While Michael “Oiky” Gove and his cheerleaders enthusiastically talk up every scrap of good news about his flagship Free Schools programme, the reality of this adventure continues to be that a billion and a half quid of taxpayers’ money has been expended, in exchange for something that rather resembles the proverbial Curate’s Egg. But then, we are approaching Easter.
Yes, "Oiky", it's happening on your watch
The “talking up” is exemplified by the loathsome Toby Young, who has been doing the rounds of the TV studios and taking to the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs so he can put the boot into Labour – and especially Tristram Hunt – as a means of getting attention away from the increasing litany of failure. And this week has brought a superb example of the genre.
Tobes took to Twitter to tell “Warm congratulations to the Reach Academy in Feltham, the 2nd Free School to be ranked ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted” (as opposed to the London suburb of Chiswick alone, where two of the six primary schools are already “Outstanding”). He also made a point of Retweeting anyone who had a kind word about his recent pamphlet for Civitas.
Those so minded included Tim Luckhurst, who told “Important stuff from [Toby Young]. I recommend it to all my colleagues in academia. Beautifully written too”. But then, Luckhurst is well known for calling things wrong, as anyone involved in the debate over press regulation is well aware. Tobes’ writings have received short shrift from John White at the University of London.
The concept of those resisting the Gove revolution as “The Blob” is gently yet firmly debunked, before White concludes “I’m beginning to wonder whether anyone belongs to ‘The Blob’. Has Toby’s imagination made the whole thing up?”. Meanwhile, as ITV News has reminded us this morning, Discovery New School in Crawley closes today – the first Free School to do so.
But worst of all is the news that three arrests have been made over allegations of fraud – this time at Glendene Arts Academy in Easington, Co Durham. So while Tobes asks us to “look over there” at the second “Outstanding” Free School, a second Free School is mired in fraud allegations (the first was King’s Science Academy in Bradford).
As the Independent has reported, “A Department for Education report published in February and revealed in The Independent highlighted concerns over the use of academy resources and payment of the salaries and expenses of staff used by a private company. The chair of governors resigned in July following the claims by members of staff”. This, to no surprise, has not come to Tobes’ attention.
Had this been a local authority school ... do I need to go on? Not good enough.