THE Government spent more than £20 million on three schools that all closed within five years, a trade union has revealed.

Free schools in Newhaven, Crawley and Rye received millions of pounds from the Department of Education before closing, according to the National Education Union.

Free schools are newly-built schools funded by the Government but controlled by charities rather than councils.

UTC@Harbourside in Newhaven received £13.6 million from the Government after it opened in 2015.

But the school closed in July because of “financial instability” and a pupil shortage.

The union also revealed the Government spent £210,000 on the proposed University of Brighton Secondary School, plans for which were scrapped last year.

The new school, set to be run by the university, had been in the making since 2015.

Brighton and Hove union branch secretary Paul Shellard said £210,000 was “a lot of money to spend on something that didn’t come to fruition”.

“Free schools are supposed to be in deprived areas but really they can be set up anywhere,” he said.

“That tends to disrupt and affect the admissions process in different areas.

“Free schools are definitely not the way forward.

“Councils know best where school places are needed.

“If more places are needed, more classes can be created and schools can be expanded.”

Since free schools were first introduced by the Government in 2010, three in Sussex have closed.

UTC@Harbourside in Newhaven closed in July this year.

It said it had not been able to recruit enough students to become “financially stable”.

Discovery New School in Crawley was one of the country’s first free schools when it opened in 2011.

But three years later it became the first to be shut down after Ofsted inspectors warned there was a risk of pupils not learning how to read or write.

The Government had spent £2.9 million on Discovery New School.

Rye Studio School was opened by Rye Academy Trust in 2013.

But after the Department for Education pumped £3.1 million of funding into the school, it closed last year.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour candidate for Brighton Kemptown, said free schools “take vital funding away from councils”.

“My constituency does not have any free schools in it and long may that continue,” he said.