Two of the most sensitive issues for Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove and his cheerleaders have been the disclosure of information on, and the accountability of, all those supposedly Very Wonderful Free Schools. There have been challenges on both issues, but usually from campaigners and those on the left – not from right-leaning and usually supportive media outlets.
Yes, "Oiky", your flagship scheme
That all changed when the solidly conservative Yorkshire Post got its teeth into the problems of Kings Science Academy in Bradford. The YP, which until 2010 ran a regular Monday column by Bernard Dineen, who made Quentin Letts (let’s not) and Richard Littlejohn look like wet liberal softies, has supported the Tories even at the nadirs of the 1974 and 1997 General Elections.
So while the rest of the media caught up with the arrest of the school’s principal Sajid Raza – note that the Academy’s website says he was “released without charge”, which is not entirely true, and the correct term is “bailed” – the YP has run two further reports on the affair, neither of which will make comfortable reading for “Oiky” and his retinue of polecats back in London.
Last Friday the YP told that “THE Government is facing fresh demands to publish all its records of the phone calls officials made to fraud authorities about a scandal-hit Bradford free school which led to a six-month delay in a police investigation”, which may bring a smile from Laura McInerney, who has found extracting information from Gove and his department to be a challenging exercise.
As befits “Oiky’s” pals, the blame for any lack of transparency has been deflected elsewhere. But there was worse to come, as the YP revealed the school had run for a year with no chair of governors: “The DfE’s latest statement says that there was no chairman in place at the scandal-hit free school from October 2011 to October 2012”. This is, however, most convenient for Tory Party vice-chair Alan Lewis.
But it has not gone down well with the local council: “Bradford Council’s executive member for schools, Ralph Berry, has challenged the Department for Education (DfE) to find a local authority which has allowed this to happen with one of its own schools following the controversy over the King Science Academy in the city”. So what has the DfE said about this lapse?
“The department were explicitly informed by email from the Kings Science Academy that Alan Lewis took over as chair from October 1, 2011. We learnt in October 2012 that we had been misinformed” said the DfE. And the school can just carry on being in receipt of taxpayer funds, despite the Police investigation and their not being totally candid with the DfE? Would a maintained school have got away with that?
Right now, Gove and his fans are silent on this one. No surprise there, then.