Michael Gove continued to face questions today following the error-ridden announcement last week that the Building Schools for the Future programme would be ended.
Michael Gove continued to face questions today following the error-ridden announcement last week that the Building Schools for the Future programme would be ended. MPs from all sides of the house raised concerns in parliament today at Education Questions.
Philip Davis, Conservative MP for Shipley, asked about resources for schools in his area where he claimed population pressure meant that new school places were necessary; Gove claimed that the scrapping BSF did not mean the end of investment in schools.
Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP for Newark, invited ministers to visit a school in his area where buckets are necessary when it rains.
Ed Balls, shadow education secretary, brandished a letter from Michael Gove which he claimed answered none of his questions, but did contain a new list – number five – with yet more schools facing cuts to building projects.
The latest list has been verified by local education authorities, as well as the Education Department and the quango in charge of BSF, Parternship for Schools.
Gove, in combative mood, did not answer the direct accusation that he was advised against publishing a list last week, but claimed that anger around the House was in fact directed at the over-bureaucratic and wasteful BSF programme run by Ed Balls. Gove repeatedly claimed that he was working to “clear up the mess” left by the previous government.
Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, pressed Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, for more details on the cuts. Teather claimed that building programmes may well go ahead at a later date under a less bureaucratic system.
The accuracy of two further lists published by Gove were queried by the shadow Labour team – one on the number of schools expressing interest in becoming academies, and one on local education partnerships. Balls claimed that Gove was “treating children and this house with contempt.”
Balls wrote to Gove over the weekend asking for clarification on how the list of schools facing cuts had been published with so many mistakes. The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that officials had warned Michael Gove that he should simply announce that BSF would be ended, while delaying giving details of specific projects until they could be confirmed. The paper reports that Gove ignored this advice.
Writing in the Sunday Express over the weekend, Gove sought to reassure parents that the end of BSF would not mean an end to school imporovements:
“School building will not stop under this Government. What we do want to do is review the way we build schools so we can do it more quickly, efficiently and target money at the schools most in need.”
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