April 16 2014 Latest news:
Friday, October 5, 2012
A former MP has used a speech at the Labour conference to launch a withering attack on a ‘free school’ in the Suffolk constituency he used to hold.
Speaking in Manchester yesterday, former Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said the Beccles Free School was a “waste of taxpayers’ money” and that its approach to education was like that of a “double glazing salesman”.
Free schools, which are outside the control of education authorities and can be set up by any group with central government money, were introduced by the Conservative education secretary Michael Gove after 2010. Despite vocal opposition, including a petition signed by Waveney’s current Tory MP Peter Aldous, ministers approved the opening of the Beccles Free School earlier this year, allocating it £2m.
Mr Blizzard said: “What an appalling waste of taxpayer’s money in a so called age of austerity. Beccles is a small town of 10,000 people. It doesn’t need another high school.”
The former MP added: “If you discovered that this school was having leaflets put through people’s doors offering free iPods, free school meals and free uniforms to every pupil who enrolled, you might think that education had entered the world of the double glazing salesman.
“But, conference, this has all happened. It’s called Beccles Free School.”
A spokesman for the Seckford Foundation, the group behind the school, pointed out that other schools also offer free meals, help with uniforms and teaching with new technology.
She added: “The two Free Schools in Beccles and Saxmundham are a direct response to parents who wanted choice and opportunity for their child’s future education.”
Meanwhile a spokesman at the Department for Education said: “Standards in Suffolk have been below the national average for years.
“This Free School will drive up standards and is already providing greater opportunity and choice for parents and 80 pupils.”
Mr Blizzard also launched an attack on Mr Aldous in his speech, whose seat he hopes to win back at the 2015 election, saying: “If a Tory government won’t listen to its own Tory MP, what is the point of a Tory MP.”
Mr Aldous told the EDP: “When this announcement was made I immediately raised concerns and said that I didn’t think it was appropriate.”
He added: “I don’t think it was the right thing to do, but we are where we are now and we have got to move on.”