1. ITV Report

Michael Gove 'overruled' experts to sell school playing fields

Education Secretary Michael Gove Photo: PA Wire

Michael Gove has overruled independent advice not to allow the sale of playing fields five times since 2010, it was reported today.

Figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph suggest a total of 30 school playing fields have been approved for sale - more than the 21 previously admitted to by ministers.

A further two applications are currently outstanding, while two have been rejected and another withdrawn.

The Daily Telegraph said the minister normally responsible for taking playing field decisions on behalf of Mr Gove is Lord Hill, the schools minister.

  • The overruled decisions related to Woodhouse Middle School in Staffordshire, Clarborough Primary School in Nottinghamshire.
  • Other schools include Elliott School in Wandsworth, south-west London, and Ingleton Middle School in North Yorkshire.
  • A fifth decision to approve a sale at Netley Primary School in Camden, north London, was approved by ministers despite the application being withdrawn after the initial reports from the independent panel indicated the bid would be rejected unanimously.
  • Four of the schools are still operating, apart from Ingleton Middle School, which closed in July

In response to the report, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg has written to the Department for Education's most senior civil servant and said he was "deeply concerned" over the amount of playing fields being sold off.

An extract from the letter says:

In response to a Freedom of Information request on school playing fields dated 23 April 2012, and updated on 8 August the Department responded as follows: “the number of applications [for school playing field disposals] received since May 2010 is 22. Approval has been given for 19 applications and 3 are under consideration.”

However, an investigation by the Daily Telegraph has found that the true number of disposals since May 2010 is as follows: 35 applications to sell school playing fields between 18 May 2010 and 22 July 2012, of which 30 were approved, 2 rejected, 1 withdrawn and 2 are outstanding.

I am deeply concerned by the fact that the Secretary of State has failed to disclose around a third of the playing field sell-offs that have been approved since the General Election.

Daybreak's Sascha Williams reports.