Near-£1m cost of Durham free school's first term a waste of public money - MP

The Northern Echo: Durham Free School's opening ceremony Durham Free School's opening ceremony

A CONTROVERSIAL free school’s first term has cost the taxpayer nearly £900,000 – or more than £25,000 per pupil, new figures reveal.

In a letter to Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, Tory Schools Minister Lord Nash says Durham Free School (DFS) has received funding of £894,787, prompting the Labour MP to brand the school a waste of public money.

With just 34 pupils, the school is costing more than £25,000 per child – around five times the national average.

Dr Blackman-Woods said: “It is clear that free school policy is not leading to good value for money for the taxpayer.

“The £900,000 could have been much better spent supporting existing schools in the area that are very much in need of additional resources.”

The MP said the school should be closed next summer.

DFS, in Gilesgate, Durham, hopes to grow to a 630-place school and sixth form and move to a new site south-east of the city.

However, it has been dogged by claims it is costly, with nine teachers including its head and six part-timers, and unnecessary, when Durham has a number of good secondary schools with spare places.

Parents were also angered that it opened in the former Durham Gilesgate Sports College just months after that school closed amid falling rolls and budget cuts.

DFS’ funding included £313,114 in a general annual grant, £300,000 in pre-opening grant, £140,000 in post-opening grants and £127,500 in capital costs.

The average cost of secondary education nationally is between £5,000 and £7,000 per pupil, Dr Blackman-Woods said.

Lord Nash said the Department for Education had released “minimal” capital funding, including for refurbishing and information and computer technology.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, who has made free schools his flagship policy, defended DFS as recently as Wednesday, when he said it had the potential to be a very, very good school.

Headteacher Peter Cantley said DFS had enjoyed a tremendous first term and it had been a joy to work with the children and see the progress they had made.

The school term will finish today (Friday, December 20) with a carol service at St Giles’ Church in Gilesgate.

Comments (7)

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8:20pm Thu 19 Dec 13

roaduser98 says...

Doesn't sound as though this is a 'free school' not at any price per pupil.
Doesn't sound as though this is a 'free school' not at any price per pupil. roaduser98

12:22am Fri 20 Dec 13

nigel d says...

9 teachers plus part timer's for 34 pupils someone's having a laugh at our expense or will some people think this is a good idea.
9 teachers plus part timer's for 34 pupils someone's having a laugh at our expense or will some people think this is a good idea. nigel d

9:38am Fri 20 Dec 13

janee says...

A list of the open "free" schools leaked from the DfE shows that this is not the only one which has at least 10% surplus places. Since so many were opened in areas with surplus places already, rather than where there was a shortage of places, this was inevitable 29/80 "Free" schools which were open had over 20% empty places. This is a stupidly expensive vanity project and flies in the face of sensible planning for the future.
A list of the open "free" schools leaked from the DfE shows that this is not the only one which has at least 10% surplus places. Since so many were opened in areas with surplus places already, rather than where there was a shortage of places, this was inevitable 29/80 "Free" schools which were open had over 20% empty places. This is a stupidly expensive vanity project and flies in the face of sensible planning for the future. janee

2:30pm Fri 20 Dec 13

David Lacey says...

They are new. Give them a chance. It is hard to believe they won't be better than the bog standard comprehensives that churn out illiterate, innumerate kids by the score.
They are new. Give them a chance. It is hard to believe they won't be better than the bog standard comprehensives that churn out illiterate, innumerate kids by the score. David Lacey

11:43pm Fri 20 Dec 13

nigel d says...

With a average of less than6 kids per teacher I would expect them to do very well .if only all schools had this ratio .if labour had come up with this half baked idea I wonder if you would think the same.
With a average of less than6 kids per teacher I would expect them to do very well .if only all schools had this ratio .if labour had come up with this half baked idea I wonder if you would think the same. nigel d

2:26pm Sat 21 Dec 13

sineater says...

How can this overspend be justified?money is being taken from comps budgets ,so they will have even less chance of producing a good education Iff it was a labour idea David would be screaming from the roof tops about the waste of money,but as it is a tory idea he merely wimpers give it a chance ,hypocracy of the finest order !!!
How can this overspend be justified?money is being taken from comps budgets ,so they will have even less chance of producing a good education Iff it was a labour idea David would be screaming from the roof tops about the waste of money,but as it is a tory idea he merely wimpers give it a chance ,hypocracy of the finest order !!! sineater

3:59pm Sat 21 Dec 13

sineater says...

Davids limp-wristed approval for the free school, proves his many jibes at a labour run county council is purely politically motivated .Iff Durham county council was tory run, he would be excusing every thing they did.
Davids limp-wristed approval for the free school, proves his many jibes at a labour run county council is purely politically motivated .Iff Durham county council was tory run, he would be excusing every thing they did. sineater

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