Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove and his devoted cheerleaders, such as the loathsome Toby Young, have been more than eager to extol the virtues of Free Schools, which, in their hermetically sealed world of free market ideology, are A Very Wonderful Thing, can do no wrong, mean higher standards of education, and free the poor and oppressed from rotten leftie councils.
And, as I’ve pointed out on several recent occasions (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), this is complete crap. As with schools under local Government control, there are many outstanding and good examples, along with a few absolute stinkers. Had the latter been under council control, Gove’s retinue of polecats would have been on them like a rash. Not if they are Free Schools.
All of which brings us back to Discovery New School in the West Sussex town of Crawley. This Free School was performing so badly in May of this year that it was placed in Special Measures. Part of the feedback demanded by the DfE – a budget forecast – apparently got missed. Another visit last month showed that there was still far more to be done to render the school fit for purpose.
As a result, Schools Minister John Nash – the one running a chain of Free Schools in London which is itself not experiencing the smoothest of passages – has written to the chairman of governors at Discovery New School advising of a “Special Measures Termination Event and Financial Notice to Improve”. That means, put directly, that the school could be closed within weeks.
So who is reporting this scandal? Not the right-leaning and Gove supporting papers, that’s for sure, but the deeply subversive Guardian has been on the case, quoting one parent: “Now my daughter is settled at a better run, better functioning school I see the positive difference it has made in her learning, her behaviour and her life. I feel ashamed that I let Gove's policy blunder jeopardise my daughter's education”.
He went on “Sending my daughter to Discovery was the worst parenting decision I have ever made. Taking her out is among the best”. And what has Nash suggested for the rest of Discovery’s pupils? “The latest data for primary schools in the Crawley District within a three mile radius of the school shows an 8.1% surplus of places as a percentage of total school capacity”.
In other words, when Free Schools fail, the DfE can always depend on council controlled ones to dump the unfortunate pupils, rather like all those wonderful private hospitals that are so much better than the rotten socialist NHS, until they have a problem with patients which leads to them dumping on the nearest A&E to get the really difficult and expensive stuff off their backs.
Gove’s @toryeducation polecats and Tobes are keeping schtum. No surprise there.