ANGRY parents have hit back at criticism of their new free school, saying their children’s education must come before political point scoring.
Durham Free School (DFS) became a target for critics of the Government’s free school revolution after it emerged its first term had cost taxpayers nearly £900,000 – more than £25,000 for each of its 34 pupils.
Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has labelled it a waste of public money and called for it to be closed.
Now parents have hit out, saying they are angry at DFS being used as a political football.
They say they felt let down by the existing state school system, which meant children living south-east of Durham City going to eight different secondary schools.
John Denning, the chair of governors, said funding arrangements per pupil were the same as any other state school and while extra cash had been made available to set up DFS, this was a modest amount compared to Labour-backed academies in Consett and Stanley.
“Ms Blackman-Woods seems to forget that if this money had not been invested in the free school it would simply have gone elsewhere in the UK.
“As a local resident, parent and teacher myself I’m disappointed that our MP seems more interested in scoring political points than in genuinely responding to our communities and listening to what local people say they want and value.
“We need to move with the times and seize the opportunities we are given to get the best deal for our children and communities.
“This is what the free school has done. It’s the people, and in particular the children, that matter, not the politics.”
In response, the MP said it was emphatically the case that money going to free schools would otherwise be available for the general schools budget and creating DFS in an area with surplus school places creates problems elsewhere in the system.
She said she was “reflecting wider community concern” and while she did not wish to comment on the quality of education at DFS, she would continue to raise issues “because of the negative impact such issues have on other schools in the city”.