Is Gove’s department about to hand a school site worth £10 million to the private sector?

The Department for Education (DfE) has been accused of seeking to transfer a school site worth £10 million pounds to the private sector without compensating local authorities.

The Department for Education (DfE) has been accused of seeking to transfer a school site worth £10 million pounds to the private sector without compensating local authorities.

Ashmount Primary School in Islington is set to move moved to new premises in January, and has been looking to sell the former site to a local housing association since the move.

According to one of the school’s governors, however, the DfE’s Education Funding Agency has stepped in to block the sale, requisitioning the old school site to make way for a free school without compensating the council.

School governor David Barry claims that Islington Council could now be out of pocket to the tune of millions through what amounts to a net transfer of funds from the council to the private sector.

It had been thought that the site, worth around £10 million pounds, would be provided to a local housing association at the discounted rate of £3 million to build social housing. There are now concerns about Islington’s schools being short of money if the council is not compensation for the land on which the old school building sits.

Writing on his website, Barry says:

“First the capital account for Islington schools is now short by 3 million pounds. This was the, rather conservative figure, that Islington had assumed would be available from selling the site, at a special low price, to a housing association. It might well have been more. Consequently all Islington schools will experience a further cut in capital allocations.”

Joe Caluori, lead member for children and families on Islington council, told Left Foot Forward that he was “deeply concerned” about having a free school “imposed upon us”.

“This school is a divisive and unwelcome imposition, and moreover taking the site from us will have a huge impact on us and our housing plans.”

Left Foot Forward approached the DfE about whether they planned to compensate Islington Council for the requisitioning of Ashmount Primary School but they declined to comment.

————————————————————- Update

A Department for Education spokesperson has now told LFF that:

“We have identified the former site of Ashmount Primary as a possible site for an approved free school and we are in contact with Islington Council about its use. However, no decisions have been taken and discussions with the proposers, council and local community are still in the very early stages.

“As well as providing high quality school places, the free school will drive up standards and provide greater opportunity and choice for local parents and children.”

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