It’s a bad news interlude for Michael “Oiky” Gove and his embattled retinue of polecats, as two more school trusts are issued with “Financial Notice To Improve” letters from the DfE. So what better to take the eyes of the public off these minor inconveniences and get a suitably compliant pundit to pen a “look over there” piece about how it’s all going wonderfully well?
Fraser Nelson ... shameless
This requirement is satisfied by another appearance in the Maily Telegraph by Fraser Nelson who, readers are reminded, is “editor of ‘The Spectator’”. And big expletive deleteding deal, say I: the Speccy and Telegraph are both owned by the Barclay Brothers – not that this is ever admitted or discussed within the paper or its website – so he is just another house turn.
Nelson sets out to tell that all these Free Schools and Academies having a less than stellar time is no big deal: “Free schools will stumble – the test is how well they recover” he declares, as if children having their education fouled up – after being promised something rather better – is perfectly acceptable. He then spins the shambles of Breckland IES as some kind of exemplar.
This is what Nelson said of the school, near Beccles in Suffolk, before everything went belly up: “Michael Gove might have kept quiet about Breckland Free School, but it could be the start of something great - if the Lib Dems would change their minds ... Sometimes, when you’re a government minister, the best tactic is to keep quiet about any breakthroughs”. Then the head and six other staff left.
So out comes the suitably reconfigured spin machine: “IES managers in Stockholm felt their new flagship British school was not on the right track and they dealt with it in the Swedish way. This meant immediate, decisive action. The company’s operations manager, a former head teacher from Lancashire, flew over from Stockholm to take personal control”. And they all lived happily ever after?
Sadly not: “a week before the new head teacher was due to start, the inspectors called. Ofsted had been tipped off that there was trouble ... For the teaching unions, who loathe reform in general and profit-seeking schools in particular, this will be seen as vindication. It would be taken as proof that the much-hullabaloo’d Swedish system is failing in Britain”. Well, PISA results show it’s already failed in Sweden.
So it’s the unions’ fault, and then Nelson takes the biscuit: “This time next year, there will be almost 300 free schools in England – and you can bet, by then, there will have been more scandals. If 300 new businesses were to start, you’d certainly expect a degree of trouble in at least 30 of them”. I couldn’t give a flying foxtrot about ideological purity. This is taxpayers’ money that is being sprayed up the wall.
Ever heard of “backing losers”? Come off it Fraser, and stop polishing that turd.