Labour MP Jenny Chapman speaks in favour of free schools

FREE SCHOOLS: Darlington MP Jenny Chapman

FREE SCHOOLS: Darlington MP Jenny Chapman

First published in News
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant News Editor

ONE of the region’s Labour MPs has backed the Government’s ‘free schools’ - admitting it might “upset” many of her colleagues.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said she supported such schools – set up by parents, teachers, or the charitable arms of companies – provided they are built where places are scarce.

And she told MPs: “I do not produce a lot of antibodies at the mention of a free school. We are a pragmatic bunch in Darlington and will go where the money is.

“These days, if we want capital money, we make ourselves a free school – ‘Thank you very much, we’ll have one of those’. We have that and it is going fine.

“There was not a peep out of me as a Labour MP or the Labour council. We will get on with it and, if it gets us the outcomes we need for young people in the town, that is what we will do.”

Ms Chapman spoke as Tristram Hunt, Labour’s education spokesman, confirmed that the Opposition will axe the free school programme, if it wins power next year.

Nick Gibb, the Conservative schools minister, said: “I welcome the speech made by the honourable member for Darlington and her pragmatic support for the free school in her constituency - in contrast to the views of her front-bench team.”

Free schools are unpopular with most Labour activists and a number have been hit by scandals over low standards and alleged fraud.

In Durham City, there has been huge controversy over Durham Free School, which, last year, had just 37 pupils - at a staggering cost of around £25,000 for each of them. It now has 90.

Up to £4m of taxpayers’ cash could be spent on a permanent home for the school - even though it will take at least nine years to fill with pupils.

In the debate, Ms Chapman said one Darlington school was “a free school in name only”, because it was established by a local academy to create space for pupils with special needs.

A second was a private school that converted, because its “finances may have been a little tight”.

Ms Chapman said: “As a good socialist, the opportunity to take away a fee-paying school and make education available to all was not something I was going to let pass by.

“We are quite relaxed about different forms of governance in education, as we can prove by our record. It is about ensuring that we spend the money where it needs to be spent.”

Labour has left the door open to “great teachers, committed parents and innovative parents” opening new schools in certain circumstances, where there is a need.

But Mr Hunt told the Commons: “Labour is committed to ending the free schools programme and refocusing spending on areas where it is needed most.”

Comments (10)

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8:54am Fri 5 Sep 14

Garrie8516 says...

Free schools: a big no thank you.

Schools are best ran by local authorites who are in touch with where specific needs are required to make for an more equal system at local level and ultimately nationally. There are some proud examples in Darlington - much lauded by Ms Chapman.

This is yet another example of an MP from the so called 'Labour party', far from representing 'labour' (service industry based or not), who has sold true labour down the same path as Thatcher and her cronies did.

This, I'm afraid to say, is yet another example of a scheme that will potentially divide communities into 'haves' and 'have nots'/disaffected/di
sillusioned and those with means.

One could Google 'Birmingham free schools' for an example, or are our memories too short? That's without highlighting the £45m Gove pumped into 1 free school, if accounts are correct - money which could've been better distributed to schools that needed it.

The old New Labour marches on regardless. I'm glad where I live in this Borough means she's not my MP to vote in because this type view from a Labour MP reduces the choice somewhat for people who deserve a much fairer society in Darlington.
Free schools: a big no thank you. Schools are best ran by local authorites who are in touch with where specific needs are required to make for an more equal system at local level and ultimately nationally. There are some proud examples in Darlington - much lauded by Ms Chapman. This is yet another example of an MP from the so called 'Labour party', far from representing 'labour' (service industry based or not), who has sold true labour down the same path as Thatcher and her cronies did. This, I'm afraid to say, is yet another example of a scheme that will potentially divide communities into 'haves' and 'have nots'/disaffected/di sillusioned and those with means. One could Google 'Birmingham free schools' for an example, or are our memories too short? That's without highlighting the £45m Gove pumped into 1 free school, if accounts are correct - money which could've been better distributed to schools that needed it. The old New Labour marches on regardless. I'm glad where I live in this Borough means she's not my MP to vote in because this type view from a Labour MP reduces the choice somewhat for people who deserve a much fairer society in Darlington. Garrie8516
  • Score: -7

9:23am Fri 5 Sep 14

ianh says...

I am no fan of the principal of free schools, especially where they gain a disproportionate amount of much needed cash. (or to prop up failing private schools)

However I cant agree with Garrie that the LA is best placed to run schools. Indeed no Darlington secondary school remains under LA control, they are either Academies or Free Schools.
Some converted to Academies in order to (understandably) access the considerable cash incentive offered by this government to convert.
One other became a Foundation, and ultimately an Academy, in order to take itself out of LA control and so avoid closure.
That school continues to thrive, as do other Secondaries in Darlington.

Sad to day, these schools are now rapidly improving because they are out of DBC control, rather than despite becoming Academies.
I am no fan of the principal of free schools, especially where they gain a disproportionate amount of much needed cash. (or to prop up failing private schools) However I cant agree with Garrie that the LA is best placed to run schools. Indeed no Darlington secondary school remains under LA control, they are either Academies or Free Schools. Some converted to Academies in order to (understandably) access the considerable cash incentive offered by this government to convert. One other became a Foundation, and ultimately an Academy, in order to take itself out of LA control and so avoid closure. That school continues to thrive, as do other Secondaries in Darlington. Sad to day, these schools are now rapidly improving because they are out of DBC control, rather than despite becoming Academies. ianh
  • Score: 7

10:11am Fri 5 Sep 14

darloboss says...

another turn coat labour mp
another turn coat labour mp darloboss
  • Score: 3

10:15am Fri 5 Sep 14

MSG says...

Labour has sold out on all fronts. No wonder people are turning to UKIP !
Labour has sold out on all fronts. No wonder people are turning to UKIP ! MSG
  • Score: -4

10:49am Fri 5 Sep 14

The Grim North says...

I wouldn't trust my local authority to run a bath.
I wouldn't trust my local authority to run a bath. The Grim North
  • Score: 14

11:08am Fri 5 Sep 14

ianh says...

mmmm and I thought most of us were looking for our MPs to be prepared to speak their mind, rather than towing the Party line regardless?
mmmm and I thought most of us were looking for our MPs to be prepared to speak their mind, rather than towing the Party line regardless? ianh
  • Score: 12

11:19am Fri 5 Sep 14

Counterview says...

MSG wrote:
Labour has sold out on all fronts. No wonder people are turning to UKIP !
Do UKIP support free schools? A yes or no will suffice.
[quote][p][bold]MSG[/bold] wrote: Labour has sold out on all fronts. No wonder people are turning to UKIP ![/p][/quote]Do UKIP support free schools? A yes or no will suffice. Counterview
  • Score: 2

12:05pm Fri 5 Sep 14

David Lacey says...

Why not find out yourself? UKIP does want to see a Grammar School in every town. Sounds good to me - a DGSOB.
Why not find out yourself? UKIP does want to see a Grammar School in every town. Sounds good to me - a DGSOB. David Lacey
  • Score: 4

4:59pm Fri 5 Sep 14

Counterview says...

David Lacey wrote:
Why not find out yourself? UKIP does want to see a Grammar School in every town. Sounds good to me - a DGSOB.
A yes or a no would have been much quicker, David. I asked MSG the question.
[quote][p][bold]David Lacey[/bold] wrote: Why not find out yourself? UKIP does want to see a Grammar School in every town. Sounds good to me - a DGSOB.[/p][/quote]A yes or a no would have been much quicker, David. I asked MSG the question. Counterview
  • Score: 0

7:40pm Fri 5 Sep 14

marilyn49 says...

Sounds like she might be the next to defect to UKIP....she's not a socialist and has lost my vote.
Sounds like she might be the next to defect to UKIP....she's not a socialist and has lost my vote. marilyn49
  • Score: 1

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