impaired. This is over and above the national incidence of VI children which is approximately 2% per 1,000.  


Can I meet with the Thomas Lucas Academy proposal group?

Yes of course, we would love to meet you! Either come to our local Q&A drop in sessions on 12th July at Fullwell Cross Library or 19th July at Wanstead Library or email us at hello@thomaslucasacademy.com or call on 020 3198 0225 to arrange a meeting.


Will you come and speak at our local event?

Yes, we would love to! We are always looking for opportunities to speak with local community groups, parents and businesses to explain more about the TLA. If you would like us to come and speak at your event email us at hello@thomaslucasacademy.com or call on 020 3198 0225.  


I can’t find my question.

If we haven’t answered your question, or you can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know. Send an email to hello@thomaslucasacademy.com