After giving the impression that it would rather not have put the information in the public domain, the Department for Education (DfE) has now published the acceptance letters for the first waves of Free Schools. From these, we can see who was out of the blocks fastest, who was becoming desperate, and who got the encouragement from Michael “Oiky” Gove that he might have later regretted.
Yes, "Oiky", your curse
Among the applications that “Oiky” must have wished he had just signed and sent out of the door, one that will haunt even the thickest-skinned of politicians is that for Discovery New School near Crawley. Gove added “With every good wish” to his sign-off. Now the school has itself been permanently signed off, as it closed earlier this year following a grim series of inspections.
Oh well, never mind, there’s always Kings Science Academy in Bradford, whose local authority was so far Oop North as to be unknown to the DfE: “You will also want to have early discussions with Bradford Local Authority about the detail of your proposal”. It’s the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, and Gove’s badly scribbled “Congratulations!” didn’t stop the fraud allegations.
Nor did it stop the school’s then Principal being arrested. Minor problem, though, Gove fans: another to feature in that first wave was the SABRES Educational Trust, at IES Breckland. Gove managed just the barest of greetings on their letter, and probably as well: after being lavishly praised by the loathsome Toby Young, and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, it turned out to be a total shambles.
Some joining the early adopters of the Free School model did so out of thinly-disguised desperation: the letter to Batley Grammar School notes “I understand that you are looking to join the state sector in September 2011”. The former independent school was not attracting sufficient fee-paying pupils; becoming a Free School threw it a lifeline. And then there was Tobes’ school.
Gove observes in his acceptance of the West London Free School (WLFS) proposal that “You have already identified a number of potential sites and I am confident that ... you will be able ... to confirm an appropriate home for the West London Free School”. That’s still very much a work in progress, following the little local difficulties faced with the conversion of Palingswick House.
There has also been the minor problem of WLFS being on its third headmaster in as many years, together with the high staff turnover. But then, Tobes and his pals did get an “I am so delighted” from “Oiky” Gove as he signed off their letter, so perhaps they were especially cursed from the beginning.
Perhaps the curse will lift, now that Gove has been caused to move through the DfE exit door, along with his polecats. Pity about all that wasted money, though.