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Monday 19 January 2015

Toby Young Wrong Again

Once again, the loathsome Toby Young has been given a platform to peddle his idea that Free Schools are A Very Good Thing, and to generally burnish the turd that is the legacy of his not-so-great hero Michael “Oiky” Gove. And, as so often, his intervention is countered by the rude awakening that is the real world. Tobes’ target is Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is getting on TV far too often for Tobes’ liking.
You OK down there in the Weinbunker, Tobes?

As the bear pit that was Telegraph blogs is no more, Tobes has had his latest missive posted at Spectator Coffee House, where he says of the Archbishop’s claims on Free Schools “Needless to say, he’s wrong on every count”. He’s particularly keen to correct any idea that Free Schools provide places that are surplus to requirements.

It’s also misleading to describe the 200,000 new places created by free schools as ‘competing places’, as if they’re surplus to requirements. Again, 72 per cent of open and approved free schools have been set up in places where there’s a need for new places. Not a need because the existing schools are inadequate; but a need because there are insufficient places in the existing schools”. Yes Tobes, but there is the number of schools, and number of places: you are not comparing like with like.

But he does know that Tory Free Schools are better value that rotten Labour academies: “Under the last government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, the average cost of opening a new academy was £28 million. The first 24 free schools, by contrast, cost an average of £5 million each”. Yeah, right. That office block in Hammersmith that his own West London Free School just bought cost more than £9 million.

And that was on top of all the other dosh - that would be Taxpayers’ dosh, Tobes - that his Very Wonderful new Free School has already eaten up. But let me cut to the main event here, and that is that, on the same day as Tobes is engaging in another instalment of his propaganda initiative, another example of just how good Free Schools are on value for money, and the need for their places, has come to light.

Ofsted’s report into the Durham Free School has just been published. And it makes dismal reading: the school was rated “Inadequate” across the board. “Students’ achievement is weak … Leaders, including governors, do not have high enough expectations of students or teachers … Teaching is inadequate over time … there are many instances of bullying. Exclusion rates are high and students’ attendance is low”.

And, to put the lid on it, Gove’s successor Nicky Morgan has today confirmed that she is terminating the school’s funding agreement. So it will close. One has, therefore, to assume that there will be no problem accommodating students in other schools in the area. So it seems that Dr Sentamu’s concerns are all too real, and once again Tobes has been trying to get as many folks as he can to “look over there”.

Tobes' brave new world so often doesn’t live up to his hype, does it?

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