Gove fails to respond to our Freedom of Information requests
On 6 July we sent the Department for Education three Freedom of Information requests relating to its relationship with the New Schools Network.
By law the DfE should have responded “promptly” – and by 5 August 2010 at the latest.
It is now in breach of this – and we have sent a gentle reminder. If we don’t get an answer, we can ask for an internal review and, if still unsatisfied, complain to the Information Commissioner.
But it’s not just us who have been kept waiting. Labour MP Lisa Nandy is waiting for answers to 15 parliamentary questions she has sent to Michael Gove’s department. Standard protocol is to answer within seven days – yet some were sent back in June. She did, however, get the chance to question Gove directly at the Education Committee. It will be interesting to compare his responses here with the written answers (eventually) supplied by the DfE.
Lisa Nandy: I shall be very quick, as the Chairman is glaring at me, and he is very close. I am interested in the advice that is provided to groups that are interested in setting up schools. I want to ask several questions. First, did you take the decision to award the contracts for that advice to the New Schools Network? Secondly, are you aware of who else provides funding to the New Schools Network? Thirdly, have you personally had any contact with any of the donors who provide funding to the New Schools Network?
Michael Gove: The New Schools Network was the stand-out organisation. It had experience beforehand in providing support and advice to people, and it has organised a number of events to which a variety of teachers, many of whom I have already mentioned here, have come along.
Lisa Nandy: Did you make that decision?
Michael Gove: Yes, I did. There are other organisations that support school improvement. Some, like the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, receive significantly more than the New Schools Network, so I took the decision that it was an appropriate organisation to which to give a grant. Before a grant was given, I asked for a business plan to be produced so that we could know exactly how the money might be spent to ensure that the work was done. It is fair to say-the permanent secretary may say more-that the relationship between the New Schools Network and the Department has been fruitful and productive and that the network has been able to do work that the Department would not have been able to do with the same degree of speed and depth.
I do not know who all the other funders of the New Schools Network are, but I do know that it has among its patrons, governors and trustees Sir Geoffrey Owen, the former editor of the Financial Times; Professor Julian Le Grand, an adviser to the last Government; Sally Morgan, again, a political secretary to Tony Blair; and Paul Marshall, a leading donor to the Liberal Democrats. Because the network is all-party-indeed, non-party-and properly constituted as a charity, I presume that its funding is in accordance with charity law. There are people whom I have met who will have given money to the New Schools Network - I am sure of that. How much they have given, and under what circumstances, I don’t know, but there are many people I’ve met who have given money to the academies network.
Chair: I’m sorry, Lisa. I’d be pleased if you could find other avenues to follow this up.
Lisa Nandy: Could I just say that I have 15 questions in on this that are overdue for answers, so if you could get answers for me that would be appreciated?
Michael Gove: I certainly will.
Posted by Other TPA at 09:55am on 6 August 2010