Education Secretary Michael Gove has been told he must answer key questions over his department’s handling of Kings Science Academy in Bradford.
The chairman of a committee that oversees parliamentary procedure has written to Mr Gove warning him that the reasons his department gave for dodging questions about the under-fire free school in Lidget Green are not good enough.
Charles Walker MP, chairman of the Procedure Committee, made the move after Bradford East MP David Ward complained of Mr Gove’s handling of the situation.
Last year a Department for Education report revealed “major concerns” over the governance of the flagship free school, including tens of thousands of pounds of start-up money not being used for the correct purposes.
And earlier this month school principal Sajid Raza was arrested and bailed on suspicion of fraud.
Mr Ward has secured a Westminster debate on the issue which will be held on Tuesday and see MPs grill ministers and DfE officials about investigations into the school.
It was recently revealed that Kings did not have a chairman of governors for over a year, from October 2011 to October 2012.
At the time the DfE was under the impression that Conservative party vice chairman Alan Lewis was the chairman but the school later blamed this on a miscommunication and that there was no one in that position.
Mr Ward had asked for any communications between the department and Mr Lewis regarding the school’s financial management and governance to be made public.
The response to all his requests have been: “The ongoing police investigation means that it would not be appropriate to release any details at this time.”
But Mr Walker’s letter says: “The answer which your department provided was not clear about why disclosure would not be in the public interest.
“I would be grateful if you would reconsider the decision to withhold the information requested by Mr Ward in this case.”
He then goes on to ask Mr Gove to either answer the questions or ask Mr Ward to re-table the questions in a way that can be answered.
Mr Gove has been given a deadline of February 6 to respond.
Mr Ward said: “It’s about time that someone stood up to the unacceptable behaviour from the Department of Education.
“The department have been evasive and tight-fisted with the facts at every turn.
“The public must know what happened at Kings Science Academy and who was responsible.
“The very body that is supposed to scrutinise what occurs in free schools appears to be complicit in a cover up. It’s about time that the department came clean about their role and what they know about what went on at Kings Science Academy.”