The right-leaning cheerleaders for Michael “Oiky” Gove’s Free Schools programme are rather quiet at the moment, and for one very good reason: they have nothing to cheer, and rather a lot to avoid talking about. Even Gove’s faithful wife Sarah “Vain” Vine is keeping off the subject in her weekly Daily Mail me-me-me-fest. This, for once, is a wise move on her part.
Yes, "Oiky", it's your programme, remember?
In Wolverhampton, the city’s first Free School is not faring as well as expected. “The headteacher of the Black Country’s first free school has quit her post - and the school’s controlling body has disbanded less than a year into its existence” tells the Express and Star. The school roll has just 20 pupils, against an expected one-year intake of 60, with just 14 wanting to start there in September.
On top of that, “The Wolverhampton Sangat Education Trust is to fold after its board agreed to allow the Birmingham-based Nishkam School Trust to take control of the school. Headteacher Kulbinder Kaur Pouni, who took up her post in September 2013, told the Express & Star she had resigned and would be leaving on September 1”. And how much is this enterprise costing?
“Anand Primary was set up at the former Orchard Centre in Great Brickkiln Street with the aid of a £220,000 grant from the Department for Education (DfE). It received a further £1.6 million from the Government last year to build an eight-classroom extension”. The city with the country’s second-largest Sikh population somehow cannot provide enough pupils to fill one primary school.
But that is a mere side-show compared to what is kicking off once more in Bradford, where King’s Science Academy, already the subject of much attention after its head teacher was arrested on fraud charges, is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Again, the Yorkshire Post has the story.
“Sajid Raza, the principal at the Kings Science Academy, had been arrested in January following allegations that the school submitted fabricated invoices to claim just over £10,000 of public money from the Department for Education (DfE). West Yorkshire Police have revealed that he has answered his bail regarding these matters and has also been arrested in relation to further allegations of fraud. He has been bailed pending further enquiries”.
The chairman of governors has meanwhile sought to reassure Government and community, telling “The school has confirmed to the Education Funding Agency that the steps we have taken to strengthen internal controls are taking effect and the EFA has acknowledged that the schools financial management arrangements are improving”. But it still looks a less than ideal situation.
Small wonder “Oiky” and his pals are not shouting too loudly this morning.