Birmingham's first city centre school for more than a decade has opened to pupils.
Education Secretary Michael Gove officially opened Perry Beeches II in the Jewellery Quarter to the first intake of 115 pupils.
The free school has been set up by Liam Nolan, current head of Perry Beeches Academy, in Great Barr, to serve some of the most deprived areas of the city.
Perry Beeches itself was threatened with closure just five years ago amid poor exam results but went on to be named the country’s most improved school.
The free school model, which allows teachers and parents to open sites away from local authority control, has been criticised by the NASUWT teaching union, which said it was “detrimental” to existing schools.
But Mr Gove said that free schools like the new Perry Beeches II would give children the education they “deserve”.
He said: “Of course when you make any change there will be people who are stuck in an comfortable old groove saying ‘the status quo is perfect’ but we know the status quo, particularly in Birmingham, hasn’t been good enough.
“We also know, however, there are some amazing schools in Birmingham and we have one of the best head teachers in the country, certainly one of the best head teachers in the city.
“Liam Nolan is a world class leader, and if Liam wants to open a new school you have to be a fool to say no.”
Among the first intake of pupils at the new school, based in listed former Severn Trent offices on Newhall Street, was 11-year-old Rio Ottey, from West Bromwich.
Mum Jennis said: “We knew the reputation of the first Perry Beeches school in reaching top results in GCSEs.
“There is constant progression so we wanted Rio to study here. The enthusiasm of the teachers is fantastic and will inspire the parents and children.”
Perry Beeches II is one of 55 free schools opening nationwide this month, with another 114 approved to open next year.
Wayne Bates, general secretary of the Birmingham branch of the NASUWT, said: “At a time when the education budget has been dramatically cut, funding for free schools comes from top-slicing the limited money available for other Birmingham schools and their pupils.
“Public money is being poured into a handful of free schools to the detriment of existing schools and the children and young people who attend them.”