Charity for schools 'is Tory front'

(First Edition)

A PUBLICLY-funded charity set up to advise schools after they have opted out of local authority control is a Tory front organisation, a Labour MP said yesterday.

Stephen Byers, the MP for Wallsend, has written to the National Audit Office and the Charity Commissioners asking them to investigate the Grant Maintained Schools Centre, which this year is expected to receive pounds 760,000 from the Government.

'For all practical purposes,' he alleges, the centre and Choice in Education, an organisation that campaigns for schools to become grant maintained and which is barred from receiving public money because it is considered partisan, are one and the same.

Mr Byers says in his letter that the two operate from the same registered office, and the annual company return for Choice in Education is certified by Sir Robert Balchin, who is also chairman of the Grant Maintained Schools Centre. The telephone number for Choice in Education on the return is the same as the centre's. Half the directors of the two are also the same, Mr Byers says.

Sir Robert it had never been a secret that he was chairman of both organisations. 'The government grant is used only for the purposes for which it is intended. Regular returns are made in detail to the Department for Education and show in detail how it is spent.'