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Education officials have tonight admitted the tally of school playing field sell-offs has increased again - just hours after being forced into an embarrassing apology for issuing misleading figures.
Ministers have approved a total of 31 school pitches, 10 more than the Department for Education previously admitted to signing off and one more than the figures that sparked today's statement of apology.
The Department for Education said the tally of 30 sell-offs related to information given to the media from the School Playing Fields Panel but the decision about the 31st school - Newquay Tretherras Academy - did not go before the experts because the school owned the freehold to its land.
Education Secretary Michael Gove overruled independent advice to approve sales of playing fields five times in the last 15 months. The government has been forced to apologise for giving misleading figures about the sell-off.
Some cash strapped schools are willing to sell their pitches if it means they can use the funds for other sports activities. Political Correspondent Lucy Manning reports:
One of the schools that the Education Secretary allowed to sell off its playing field, overruling the advice from the independent panel of experts, was Elliot School in Wandsworth in south-west London.
Our political correspondent Lucy Manning has spoken to Ed Lattimore from the Save Elliot School Campaign.
He told her when it comes to selling off playing fields, the "priority" should be students and not finance.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the protection of school playing fields is "vital for the health and wellbeing" of young people.
Here is a list of the amount of school playing fields sold off by previous governments. According to The Daily Telegraph:
- The Conservative government between 1979 and 1997 sold off around 10,000 playing fields.
- The Labour government between 1997 and 2010 sold off 226 fields.
- Between May 18, 2010 and July 22, 2012, the coalition government received 35 applications to sell school playing fields - 30 were approved.
Labour set-up an independent panel in 1999 to slow down the sale of school playing fields.
David Simmonds, Tory chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, told the Daily Telegraph:
Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg told ITV1's Daybreak it was a "shambles that the government didn't know how many playing fields had been sold off".
He added that it was "worrying" Education Secretary Michael Gove "ignored expert advice" and went ahead with selling five additional school fields.
Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg told ITV1's Daybreak "there was a massive reduction" in the amount of playing fields sold off when Labour were previously in government.
Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg has written to the Department for Education's most senior civil servant after reports that Michael Gove overruled independent advice not to allow the sale of playing fields five times since 2010.
An extract of that letter says:
Latest ITV News reports
Michael Gove has overruled independent advice not to allow the sale of playing fields five times since 2010, it was reported today.