SKETCH: Bottom-up Free School Policy in Front of PAC

Time and again Mr Wormall (sic) told the Public Accounts committee: Free Schools is a bottom up policy.

I’m old school but that seemed a little – what’s the word they use – regressive. It must explain why Free School discipline is better than in the maintained sector. Minutely-specified uniforms, strict grammar, masters of Latin prowling the aisles between the desks with their long ferrules, bottoms up on their barked command.

Unless it’s a bottom-up policy which means that discipline is rather worse around Free Schools. The local initiatives, the inspirational factors, odd conditions, the innovations – they all add to a creative ferment in which centrally-dictated targets and systems have no large place. Or so the civil servants maintained. There are no hard and fast systems. There is no algorithm, one said. That’s what happens in a bottom-up situation.

Top down bad, bottom up good. Though in my experience, the one – enough.

What a gruelling session. And so long! There were useful facts, good arguments, but it was all over the place and the Guardian revelations about payments were hardly discussed except in an appendix at the end.

Here’s one piece of evidence.

There was an application for a school that started in Slough and finished up in Stoke Poges. Big project for 850 pupils but only eight turned up for school. The local opposition: enormous. It was a Sikh faith school.

In summary it’s startling, but more startling was how the information came out in dribs and drabs. The civil servants responsible were saying, “Can I put that in context” and “Can I write to you about that?” and “We will reflect on your views”, and “I don’t have the answer to that”.

The committee’s information came out piecemeal. Uncoordinated. Bits from newspapers, reports, local anecdote, text messages from their researchers, no doubt.

The financial civil servant was asked of the scandal-hit King’s Science school that was given £10m for its premises. “Who owns the building?”

Pause. Mr Lauener, Mr Finance answered: “The Trust?” Another pause. “Gosh, I wonder if I ought to check that.”

That’s an idea. Do check that.

Ian Swales said the school buildings had been bought with money provided by this civil servant and then passed into the ownership of a company owned by the chair of the Governors. And after the characteristic fumbling and faffing, Mrs Hodge observed that “the school Trust will be paying rent to that company!”

Very shocking but in the Guardian. We weren’t any further ahead.

Free Schools create a lot of bottom-up emotion. We could do with a fact book about them – there were 191 cases of fraud from maintained schools, for instance. Property in in Bradford can be had for £2.50 a square foot rather than £15. How many Free Schools are in special measures compared with LEA schools. If you know of one succinct source for this please send a link.

The statistics can be argued either way by clever statisticians but Stewart Jackson put it best by putting it in perspective.

“People are looking at it down the wrong end of the telescope. There are thousands of LEA schools guilty of inappropriate conduct, corruption and very poor results.” These scandals, he said of the three or four schools in trouble, “didn’t start with Free Schools.”

This committee needs more money, more personnel, more research, more briefing power, more clerking, more structure. They work outrageously hard, that is clearly a fact. The cost of this sort of politics needs to go up.

Tip offs: 0709 284 0531

GuidoFawkes Quote of the Day

Adam Spiegel, producer of Nazi themed “The Producers” musical says…

“Margate seemed a perfect place to start the promotion. I’m disappointed but not entirely surprised to see that UKIP are trying to hitch a publicity ride on the back of the show.”

Top Posts This Week

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.


Jenny Humiliates Natalie Jenny Humiliates Natalie
Senator Disproves climate change by lobbing snowball Senator Disproves climate change by lobbing snowball
GCHQ take tips from horror movie GCHQ take tips from horror movie
Happy International Polar Bear Day! Happy International Polar Bear Day!
Met Police Accuse Guido of “Collusion” With Press Gazette Met Police Accuse Guido of “Collusion” With Press Gazette
Miliband Speaks on #TheDress Miliband Speaks on #TheDress

Future of Journalism Update Future of Journalism Update
Hacked Off Rally Was Deeply Unpleasant Hacked Off Rally Was Deeply Unpleasant
Nazis Invade UKIP Conference Nazis Invade UKIP Conference
Farage on Course to Win Thanet Farage on Course to Win Thanet
Sadiq Khan Spoke at Jihad John Group Event Sadiq Khan Spoke at Jihad John Group Event
Government Blames Facebook for Lee Rigby Murder Government Blames Facebook for Lee Rigby Murder
The Hysteria of Hacked Off The Hysteria of Hacked Off
Simon Carr’s PMQs Sketch Simon Carr’s PMQs Sketch
Charity Fat Cats on £145,000 Charity Fat Cats on £145,000
Meet the Lesbian Tech Queen Meet the Lesbian Tech Queen
Balls on His Sexual Prowess Balls on His Sexual Prowess
Tory Candidates: EU Bad For Business Tory Candidates: EU Bad For Business

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,780 other followers