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Labour accuses coalition of wasting £2.3m on free schools

Labour has said the government has wasted over £2 million on three free schools projects that failed to start up or have too few pupils.

Michael Gove

The Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg delivered a scathing attack on Michael Gove calling him "incompetent and out of touch" and says there are at least 3 more projects that have floundered but the Department for Education (DfE) has yet to make the details public.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Mr Twigg has demanded that the Department for Education is honest about the costs of free schools. He wants to know how many of the 79 free schools set to open in September will do so and how much money has been wasted on those that are being scrapped.

He highlights the case of Beccles free school. According to Labour, £2 million has been invested in a school for 37 pupils in an area where there are 10,000 secondary places. The school was opened despite a petition signed by 3000 local people opposing the establishment of a free school.

But the DfE rejects the numbers and the government says Twigg’s numbers do not add up. The coalition is also hitting back at Labour on what the government calls a "monumentally wasteful" Building Schools for the Future programme.

“The truth is free schools are opening more quickly and have been delivered more cheaply than previous schemes," a DfE spokesman said. "Free Schools are also proving overwhelmingly popular with parents - the vast majority of those opened in 2011 are already full."

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