The return of the loathsome Toby Young to the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs has not disappointed: “The school that proves Michael Gove was right” is down to his usual standard. Tobes takes the example of a single Academy school, set up before the last General Election and therefore nothing to do with his hero Michael “Oiky” Gove, to prove that Free Schools are A Very Good Thing.
Too much time in the Weinbunker, Tobes?
But wait, you might protest, King Solomon Academy (KSA), in London, is not a Free School. This is true. But Tobes has an answer for that: “[Andrew] Adonis defined free schools as ‘academies without an immediate predecessor state school’. By that definition, KSA is a free school”. This is desperate stuff. But then, KSA just scored 93% of pupils getting five A*-C in the latest GCSE results.
That means Tobes has rushed to embrace KSA as one of his own, as well as peddle the totally false notion that less well off pupils have been forbidden by rotten lefties and the educational establishment from pursuing what he calls “knowledge-based” subjects, or what everyone else calls “what they were largely studying anyway, had Tobes bothered to find out about it”.
But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with Tobes’ pretence that KSA’s results vindicate the Free School idea: it was bollocks. Quite apart from it (still) not being a Free School, there are all those well-documented problems with establishments that are Free Schools, and these are legion. Perhaps we should start with another KSA.
That would be Kings Science Academy in Bradford, where there were fraud charges – and then there were more fraud charges. In Tobes’ own back yard, Fulham Boys’ School had two years to find a suitable site – and failed. Free Schools in the North East, and the West Midlands, failed to attract enough pupils, while a new Free School near Chester faced scrutiny over its financial arrangements.
And who can forget IES Breckland, lauded by both Tobes and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, which received a damning verdict from Ofsted earlier this year? Achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, and leadership and management were all “inadequate” and the school was placed in special measures. All that praise had been heaped on what turned out to be a failed school.
Then there was Discovery New School near Crawley, so bad that it closed last April, its pupils dumped on local authority schools. Parkfield Free School in Bournemouth was relocated out of town (to a building at the airport). King’s Priory School on North Tyneside was mired in a row over teaching creationism. The litany of dodginess and failure seems endless. And the Free School programme is £1 billion over budget.
King Solomon Academy is still not a Free School. Tobes, your pants are alight.