Gove discussed creating 'Murdoch Academy' during meetings with tycoon


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Indy Politics

The Education Secretary Michael Gove discussed Rupert Murdoch sponsoring one of the Government's flagship academies during his meetings with the proprietor.

Mr Gove has met Mr Murdoch six times for breakfast, lunch or dinner since the Coalition came to power in May 2010 – more than any of his Cabinet colleagues.

Mr Murdoch has known the Education Secretary since Mr Gove worked for him on The Times 15 years ago and regularly socialises with him when he comes to London. But during their meetings in the past 15 months, the two men appear to have had matters of substance to discuss.

Mr Gove has also sought the advice of Joel Klein, one of Mr Murdoch's executive vice-presidents at his New York-based company News Corp, who has recently been put in charge of the internal investigation into company employees' systemic hacking of voicemail messages.

Mr Klein was formerly head of New York's Board of Education and Mr Gove sought his advice over his own plans to set up a network of independently run state-financed "free" schools in the UK. Mr Klein had been behind the setting-up of charter schools in the US – praised by Mr Gove for their contribution in raising standards in inner city districts of the US. Mr Gove wanted his "free" schools to be given the same freedom to run their own affairs.

When Mr Klein was hired by News Corp six months ago, he was tasked with expanding Mr Murdoch's commercial education interests around the world. In the event, the discussions about a Murdoch-sponsored academy have not borne fruit. A visit to an academy was arranged for Mr Gove with Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, James Harding, editor of The Times, and Will Lewis, a manager at News International also tasked with the company's internal investigation into hacking.

The shadow Education Secretary, Andy Burnham said: "It reveals a lot about Michael Gove's priorities that he has found time to meet with News Corp executives 21 times since he became Education Secretary but in his first seven months in the job he didn't manage to visit a single sixth-form college, further education college or special school."