Among the Education Secretary’s various pronouncements on the scrapped Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme yesterday, perhaps the most dishonest was his claim that it had only improved a smattering of schools.
“After thirteen years in power only 96 new schools out of a total secondary school estate of 3,500 schools have ever been built under BSF,” Michael Gove told parliament as he axed Labour’s flagship school-building programme.
Just 96 out of 3,500 schools? Well that’s not very impressive.
But wait. Partnerships for Schools (PfS) – the national agency that helps run the BSF programme – has its own list of schools that have benefited from BSF funding, viewable here.
The PfS list names 180 schools that have benefited from BSF – not just scheduled for improvements in a future phase; actual, concrete improvements that are now up and running, be they improved IT, refurbished premises or a whole new school building. They have been completed and teachers and students are using them right now.
That’s almost twice the number of schools that Gove presented yesterday as evidence of the failure of BSF – to say nothing of the 1,400 schools that were due to open in the next few years (half of which Gove has now scrapped).
What’s going on?
Well, the Department for Education produced its own list yesterday (available here) covering every single proposed BSF and academy school in the country. But even that lists more than 160 schools that have opened. So Gove hasn’t got his 96 figure from there either.
Gove’s figure has come from what we could euphemistically call a stripped down version of the truth. He has merely counted off the number of ‘new build’ schools on the PfS list – those projects that involved opening whole new school premises. Including a smattering of primary schools, 96 of these have opened.
Handily, he’s left out schools that benefited from a new school building where the rest of the school was refurbished (‘new build/refurb’ on the PfS list) – apparently they don’t count. If dilapidated premises could be improved more efficiently by being renovated rather than replaced, they fall off Gove’s list. And recently built schools that only needed IT improvements are clearly wasting taxpayers’ money. All these school upgrades have been completed under BSF, but as far as Gove is concerned, they don’t merit any mention.
Gove has form here. Last September he launched a broadside against the BSF programme for overspending. He claimed that “only 15 local authorities have had any changes made to their schools”.
It was left to a PfS spokesperson to point out that Gove was using old figures, and that in fact schools in 32 local authorities had opened under BSF.
Not for the last time, Gove had given half the true figure. At least he’s consistent in his dishonesty.