MP demands probe over free school plan

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A SOUTH Yorkshire MP has called for an investigation after the Government refused a Freedom of Information Act request for more details on controversial plans for a new ‘free school’ in the Dearne Valley.

MP John Healey has asked the Information Commissioner to look into the Department for Education’s refusal to provide more information on plans for the Three Valleys Independent Academy.

Mr Healey wants to find out more about the proposed school, which would be based in a former nursing school on the Manvers site.

The Wentworth and Dearne MP said people need to see the information to judge whether ‘the business case and claims of support are credible’.

“Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could be cut from local schools and ploughed into this free school. That is not something that should be done as a private deal.”

Schools in the area have attacked the proposals, saying there is not sufficient demand for a new secondary and they have surplus places.

But supporters say standards at local secondaries are not high enough, parents deserve an alternative and the new school would draw pupils from across the county.

Mr Healey began his battle in March and some details were released after an internal review was held.

The Department provided examples of statements of support with personal information blacked out, but refused a follow-up request for all such information to be released.

The Three Valleys proposers and the Government have previously said the school has hundreds of supporters.

Plans for the school to open this autumn stalled when the Government turned down the backers’ business case in May.

But the company was given a second chance and should have been told whether it was being invited to an interview by the end of July.

Government officials have failed to confirm whether they are allowing the plan to progress.