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Ward criticises coalition Education Secretary
9:00am Friday 15th March 2013 in News
A coalition MP from Bradford has launched a stinging attack on the Education Secretary, accusing him of starving Bradford schools of cash for repairs.
David Ward, a Liberal Democrat, said they lost out because cash was handed to academies and ‘free’ schools instead – something he described as “frankly sickening”. And he accused Michael Gove of pursuing that policy because of his own “ego”, rather than any evidence that the quality of education will improve.
Mr Ward, the Bradford East MP, spoke out during a debate on the Government “bribing” under-performing schools to become independent academies.
Mr Gove has been accused of switching scarce education funding to academies and away from the remaining local authority schools.
Cash has also been found for groups of parents and teachers to set up so-called ‘free’ schools - including Kings Science Academy and Rainbow Free School, in Bradford.
Yet, repair budgets for local council schools have been heavily slashed and projects to rebuild crumbling schools delayed.
During the debate, Mr Ward described Mr Gove’s drive for ever more academies as an “egocentric project that comes with a cost”.
And he told MPs: “It is frankly sickening to see schools in Bradford unable to afford basic repairs, while a bottomless pit of money appears to be available to support the free schools and academies programme. That programme is a costly distraction - devoid of evidence - from the principal concern of an authority, which is to raise educational achievement and attainment.”
Mr Ward said there were “well-established methods” for achieving that, describing how an unnamed Bradford secondary school went from special measures to a rating of “outstanding”.
But Elizabeth Truss, the Conservative schools minister, defended the way schools are “encouraged” to convert to academies as the best way "to drive up standards.”
She said: “Where schools are underperforming, and leadership and management need improvement, we cannot just stand by and allow that to continue.
“Many schools agree to become sponsored academies, because they know that academies are achieving dramatic improvements in results, particularly where new sponsors have taken on formerly underperforming schools.”
Last month, Councillor Ralph Berry, Labour-run Bradford Council’s executive member for education, also described many free schools as “a waste of public money”.