The Department for Education is spending taxpayers’ money funding conferences given by an organisation campaigning for “smaller government”, it has emerged. The Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association (FASNA) puts the clearly political aim of shrinking the state at the top of its list of objectives.

FASNA are running a series of seminars throughout the autumn all about how to start academies — each one bearing the damning description:

“The DfE is sponsoring this event, there is no charge”

With eight of these scheduled across Engand, there is a fair sum of taxpayers’ money being channelled by Gove into a body agitating for political changes of questionable relevance or benefit to the education of children.

Yesterday, Michael Gove used FASNA as a platform to give a speech in which school governors  — who give their time for free to help run schools — were attacked as:

“Local worthies who see being a governor as a badge of status not a job of work.”

With Free Schools contracted out to a charity run by his former adviser, an ideological bent seems to be a prerequisite for involvement with DfE.

  1. Right, full on forensic dig into this FASNA lot, I feel – astroturf written all over it, so I want to know funders, major figures, links to US hard right (there’ll be some), links to major newspapers (there’ll be some, probably Associated), who puffs them in the media, links to Tory local government figures, links to Tory government figures. Chop, chop, it’s not like the BBC can be trusted to do a job here.

    As ever with the libertarian entryists, you can see the broad shape and understand what they’re doing*, but fleshing it out is damned hard.

    * ‘Get ’em young and stop them being able to think for themselves about climate change, social justice or sane economics’, I think.

  2. @tom – ditto the New Schools Network (as alluded to above). They have never released details of their donors. Given his track record of supporting two astro-turf education reform movements in the US, I’d be very surprised if Rupert Murdoch wasn’t involved.

  3. An hour or so’s quick digging strongly suggests that FASNA is associated with an academy chain in Derby and the East Midlands called Landau-Forte Charitable Trust. They have no employees, pay no rent, heat or light and give their address as the Landau-Forte College Derby, with which they share several names (Chief Administrative Officer L. Hoptroff and their PA S. Ferdinando). Many of their directors are involved with schools in Derby, Nottingham and Lincolnshire, although one (Brian Rigby MBE) is a Conservative councillor in Trafford (and a Chairman of Governors at a school there). They run elections to the board, with reserved seats for certain people (Heads, Governors, Clerks to Governors).

    They are a charity (no. 1107640) set up to represent foundation, trust and VA schools and ‘advance education’ yet give ‘political lobbying’ as a ‘key activity’. They have changed names from ‘THE FOUNDATION AND AIDED SCHOOLS NATIONAL ASSOCIATION’ at some point as the Charity Commission have that as the name but with the same company number (5303883) as the current ‘FREEDOM AND AUTONOMY’ outfit. They’ve seen a near-threefold increase in income and expenditure over the last few years.

    Finally there appears to be a conflict of interest in that they both act as a channel into the DfE for schools *and* are funded by the DfE to promote ‘autonomy’ (i.e. academy status) to schools, which they freely boast has placed them in a ‘secure financial position’. I’ll bet it has. They’re also keen to sell training to new academies about how to do all the things the local authority used to do for them, which again is essentially taxpayers’ money.

    Last Charity Commission submission for your further perusal:

  4. FASNA has morphed from the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association to the daftly named Freedom and Autonomy for Schools: National Association. It might as well have called itself the School Liberation Front.

    Gove praises FASNA for being plucky pioneers fighting for freedom and autonomy for schools. It’s as if Local Management of Schools has been erased from history:

  5. Good digging, Tom. Also in the Derby area, the head of The Long Eaton School in, erm, Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire but part of the Derbyshire LA, is an active member of FASNA and signed their letter to a national newspaper in advance of the election praising Gove’ s plans for academies. Unsurprisingly he took the earliest opportunity to convert his school to an academy (January 2011) boasting to other heads of the pots of money it was going to net him (he’d already got a brand new school through PFI but under a Labour administration at County Hall). The school had been judged outstanding at two previous OFSTEDs, one of them with a previous head, but results sank a bit under our Neil and when they managed a Good in an inspection in April 2012 the cries of ‘foul’ could be heard echoing round the County.

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