Parents at under-fire free school slam Durham MP's 'political point scoring'

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

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”.

Comments (21)

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1:14pm Fri 17 Jan 14

sineater says...

Does their education come before the waste of money on the school?,the previous school shut because of falling numbers of pupils,now there is more money being spent on a tiny number of students,where is the logic in this expensive excersise?
Does their education come before the waste of money on the school?,the previous school shut because of falling numbers of pupils,now there is more money being spent on a tiny number of students,where is the logic in this expensive excersise? sineater
  • Score: -2

4:04pm Fri 17 Jan 14

DURHAM CITY says...

Labour know all about wasting money I don't know how she has the bare cheek at least people can see straight threw her shocking political point scoring at last. Look at the shambles Labour have made over the years with the Education system they must need to return to Education themselves then they might have a clue what they are doing.
Labour know all about wasting money I don't know how she has the bare cheek at least people can see straight threw her shocking political point scoring at last. Look at the shambles Labour have made over the years with the Education system they must need to return to Education themselves then they might have a clue what they are doing. DURHAM CITY
  • Score: 0

4:16pm Fri 17 Jan 14

sineater says...

It is not point scoring,they are taking money from state schools to fund "free" schools,they are damaging state schools to start these elitist free schools.
It is not point scoring,they are taking money from state schools to fund "free" schools,they are damaging state schools to start these elitist free schools. sineater
  • Score: 0

7:07pm Fri 17 Jan 14

Mod says...

This Labour MP wants to continue with Labour education policies/ideologies which resulted in year on year increases in GCSE and A level results and culminating in the UK education standard dropping to the bottom of international league tables.
They betrayed British children for 13 years and now have the gall to show faux anger at the high levels of youth unemployment.
These socialist hypocrites ensure their own children enjoy the best private education "taxpayer's" money can buy, whilst, denying ordinary parents the opportunity to try and obtain something better for their own kids.
This Labour MP wants to continue with Labour education policies/ideologies which resulted in year on year increases in GCSE and A level results and culminating in the UK education standard dropping to the bottom of international league tables. They betrayed British children for 13 years and now have the gall to show faux anger at the high levels of youth unemployment. These socialist hypocrites ensure their own children enjoy the best private education "taxpayer's" money can buy, whilst, denying ordinary parents the opportunity to try and obtain something better for their own kids. Mod
  • Score: 0

8:52pm Fri 17 Jan 14

Got Ya says...

There should be one school system for everybody which would bring to an end the divisions in our society.
There should be one school system for everybody which would bring to an end the divisions in our society. Got Ya
  • Score: 9

10:14pm Fri 17 Jan 14

DURHAM CITY says...

Mod wrote:
This Labour MP wants to continue with Labour education policies/ideologies which resulted in year on year increases in GCSE and A level results and culminating in the UK education standard dropping to the bottom of international league tables.
They betrayed British children for 13 years and now have the gall to show faux anger at the high levels of youth unemployment.
These socialist hypocrites ensure their own children enjoy the best private education "taxpayer's" money can buy, whilst, denying ordinary parents the opportunity to try and obtain something better for their own kids.
I could not agree with you more well said its a disgrace Labour are all over the place, Clueless
[quote][p][bold]Mod[/bold] wrote: This Labour MP wants to continue with Labour education policies/ideologies which resulted in year on year increases in GCSE and A level results and culminating in the UK education standard dropping to the bottom of international league tables. They betrayed British children for 13 years and now have the gall to show faux anger at the high levels of youth unemployment. These socialist hypocrites ensure their own children enjoy the best private education "taxpayer's" money can buy, whilst, denying ordinary parents the opportunity to try and obtain something better for their own kids.[/p][/quote]I could not agree with you more well said its a disgrace Labour are all over the place, Clueless DURHAM CITY
  • Score: -2

9:55am Sat 18 Jan 14

City of Durham says...

If you asked for the same support for a council run school it wouldn't be provided, but you can get any amount of support for a free school, even when there are sufficient places already. This is a policy that is divisive, politically motivated and wasteful.
If you asked for the same support for a council run school it wouldn't be provided, but you can get any amount of support for a free school, even when there are sufficient places already. This is a policy that is divisive, politically motivated and wasteful. City of Durham
  • Score: 7

10:40am Sat 18 Jan 14

sineater says...

Well said City of Durham, the council is pounded on many of occaisions for wasting cash,yet the same complainers think spending five times as much as is spent on state school pupils is a good thing ,go figure !!!
Well said City of Durham, the council is pounded on many of occaisions for wasting cash,yet the same complainers think spending five times as much as is spent on state school pupils is a good thing ,go figure !!! sineater
  • Score: -1

10:43am Sat 18 Jan 14

R Soulsby says...

I think the MP is right to challenge this wasteful expenditure. But what about the hidden costs?
In my experience heads in local schools work together, meet regularly to share expertise on what works and what doesn't. Staff go on locally organised training course. The Local authority also provides support, despite what this government says to the contrary, in terms of both curriculum and wider administrative matters. What no-one realises is that the head at the Free school misses out on this support. He will, no doubt, be travelling up and down to London to meet his fellow heads. Also while not being subject to local authority control, Free schools are subject to some Government control with many jobs being created in the Department for Education at both national and regional level to replicate what a good local authority is providing anyway. This is where much more of our money is being wasted.
I think the MP is right to challenge this wasteful expenditure. But what about the hidden costs? In my experience heads in local schools work together, meet regularly to share expertise on what works and what doesn't. Staff go on locally organised training course. The Local authority also provides support, despite what this government says to the contrary, in terms of both curriculum and wider administrative matters. What no-one realises is that the head at the Free school misses out on this support. He will, no doubt, be travelling up and down to London to meet his fellow heads. Also while not being subject to local authority control, Free schools are subject to some Government control with many jobs being created in the Department for Education at both national and regional level to replicate what a good local authority is providing anyway. This is where much more of our money is being wasted. R Soulsby
  • Score: 5

10:47am Sat 18 Jan 14

Mod says...

City of Durham wrote:
If you asked for the same support for a council run school it wouldn't be provided, but you can get any amount of support for a free school, even when there are sufficient places already. This is a policy that is divisive, politically motivated and wasteful.
But it just might just improve the pathetic performance/standard of education in the UK that has prevailed and culminated in the embarrassing denouement of being bottom of international school league tables.
[quote][p][bold]City of Durham[/bold] wrote: If you asked for the same support for a council run school it wouldn't be provided, but you can get any amount of support for a free school, even when there are sufficient places already. This is a policy that is divisive, politically motivated and wasteful.[/p][/quote]But it just might just improve the pathetic performance/standard of education in the UK that has prevailed and culminated in the embarrassing denouement of being bottom of international school league tables. Mod
  • Score: 2

11:05am Sat 18 Jan 14

sineater says...

It might improve results,it dam well should do,if the labour controlled council spent five times the previous budget on a project,there would be hundreds of complaints !!!!!
It might improve results,it dam well should do,if the labour controlled council spent five times the previous budget on a project,there would be hundreds of complaints !!!!! sineater
  • Score: -2

4:28pm Sat 18 Jan 14

sineater says...

sort the computer out
sort the computer out sineater
  • Score: -4

12:09am Sun 19 Jan 14

Jen204 says...

Sorry, but opening a free school is political point scoring of the highest order.
Only Gove would encourage free schools in the knowledge that countries where free schools have been there for years are closing them because results are getting worse.
Sorry, but opening a free school is political point scoring of the highest order. Only Gove would encourage free schools in the knowledge that countries where free schools have been there for years are closing them because results are getting worse. Jen204
  • Score: 3

4:48pm Mon 20 Jan 14

UseYourOwnMind says...

Just a few items to help the debate

The local council (Labour) closed Gilesgate school
Durham Free School are currently using Gilesgates former building due to a lack of available site as yet to the south East of Durham.
There are no other secondary schools in the SE of Durham
Community projects are still able to run in the premises as they currently haven't been developed into much needed apartments (i'll speculate non-social as everyone else is speculating on this thread so far)
Inflated prices and possible planning obstructions have so far halted this from happening (no one shouting about money wasting and profiteering on this one from land owners and/or the council)
I'm guessing even his mother has problems loving Michael Gove so the school isn't being run by Gove acolytes finding the next generations of tories in their heartland of Bowburn and Parkhill.
Just a few items to help the debate The local council (Labour) closed Gilesgate school Durham Free School are currently using Gilesgates former building due to a lack of available site as yet to the south East of Durham. There are no other secondary schools in the SE of Durham Community projects are still able to run in the premises as they currently haven't been developed into much needed apartments (i'll speculate non-social as everyone else is speculating on this thread so far) Inflated prices and possible planning obstructions have so far halted this from happening (no one shouting about money wasting and profiteering on this one from land owners and/or the council) I'm guessing even his mother has problems loving Michael Gove so the school isn't being run by Gove acolytes finding the next generations of tories in their heartland of Bowburn and Parkhill. UseYourOwnMind
  • Score: 3

3:04pm Tue 21 Jan 14

DurhamMum says...

Why should the children of SE Durham have to slot into the left-over "surplus places" to make "the system" work elsewhere? They are real people, not numbers!
Why should the children of SE Durham have to slot into the left-over "surplus places" to make "the system" work elsewhere? They are real people, not numbers! DurhamMum
  • Score: 0

1:39pm Wed 22 Jan 14

sineater says...

The kids from south east Durham are no better of now having to travel to Gilesgate.
The kids from south east Durham are no better of now having to travel to Gilesgate. sineater
  • Score: -2

9:23pm Wed 22 Jan 14

spragger says...

'Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has labelled it a waste of public money and called for it to be closed.'

Labour NEVER want you to have a choice
They would rather you rot in a hidebound LEA school, staffed by marxist, striking, NUT so called teachers

Thank goodness for choice
'Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has labelled it a waste of public money and called for it to be closed.' Labour NEVER want you to have a choice They would rather you rot in a hidebound LEA school, staffed by marxist, striking, NUT so called teachers Thank goodness for choice spragger
  • Score: 1

11:54am Thu 23 Jan 14

sineater says...

The choice to take funding from state schools ,and then overspend on free schools---some choice !!!!
The choice to take funding from state schools ,and then overspend on free schools---some choice !!!! sineater
  • Score: -1

2:55pm Thu 23 Jan 14

UseYourOwnMind says...

Have you checked how much it costs to knock down a state school and build it again as an academy? Have a look under the PFI scheme and see how many years the tax payer will be over paying private companies.

What choice did any state school that didn't get rebuilt have in who got that money? i neither care for the Conservative or Labours policies on education as it has severely hamstrung the education systems and restricts the variety of learning kids get.

Maybe you can tell us why you have such strong feelings against the free school? i'm assuming it can't be just down to cost for the reasons above. We can then hopefully all move on to something more constructive
Have you checked how much it costs to knock down a state school and build it again as an academy? Have a look under the PFI scheme and see how many years the tax payer will be over paying private companies. What choice did any state school that didn't get rebuilt have in who got that money? i neither care for the Conservative or Labours policies on education as it has severely hamstrung the education systems and restricts the variety of learning kids get. Maybe you can tell us why you have such strong feelings against the free school? i'm assuming it can't be just down to cost for the reasons above. We can then hopefully all move on to something more constructive UseYourOwnMind
  • Score: 0

4:25pm Thu 23 Jan 14

sineater says...

I pointed out the fact they are spending 5 times more than average on these school pupils which is as far away from their desired location,plus they are taking away funding from state schools ,and they are in an area that has a surplus of places. They are using untrained teachers,after years of complaining about teaching standards, if the over spending was rolled out across all schools,it would exceed the schemes you mention easily. They are spending a lot of cash in other areas constructing impressive new schools but many of the teaching staff are unqualified are you happy for your children to receive their education from unqualified staff ,having a good knowledge of a subject,is not the same as being a good teacher .
I pointed out the fact they are spending 5 times more than average on these school pupils which is as far away from their desired location,plus they are taking away funding from state schools ,and they are in an area that has a surplus of places. They are using untrained teachers,after years of complaining about teaching standards, if the over spending was rolled out across all schools,it would exceed the schemes you mention easily. They are spending a lot of cash in other areas constructing impressive new schools but many of the teaching staff are unqualified are you happy for your children to receive their education from unqualified staff ,having a good knowledge of a subject,is not the same as being a good teacher . sineater
  • Score: 0

12:28pm Fri 24 Jan 14

UseYourOwnMind says...

Would you like to inform us of which teacher at the Durham Free School is untrained?
They are still trying to move to a location on the south east of durham where there are no schools.

PFI was deliberate smoke and mirrors which has given vast sums out of national coffers to private companies. it will remain on the books for many years to come over paying for a service with huge interest just so the books look balanced now.

Can you give me a number for how many impressive new schools have been built as opposed to those rebuilt as academies etc?
Would you like to inform us of which teacher at the Durham Free School is untrained? They are still trying to move to a location on the south east of durham where there are no schools. PFI was deliberate smoke and mirrors which has given vast sums out of national coffers to private companies. it will remain on the books for many years to come over paying for a service with huge interest just so the books look balanced now. Can you give me a number for how many impressive new schools have been built as opposed to those rebuilt as academies etc? UseYourOwnMind
  • Score: 1

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