The Government is putting more money into the Free Schools programme, demonstrating their craven acceptance of ideology over pragmatism, and despite the litany of failures among the first wave of this brave new educational world. The thought that this may not be the best way to spend taxpayers’ money, though, is not allowed to enter: moreover, one Zelo Street favourite has been there to shamelessly cheer the Tories on.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
To no surprise at all, that presence is the loathsome Toby Young, who has for some reason been given a platform by the Spectator magazine to declare “Victory in sight for the Free Schools revolution that I helped to lead”. It was, in the retelling, a “revolution”, and not an excuse to blow well over £20 million more in public funds to avoid his having to shell out on four sets of school fees. How very Classical Liberal of him.
But into each life a little rain must fall, and I have to tell Tobes that his alleged revolution has, for many participants, been a less than successful exercise. There have been so many failures along the way - and so much money misused, or even worse - that to consider the Free Schools programme a success requires some highly creative re-writing of history, as well as being equally selective with the facts.
There have been smaller failures - who can forget the Discovery Free School near Crawley in Sussex? This venture was panned by Ofsted, closed, and its remaining pupils absorbed by nearby state schools. There was no need for it in the first place. Schools forcibly converted to academies were also part of the new broom wielded by Tobes’ hero Michael “Oiky” Gove - like the failed Moor Green Primary in the West Midlands.
After Tobes and his pal, Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, had gushed over its creation, another Free School, IES Breckland in Suffolk, was found to be a shambles with appallingly high teacher turnover. It was also panned by Ofsted and placed in Special Measures. Durham Free School was defended by the Daily Mail - but it turned out that it was just a crap school. It had its funding agreement terminated.
File that one in the fiction section
Those parents putting their faith in the Parkfield Free School in Bournemouth had a nasty shock when it was relocated to a former Air Traffic Control training centre at Bournemouth Airport - which is well out of town, poorly served by public transport, and not actually in the same county. And then there were the cases of poorly spent money.
The Perry Beeches academy trust had its five Free Schools and three academies handed to another body to run after a “damning” financial report and poor performance. The King’s Science Academy in Bradford was the subject of fraud charges. There were even accusations of financial mismanagement at the West London Free School - yes, the same one launched by Tobes and his pals. The same one that had Sally Coates parachuted in to sort it out after losing a head teacher mid-term - and midweek.
As Winshton might have observed of the Free Schools programme, “shome revolution … shome shuccessh”. More Tobes propaganda not to take too seriously.