'Ghost' free school has no pupils

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The Independent Online

A question mark is hovering over the future of a free school just eight months before it was due to open to 100 pupils.

Sponsors of the proposal, dubbed a "ghost" school because there was no evidence it had recruited staff or pupils, have been forced to ask the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to postpone its opening for a year.

His department has now warned them: "If a group's proposals are not progressing as they should be, we will not hesitate to stop the plans from going any further."

The school, Rotherham Central Free School, was given an initial go-ahead by Mr Gove three months ago. Since then, though, Rotherham Council said it had not had any contact – or evidence that it had a premises or had recruited any staff or pupils. It does not even have an operational website.

The local MP, Labour's Denis MacShane, described it as a "ghost school" and hit out at the "scandal of government and civil service money and time being wasted on a pet ideological project" of Mr Gove's.

The school's main proposer was Charlotte Blencowe, a former Tory candidate for Rotherham Council and vice-principal of an academy in Sunderland.