Parents hit back in free school criticism

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PARENTS have launched a defence of Durham Free School after an MP called for it to close.

The school became the target of critics of the Government’s free school project after it was found it cost taxpayers £900,000 – more than £25,000 for each of its 34 pupils.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, Durham City’s MP, has labelled the Gilesgate school a waste of money and called for it to be closed.

But parents have hit back and say they are angry the school is being used as a political play piece.

They say it is let down by the state school system, which mean children living in the south east of the county go to eight different schools.

John Denning, chairman of the school’s governors, said the arrangements per pupil are the same as any other state school.

Additional cash was given to set up Durham Free School, but Mr Denning said this was modest compared to Labour-backed academies in the north of the county.

He said: “Ms Blackman-Woods seems to forget that if this money had not been invested in the free school, it would have simply gone elsewhere in the UK.

“As a local resident, parent and teacher myself, I’m disappointed that our MP seems more interested in political points than in genuinely responding to our communities and listening to what local people say they want and value.”

He said free schools give pupils the best deal for children and communities.

In response, the MP said money going to free schools would otherwise be available for the general schools budget and creating DFS in an area where there are a surplus of school places creates problems elsewhere in the system.

She has also said she was reflecting wider community concerns and although does not wish to comment on the quality of teaching at DFS, she would continue to raise issues because of the view they have a negative impact on other schools in Dur-