Frank Field and Tory Party donor David Ross are described as ‘controlling members’ of new free school – you don’t say! Pic courtesy of Schools Week
As we highlighted in our Bye, Bye, By Election! Hello, Brooklynhead Boulevard! article Birkenhead MP Frank Field’s political activities are somewhat curtailed at the moment. However we also predicted that this wouldn’t prevent Field seeking further publicity in pursuing his own political and personal agendas.
Therefore we are instigating a series of posts titled ‘Fieldwatch’ where we identify some of the MSM stories featuring Frankenfield during his self imposed political sabbatical which we find particularly interesting.
First up is this scary development ,one which surprisingly (or perhaps ,unsurprisingly) has not appeared in the local MSM, and which was announced in Schools Week under the headline Labour MP joins millionaire Tory donor to open new free school
Veteran Labour politician Frank Field and high-profile Tory donor David Ross have been granted permission to jointly open a free school with a view to taking control of some existing schools later this year.
The Frank Field Education Trust is the brainchild of the MP for Birkenhead, and Ross, the millionaire founder of Carphone Warehouse, who chairs the New Schools Network.
Initially called The Cathedral Academies Trust, Field’s chain was approved as an academy sponsor in 2016, but changed its name in April to acknowledge that “most people referred to it as Frank Field’s Trust”.
Frank’s long-term commitment to resolving social inequality remains a key focus, and the aims of the trust transcend any political interests
Documents show the government has cleared the trust to open the Liverpool Free School, though it is not known where and when the school will start accepting pupils.
The chain has also expressed its desire to take control of a number of existing “outstanding” schools later this academic year.
The news follows Field’s decision on August 30 to resign from the Labour Party whip, meaning he is no longer required to vote with the party in Parliament. He quit in protest over Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Labour’s ongoing antisemitism crisis.
Although this is quite possibly one of the most frightening things we’ve ever read we did guffaw at the lines about the aims of the trust transcending any political interests – yeah right ! – and of course most people would refer to the academy sponsor as ‘Frank Field’s Trust ‘ because ultimately it would appear to be an ideologically driven vanity project.
Could it be that the local MSM who are in thrall to Field have been reluctant to cover this story as it is reminiscent as of an embarrassing episode from July 2009. As Field wrote on his blog at the time he was as an enthusiastic supporter of plans to establish a ‘Birkenhead Boys’ Academy’
I was in Birkenhead Park at a press conference with David Hughes. David is a local boy who has made good, big time.
He is the sponsor of the new Academy that will replace two of Birkenhead’s schools.
David is very clear that the new Academy will produce an education which is technically based and prepares young people for highly paid skilled jobs.
He is also fanatical about the school being sports-based and being open for business for the local area for sixteen hours a day, 52 weeks of the year.
We will now have our work cut out in getting all the plans in place so the Academy opens next summer. A spanking new school needs to be built.
Read full blog post here : Academy is opportunity to address needs of young people
Unfortunately plans came unstuck a month later when the following information about the lead sponsor of the Birkenhead Boys Academy was revealed by the Times Educational Supplement (TES) :
A businessman who failed to pay a fine of more than £1 million has been appointed as the lead sponsor of a new academy in the Wirral, raising further concerns over England’s academies programme.
David Hughes, who has been named as the main backer of Birkenhead Boys’ Academy in the Wirral, was involved in a price-fixing scandal when he ran the Allsports chain of sport shops.
Mr Hughes’s company was fined £1.35 million in 2003 by the Office of Fair Trading for participating in a cartel that agreed to sell replica football shirts at set prices.
Following an appeal by the company, the fine was increased to £1.42 million because of Mr Hughes’s failure to co-operate with the original investigation.
Allsports did not pay the fine and two years later the company fell into administration. Mr Hughes, a multimillionaire, also ran a property business, which went into administration this year. The entrepreneur was named as the lead sponsor for one of two new academies planned for Birkenhead last month.
Read full story here : Sponsor has £1m in unpaid fines
Even his close political allies at Wirral Council weren’t prepared to indulge Frankenfield’s fantasies after this particularly spectacular failure of due diligence, which is just as well as the thought of a ‘spanking new school’ endorsed by the Birkenhead MP doesn’t bear thinking about. We just hope Field has done his background checks on another sports retailer who he hopes to court and fete. As was reported last week Field is currently wanting to meet with Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley and negotiate for the House of Fraser store in moribund Birkenhead Precinct to remain open. Read here
Mr Ashley is most certainly a colourful character about whom it was alleged that at a business management meeting he drank 12 pints with vodka chasers and vomited into a pub fireplace. So that promises to be an interesting meeting! More significantly Ashley has been repeatedly severely criticised over his business, employment and financial practices . Read here and here
Isn’t it curious how selective Field is in his public criticism of certain businessmen? Compare and contrast above with his repeated (if justified) criticism of ‘Sir’ Philip Green. Can you imagine the feigned outrage if anyone suggested that there was even a whiff of anti- you-know-what involved?
All we will say is that with the Labour Party Conference coming up in Liverpool next week and Jeremy Corbyn addressing the faithful at the Pier Head over the weekend that Field is going to have to go some with his MSM mates if he’s to upstage his potential political nemesis.