Conservative Home

« Labour council leaders warn that spending cuts will lead to civil unrest | Main | Boris cuts Council Tax again »

Will Twigg apologise to Beccles Free School?

Kids-at-openingBeccles Free School, a new school in Suffolk founded by an excellent local charity called the Seckford Foundation, now has over a hundred pupils.

The Foundation also runs the well-regarded and successful Woodbridge School (independent) and wants to replicate its approach in the state sector.

However, Beccles Free School had a difficult opening in September being obliged to start on a temporary site in Carlton Coville rather than in Beccles.

There was also opposition from Conservative-run Suffolk County Council, anxious to thwart choice and competition. The children arriving on the first day at school were met with a left wing demo. The council leader said such schools should only be allowed where the council decided they were "appropriate" - rather missing the point of the policy.

The BBC gleefully reported in June that only 37 children had applied for the school.  They are yet to offer the news update that the figure has nearly trebled.

The Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, didn't miss a trick back in June but he has now fallen silent on the subject of Beccles Free School. For him, only bad news is good news. 24 free schools opened in 2011, another 55 opened last year. For Mr Twigg they have been frustratingly popular, but he seized on a chance to highlight one that was in difficulty. Mr Twigg said that the Education Secretary Michael Gove was wrong to allow it to open. It was a "pet project". Letting it proceed showed Mr Gove was "incompetent and out of touch."

Mr Twigg snapped:

"£2m has been spent on a school which will serve only 37 pupils."

Yet increasingly parents in Beccles are deciding that the free school will offer a better education for their children than the alternatives. The school now has 102 pupils for its 108 places. Eventually it will have places for 540 and I will make a wild bet that by then it will be oversubcribed. The more parents find out about it, the better they like it.

It is also odd for Mr Twigg to complain about spending £2 million for a new secondary school when the Labour Government spent £25-£30 million on them under its BSF scheme - including £31 million on a Norman Foster one whose roof leaked.

Does the success of Beccles Free School mean its critics will offer an apology and drop their opposition? I fear that Mr Twigg and the National Union of Teachers may echo Theotocopulos in 1936 HG Wells film, Things to Come.  He said:

"We shall hate you more if you succeed than if you fail."


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.