I was disappointed to read your article on Monday about the Diaspora Free School application and the accusation that the Department of Education has been racist and sexist in its decision not to approve the school. You returned to this story again on Wednesday and this time reported that the Department for Education has been accused of ‘snubbing poorer pupils’.
Every one of the hundreds of free school applications that we have received since 2010 has been assessed by officials who are committed to exercising impartial judgement. They run a competitive process where every application is properly tested before coming to ministers. I will approve only those applications that officials assess to have the best chance of delivering the excellent education that every child deserves. Inevitably some groups are disappointed, but we must strive to ensure we are guaranteeing the best possible approach to each child’s education and to tax payers’ money.
Half of the first free schools to be opened and two thirds of those opening in September are in communities with higher than average levels of deprivation. Of the most recent applications; over a third of the mainstream schools to gain approval have proposed sites in the 30% most deprived areas of the country. The Marine Academy in Plymouth and the Longsight Community Primary in Manchester are just two of these and have been designed to support some of our poorest families. In the circumstances, the assertion that the Department is sexist, racist, lacks expertise or ‘snubs poorer pupils’ seems to me not to reflect the professionalism of my colleagues or the quality of so many bids.
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education