Gove 'made school deal with council'

The playing fields controversy has taken a new twist in south London

Campaigners called for a parliamentary inquiry yesterday into allegations that Michael Gove overruled advice not to sell off a school's playing fields in return for the local Tory council funding a controversial free school in the same borough.

An independent panel last month rejected an attempt to sell off tennis courts and other sporting facilities at the Elliott School in Putney, south-west London, following an outcry from local campaigners. But days later the Education Secretary overruled the decision, paving the way for the school to be turned into an academy and the playing fields to be turned into housing.

The GMB union, which represents school support staff, accused Mr Gove and Tory-run Wandsworth council of a "backroom stitch-up" yesterday, alleging that Mr Gove had overturned the playing fields decision at Elliott as a "quid pro quo" for Wandsworth funding a free school in nearby Battersea.

Last year, the council bought up defunct hospital land in Battersea for £13m to be converted into a free school, which will open next month as Bolingbroke Academy. Both Elliott Academy and Bolingbroke Academy are to be run by ARK Schools, a charity which has 11 academies across Britain and was founded by the millionaire financier Arpad Busson.

The GMB claimed the timing of development at both schools was suspicious. In May 2010, Elliott School was about to sign a £40m refurbishment contract under Labour's Building Schools for the Future project. But under the new coalition government, the money was axed in July 2010 by Mr Gove. In November 2010 the council and Government identified a pot of £40m to build free schools in Wandsworth borough. A year later, in November 2011, Wandsworth council announced that the only way to pay for refurbishment at Elliott School was to sell its playing fields, despite the £40m earmarked for new free schools.

On 12 July this year, the independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel rejected plans to sell off the sporting facilities. But earlier this month, Mr Gove overruled the panel, giving the green light for the sale.

Elliott School has been at the heart of the playing fields row that erupted after David Cameron promised to protect school sport. On Friday, it emerged that the Government approved the sale of playing fields at 31 schools, despite earlier admitting to just 21. The Department for Education also confirmed reports that in five cases, independent school playing fields experts had been overruled by Mr Gove.

Paul Maloney, the regional secretary of the GMB union, said: "All the evidence points to a cynical backroom stitch-up between Gove and the Wandsworth Tories over funding the Bolingbroke free school in Battersea. It is essential that this is now investigated by either the Education Select Committee or the Public Accounts Committee.

"Parliament must investigate whether Gove agreed to allow the sale of the school playing fields in Putney as a quid pro quo for Wandsworth funding the purchase of land for the free school in Battersea."

The Labour education spokesman, Stephen Twigg, said: "Michael Gove needs to explain why he can find millions for a new free school in one part of Wandsworth but an existing school down the road is forced to sell off playing fields to fund its refurbishment."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Elliott wants to enhance its academic and sporting provision. Its sporting facilities are dilapidated and out of date. The Government approved the application. The sale will fund a new multi-use games area to host competitive sports fixtures such as football matches, which they cannot currently do. They will also replace their old gym with a state-of-the-art indoor facility with four sports courts."

Bolingbroke Academy has triggered controversy as Wandsworth borough has a surplus of secondary school places.

ARK declined to comment on the GMB's allegations.

A Wandsworth council spokesman said: "The Department for Education approved the sale of the surplus land because it is the only way to fund vital refurbishment work at the school so that children and young people in the area can have the modern education and learning facilities they deserve. There is no magic pot of money to pay for these works and, without them, the school faces an uncertain future."

Best foot forward?

Defending the Olympics legacy, Michael Gove says the Government is committed to school sport. We are told he enthusiastically watched the Olympics, including attending archery, athletics and the triathlon, and is a season-ticket holder at Queen's Park Rangers, where he goes with his son. He also watched Aberdeen FC when he visited his parents recently.

But watching sport isn't the same as doing it. Does the Education Secretary actually do any exercise himself? He has "sometimes cycled to work", says a source.

That's not exactly keeping up with the Brownlee brothers, is it?

News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

News
news

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Myleene Klass
people
Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
News
Ashton Kutcher speaking at Human Rights Watch's Voices For Justice dinner in November 2013
people'What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

Life and Style
Jane Merrick rides on a Micro Scooter through St James's Park, on November 18, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.
life
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was driven to a miserable death. His story is to be told in film
Sport
Qatar has very little football history

It is a crazy place to play in summer, writes Paul Scholes

Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
News
Actor Dave Prowse in his role as the Green Cross Code Man in 1982
peopleStar Wars actor to reprise his other role - as the Green Cross Man
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Brit Marling as PR woman Liz Garvey
tv

It was all about Liz’s cocaine-fuelled brainwave, 'The Metwork'

Voices
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad and Russia’s deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov flank Fifa president Sepp Blatter
voices
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Randstad Education Plymouth: KS2 Teacher Cornwall

£19000 - £22000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Randstad Education Plymouth: KS1 Teacher Cornwall

£19000 - £21500 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

Randstad Education Chester: Nursery Assistants Urgently required in Chester

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Nursery Assistants in ChesterWe are cu...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines