Telegraph says New Schools Network supports Gove – should the Charity Commission investigate?

Janet Downs's picture
Gove’s success as a wily politician is, according to the Daily Telegraph, because he seeks “to subvert the Whitehall system” and has external support: “Baroness Thatcher relied on the Centre for Policy Studies (she didn’t even trust Tory HQ). Iain Duncan Smith uses the Centre for Social Justice, which designed his “universal credit” welfare revolution. Gove uses the New Schools Network, which advises the Education Department and helps would-be education entrepreneurs navigate the bureaucratic maze.”

But the Telegraph misses an important point – the first two organisations were think tanks, the New Schools Network (NSN) is a charity. Thank tanks are heavily involved in politics even those who describe themselves as independent. Charities, as the Charity Commission makes clear, “cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad.”

The Charities Commission has already warned NSN that it must remain impartial following earlier media concerns and a complaint by Lisa Nandy, MP. Despite this, a major British paper writes that the NSN is used by education secretary, Michael Gove, to support his policies. NSN theoretically exists to help free school proposers set up free schools. However, NSN director Rachel Wolf, who will shortly join News Corp's newly-launched education division Amplify, whose chief executive is the New York’s schools department’s former boss Joel Klein, promotes profit-making schools which Gove supports. Wolf was an advisor to Gove before the last election. She co-authored a Policy Exchange document in favour of allowing schools to be run for profit and sat next to Gove when the document was launched.

Charities can engage with politicians but they must remain politically neutral. But it’s clear that NSN is “furthering the interests” of the Conservative party – the Telegraph admits this: “Gove uses the New Schools Network” as external support. The independence of the NSN has been compromised by this statement and the Charities Commission should launch an investigation.

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