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DfE not so keen on transparency after all

Michael GoveThe 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.

Clifford Singer
The Other TaxPayers’ Alliance

See also: Gove fails to respond to our Freedom of Information requests.

Posted by Other TPA at 09:20am on 9 September 2010
Tags: Education

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Comments

If you ask “May I find out more about xyz” you’ll never get an answer, that’s not the way FoI requests work.

Posted by PeeJay at 03:52pm on 23 September 2010

Does this expire on 8 October (ie tomorrow)?  What happens if there is no - or no adequate - response?

Posted by George McLean at 06:25pm on 7 October 2010

George - yes, the ICO asked DfE to reply by today. But it was a request rather than formal notice so I now need to ask ICO to issue a formal notice.

Posted by Clifford Singer at 09:14am on 8 October 2010

Clifford - Keep it up!  We’re all in this together!

Posted by George McLean at 06:11pm on 8 October 2010

Clifford - any news on the ICO’s notice?

Posted by George McLean at 07:26pm on 14 October 2010

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