Shadow secretary says £2m has been spent on Beccles Free School

PUBLISHED: 15:28 31 August 2012 | UPDATED: 16:09 31 August 2012

The former Carlton Colville Primary School site on Hall Road, Carlton Colville. Picture: James Bass

The former Carlton Colville Primary School site on Hall Road, Carlton Colville. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Beccles Free School has been highlighted as an example of how education secretary Michael Gove is allegedly wasting millions on “pet projects which do not benefit pupils”, according to shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg.

Mr Twigg made the accusations in a letter to Mr Gove as he claimed that £2 million has been spent on the free school for Beccles, with at least £2.3 million spent on free schools which are either not opening or lacking support.

However, the government has refuted the accusations, calling the figures “grossly exaggerated”.

In his letter, Mr Twigg said: “Millions of pounds of public money have been wasted by your department on schools which either failed to open or lack local support from parents.”

He highlighted that Beccles Free School had 37 applications for 162 places in June, however the Department for Education (DfE) say that number is now 68.

A DfE spokeswoman said that free schools were proving “overwhelmingly popular with parents” with the majority that opened in 2011 now full.

She said: “We will never gamble with the future of our children and make no apologies for setting high standards. We would never allow a free school to open which didn’t satisfy the needs of the local community and meet our strict criteria.”

Beccles Free School, which has been set up by the Seckford Foundation, will open in Carlton Colville on Thursday. The DfE is due to publish its funding agreement in the autumn.

A campaign has been run against the free school with Mark Bee, the county councillor for Beccles, and Waveney MP Peter Aldous among those speaking out against the plans.

It will move to the former Beccles Middle School site in 2014.

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