Honesty and transparency? The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy

In a snub to his departmental staff in June, Michael Gove handed the administration of the Conservatives’ flagship “new schools” programme to a charity established only nine months previously. Gifting a public contract worth half a million pounds to an untested body would – by itself – raise eyebrows. But what has really quickened pulses in Whitehall is the transfer of cash without a tendering process to the New Schools Network run by Gove’s 25-year-old former political adviser Rachel Wolf.

The driving of coach and two horses through procurement procedures will not be news to followers of the The Other TaxPayers’ Alliance (OTPA) and Lisa Nandy MP, who have been pursuing the New Schools Network (NSN) doggedly for the past few months. Parliamentary questions from Nandy and a freedom of information request from OTPA show that:

  • The government have refused to disclose full details of the business case submitted by NSN.  Stonewalling by the Department for Education led to an intervention by the Information Commissioner, who ordered them to reply. The heavily redacted FOI response was finally received after a 70-day delay.
  • The DfE have no idea who NSN’s other donors are – and crucially – whether those donors would stand to benefit financially from the introduction of free schools.
  • Education ministers have dodged further questions around procurement, with the department claiming “no other tenders were sought from other organisations [because] NSN has been active in this area for some time”. It would appear that in this case “some time” means “since the charity was started less than a year ago”.

Despite being run by a former aide to the Education Secretary and its role driving the reform of schooling in Britain, the NSN is, as a private charity funded through a large taxpayer grant (and curiously publicity-shy donors), beyond the reach of freedom of information. Contrast this with the government’s recent rhetoric on transparency. Writing for ConservativeHome this month, Francis Maude boasted:

“The most startling difference between this administration and the last is the degree of honesty we have with the public … We have put government transparency at the heart of our approach … When it comes to transparency and openness, we want nothing less than radical culture change for the public sector.”

Perhaps Maude and Gove can reconcile this with the smoke and mirrors surrounding the New Schools Network?

One Comment

  1. NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  2. Ben W says:

    RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  3. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  4. RT @MarissaJanie: RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  5. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  6. rt @psbook
    shroud of secrecy around Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd <NSN.Who runs it?Gove's former adviser.that'll be 500k

  7. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  8. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  9. Link o'the day – http://bit.ly/dafqaB – Been a long-term bugbear of mine this and I'm glad peeps are exposing.

  10. Andy Bold says:

    RT @alanmills405: rt @psbook
    shroud of secrecy around Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd <NSN.Who runs it?Gove's former …

  11. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  12. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  13. Rachel Wolf's performance on @r4today has reminded people of the awkward questions unanswered by the New Schools Network http://is.gd/gkBVD

  14. Nat says:

    RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  15. PSM says:

    RT @psbook: Honesty and transparency? The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/9CYYFY

  16. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  17. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  18. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  19. RT @psbook: Honesty and transparency? The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/9CYYFY

  20. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  21. RT @alanmills405: rt @psbook
    shroud of secrecy around Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd <NSN.Who runs it?Gove's former …

  22. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  23. RT @OllyParkers: Link o'the day – http://bit.ly/dafqaB – Been a long-term bugbear of mine this and I'm glad peeps are exposing.

  24. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  25. Small companies, like mine, will be reading this with interest. And asking questions. http://is.gd/gkBVD (via @SchoolDuggery)

  26. RT @andreacarr1: Small companies, like mine, will be reading this with interest. And asking questions. http://is.gd/gkBVD (via @SchoolDu …

  27. Jim Riley says:

    RT @andreacarr1: Small companies, like mine, will be reading this with interest. And asking questions. http://is.gd/gkBVD (via @SchoolDu …

  28. Laura says:

    The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy …: In a snub to his departmental staff in June,… http://bit.ly/9kaEaY

  29. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  30. RT @psbook: NEW –> The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  31. RT @andreacarr1: Small companies, like mine, will be reading this with interest. And asking questions. http://is.gd/gkBVD (via @SchoolDu …

  32. RT@andreacarr1: Small companies, like mine, will be reading this with interest. And asking questions. http://is.gd/gkBVD(via @SchoolDuggery)

  33. The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy … http://bit.ly/dAgpLp

  34. RT @andreacarr1: Small companies, like mine, will be reading this with interest. & asking questions. http://is.gd/gkBVD (via @SchoolDuggery)

  35. RT @psbook: http://bit.ly/9CYYFY @lisanandy on the govt's case re overtly fradulent #newschoolnetwork

  36. The story runs and runs… but so do Gove & the DfE! Makes a mockery of public procurement guidelines & transparency http://ow.ly/2ZU4G

  37. RT @tonyparkin: The story runs and runs… but so do Gove & the DfE! Makes a mockery of public procurement guidelines & transparency http://ow.ly/2ZU4G

  38. BobToms says:

    RT @tonyparkin: The story runs & runs… but so do Gove & DfE! Makes mockery public procurement guidelines & transparency http://ow.ly/2ZU4G

  39. Great work by @lisanandy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd #bigsociety in practice = cut govt, give money to dodgy orgs run by your mates instead

  40. RT @tonyparkin: Gove & the DfE make a mockery of public procurement guidelines & transparency http://ow.ly/2ZU4G Get rid of the ConDems.

  41. RT @psbook: Honesty and transparency? The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/9CYYFY

  42. Ian Usher says:

    An interesting read if Free Schools are on your radar.. http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  43. RT @iusher: An interesting read if Free Schools are on your radar.. http://bit.ly/dBJBRd

  44. RT @iusher: An interesting read if Free Schools are on your radar.. http://bit.ly/dBJBRd. A must read if interested in goovernment scandal!

  45. Great work by @lisanandy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd > it seems #bigsociety = cut govt, give money to dodgy orgs run by your mates instead

  46. RT @ahobs: Great work by @lisanandy http://bit.ly/dBJBRd > it seems #bigsociety = cut govt, give money to dodgy orgs run by your mat …

  47. The Local Schools Network is very grateful that you have been pursuing this piece of news.

    Our blog about your news is here:

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2010/10/the-tories-want-competition-between-schools-but-dont-allow-competition-on-their-doorstep/

  48. RT @psbook: Honesty and transparency? The shroud of secrecy around Michael Gove's "new schools" policy http://bit.ly/9CYYFY

  49. Leon Cych says:

    I have to ask – if the New Schools Network and the DfE has nothing to hide why were the FOI requests heavily redacted? http://bit.ly/dafqaB

  50. Edupixel says:

    Shame on you Gove … all a bit sleezy http://politicalscrapbook.net/2010/10/secrecy-over-new-schools/ why am I not surprised!

  51. Edudata says:

    RT @edupixel: Shame on you Gove … all a bit sleezy http://politicalscrapbook.net/2010/10/secrecy-over-new-schools/ why am I not surprised!

  52. Bee says:

    I am not sure I have ever mentioned it, but I hate Michael Gove: http://politicalscrapbook.net/2010/10/secrecy-over-new-schools/

  53. RT @psbook: claiming Gove drove a 'coach and two horses' through procurement procedures. http://bit.ly/9CYYFY @xtophercook

  54. RT @eyebeams: If the New Schools Network and DfE have nothing to hide why were the FOI requests heavily redacted? http://bit.ly/dafqaB

  55. Honesty & transparency redacted, #Gove? "The government have refused to disclose full details of the business case" http://ow.ly/32coi

  56. RT @eyebeams: I have to ask – if the New Schools Network and the DfE has nothing to hide why were the FOI requests heavily redacted? http://bit.ly/dafqaB

  57. RT @tonyparkin: RT @eyebeams: If the New Schools Network and DfE have nothing to hide why were the FOI requests heavily redacted? http://bit.ly/dafqaB

  58. RT @tonyparkin: Honesty & transparency redacted, #Gove? "The government have refused to disclose full details of the business case" http://ow.ly/32coi

  59. Alan Hart says:

    RT @tonyparkin: RT @eyebeams: If the New Schools Network and DfE have nothing to hide why were the FOI requests heavily redacted? http://bit.ly/dafqaB

  60. RT @tonyparkin: RT @eyebeams: If the New Schools Network and DfE have nothing to hide why were the FOI requests heavily redacted? http://bit.ly/dafqaB

  61. [...] the wake of his Building Schools for the Future fiasco and dodgy-dealings around the New Schools Network the Secretary of State for Education might well benefit from attending for a [...]

  62. [...] free schools policy is. This seems wildly optimistic for any policy at all, not least one that has hardly been on the news agenda whatsoever. I think there’s probably something else going [...]

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