17 August 2012

Telegraph reveals Gove's playing field sales cover up

The breaking news this evening is that the Department for Education has failed to reveal the full extent of the school playing fields sold off under the coalition.  Well that's what the Telegraph reports anyway.

In a rebuttal widely re-posted on the web including by the esteemed Mark Pack DfE figures were quoted showing that just 21 playing fields had been approved for sale by Michael Gove.  Now it appears that 30 have been approved of which four involved Gove going against the advice of the gloriously named QUANGO the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel.

It seems to me that fundamentally nothing really has changed between theses two sets of figures - other than the credibility of another mega Whitehall department is further reduced.

To me the bigger point is why on earth is a Whitehall department taking these sort of decisions?  Why do we need a QUANGO to advise ministers on this issue?  And why are taxpayers footing the bill for this central bureaucracy?

Surely whether a school sells off its playing field is a decision for the school, the community most effected and the local council who have to deal with the planning implications? 

The best thing Michael Gove could do is to return this sort of decision to local communities, sack his advisers and abolish the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel.  But I suspect he'll be dragged out to make some half hearted apology and take on even more power to 'make sure it doesn't happen again'.

1 comment:

  1. "Why on earth is a Whitehall department taking these sort of decisions?" is a good question.

    The answer is "something must be done."

    In the New Labour era, many local authorities and their schools were hard-pressed financially. The property market was booming. Hey presto! Why not make a bit of cash by selling off the land? The national curriculum had left little time for sport anyway, so it wasn't like the schools needed the playing fields or anything.

    Then somebody noticed that school playing fields were being sold off left, right and centre. Something must be done!