It’s possible that education might feature in the General Election campaign. So, to get his even-handed, non-party, Tory Party propaganda in first, the loathsome Toby Young has been given a platform at Spectator blogs to protest that a report by the Public Accounts Committee is insufficiently favourable to Free Schools, which by definition means it causes grave offence to the sensibilities of Himself Personally Now.
Tobes goes wrong from the get-go, claiming “It says the free schools programme offers ‘poor value for money’, but earlier this year the National Audit Office pointed out that free schools cost a third less than new schools built under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme”. False equivalence: comparing new build with schools that may take over existing buildings, or were there under another name in the first place.
Have another go: “The report says many free schools are in ‘inadequate premises’ and ‘the learning environment’ is ‘less effective’. In fact, 29pc of those inspected by Ofsted so far have been ranked ‘Outstanding’ compared to 21pc of all schools”. What about the other 71%? And then we get on to the question of whether Free Schools are needed.
“The PAC report says free schools aren’t creating new places where they’re needed most and questions the Department for Education’s ‘grip’. But over 80pc of the free schools opened or approved to open since 2014 have been in areas where there’s a demographic need for new places”. So as many as 20% of Free Schools weren’t needed. If that had been local Government spraying resources up the wall like that, Tobes and his pals at the TPA, IEA, CPS, ASI and elsewhere would have been on it like a shot.
And they would have been right. But Tobes isn’t done yet: “The PAC report draws attention to the small number of free schools that haven’t filled all their places, but the truth is they are more popular with parents than local authority schools”. Another false equivalence: I’m sure some Free Schools are wildly popular, especially given the propaganda from the right. But that does not mean those not filling their places should be excused.
Tobes, though, is still not happy: “It is a ludicrously one-sided report that is clearly intended to help Labour in the General Election campaign, which begs the question of how it came to be issued during purdah”. It came out because the PAC is clearing the decks before the General Election, which means finishing up reports like this one.
But the whining and smearing isn’t done yet: “I spoke to a Conservative member of Meg Hillier’s committee yesterday and he admitted he hadn’t even read the free schools report”. Does that mean he opposes it? No it doesn’t. That doesn’t faze Tobes, who complains that this is “underhand” and “clearly Labour propaganda” because it offends him. Plus he is even more offended because the report has been covered in the Guardian.
So he smears the report as “fake news”, rather than noticing that he has been spreading rather a lot of that himself, in his efforts to defend this horribly flawed policy. Tobes cannot get his head round the idea that not everyone thinks his ideas are wonderful.
Toby Young was awarded the nickname Captain Bellend. Because he’s a Bellend.