We're particularly interested in knowing how the West London Free School's takeover of Palingswick House (expelling over 20 charities) will be paid for. Will the council maintain ownership and ask the government for rent, perhaps at a reduced rate? Will they sell off Palingswick House to a private owner who will then lease it to the school, with the government paying?
You might think that as we're talking about public money paying for public education, we'd have a right to know now. But apparently we'll just have to wait. Transparent government this ain't.
Andy Slaughter MP (Hammersmith, Labour)
Since the beginning of the year, at the request of parents in my constituency, I have been trying to find out the funding basis of the several free schools due to open there. I have with me correspondence from the Department giving every possible excuse for not giving that information—it even makes “The dog ate my homework” sound plausible. The last correspondence, from two months ago, concerned my appeal against the refusal under the Freedom of Information Act. I have had no response whatever from the Department, which is concealing the information either because it does not know it because it is incompetent, or because free schools are being treated in a preferential way. Will the Minister please now answer those questions?
Nick Gibb MP (Schools Minister, Conservative)
Details of free schools will be published once they open, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to see all that information once that free school opens. We are concerned about disclosing details of proposals for free schools where they have been turned down, because that can cause embarrassment to the individuals who have made those proposals, who will sometimes be teachers who have existing jobs. There are all kinds of reasons why we have to maintain confidentiality for those proposals, but all those details will be made available for any free school that opens.