Jenny queries debt write-offs for private schools.
MPs were granted an Urgent Question to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, after reports over the weekend indicated that spending on free schools was increasing at the expense of funding for urgently required primary school places in areas of great need.
During the debate Jenny welcomed private schools moving to become non-free paying free schools, but questioned the Education Secretary on how much public money is being spent to write off the debts of private schools in the process.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): I represent a constituency in the North East that, as the Secretary of State knows, is consistently complimented by Ofsted on the standard of its education, and I would like him to bear that in mind when he writes off my region in the way he just did. I want to ask him about private schools converting to free-school status. Although it is welcome to see these private schools become non-fee paying, it seems that a sizeable debt is being written off when they convert. Will the Secretary of State say how much his Department is spending on settling the debts of private schools converting to free schools?
Michael Gove: I absolutely shall. The first thing to bear in mind is that, as the hon. Lady rightly points out, Darlington is an exceptionally high-performing local authority. One of the reasons for that is that many of its schools have converted to academy status with the support of the local authority, and Darlington shines out as an enlightened Labour local authority. I will share the exact figures with the hon. Lady, but I should stress that many of the independent schools that have changed to become free schools are now open to all and an excellent standard of education is available to children on a comprehensive basis. Many of those arguing for independent schools to become free schools are Labour MPs such as the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), and I am delighted to have been able to work with two more Labour MPs supporting our free schools programme.
This page will be updated when Jenny has received the exact figures that the Education Secretary commited to sharing.
Follow the link to read the Urgent Question on Free Schools (Funding) in full.