DfE not so keen on transparency after all
The Department for Education is now 35 days’ late replying to my Freedom of Information request on “free schools” and the New Schools Network.
And it hasn’t even acknowledged my request for an internal inquiry into its handling of this. Both are supposed to be dealt with within 20 working days.
But I did speak to a very apologetic man at the DfE who said “there’s no excuse for this really” and explained he’d drafted a reply that he hoped I’d receive “by the end of the week” – once it had been approved. That was about three weeks ago.
Here is my letter to the Guardian, published (in slightly edited form) today:
The news that only 16 “free schools” are set to open next year (Report, 6 September) should again focus attention on the New Schools Network, the campaign group hired by Michael Gove to promote the new schools and assist with applications.
NSN, run by a former adviser to Gove, is being paid £500,000 for this work – equivalent to a taxpayer subsidy of £31,250 per successful application. Four of the group’s trustees and advisers are also involved in Ark, the company launched by City hedge fund speculators to run academies, and it is notable that two of the schools announced this week are Ark projects.
What we don’t know, however, is who, other than the government, subsidises NSN, and whether its funders include organisations with a more rapacious interest in free schools than the not-for-profit Ark. My freedom of information requests – aimed at finding out more about the education department’s relationship with NSN and seeking assurance that there is no scope for a conflict of interest – have so far been stonewalled, as have parliamentary questions asked by Labour MP Lisa Nandy.
The Other TaxPayers’ Alliance
Posted by Other TPA at 09:20am on 9 September 2010