Michael Gove’s bid to become the next prime minister began with contemplating the fickle nature of fate. What would have happened to him if chance had sent him to a failing school, he pondered. A school like one in 2007 where he said only one pupil attained five good GCSEs including English and maths.(See update below explaining why the 'one percent' in the original article has been changed to 'one')
The school, not named on this occasion, was likely to be Parklands High School, a new school opened in 2002 under a £27m PFI contract in Speke. Gove cited a Liverpool school with such poor GCSE results before. (On that occasion it was 1%, see update).
Parkland's second inspection in April 2008 downgraded it from ‘adequate’* to ‘inadequate’. The first monitoring inspection (October 2008) showed the proportion of pupils gaining five or more A*-C grades including English and maths had risen from 1% in 2007 to 15%. Still low, but a definite improvement on 1%.
Two full inspections, in 2010 and 2012, judged Parklands to be satisfactory. Inspectors noted that Parkland’s roll was falling. Nevertheless, the ‘improving’ school was deemed ripe for conversion. The chosen sponsor for Parklands was Bright Tribe, the trust which would be exposed by Panorama in late 2018.
Under the PFI contract, Liverpool council has to pay for the unused school at a rate of £12k a day until 2028.
The company receiving this money is Education Solutions Speke whose directors include Alfred Michael Dwan. Two of Dwan’s other companies, Adventure Learning Schools and Helping Hands Trust Limited, were members of Bright Tribe until July 2018.
We have a situation, then, where one school with very poor exam results in 2007 was referenced twelve years later in a bid to become prime minister. This school, judged to be improving in 2010 and 2012, was lined up to be sponsored by a trust connected to the company holding the school’s PFI contract. Possible conflicts of interest in this arrangement appeared not to have bothered the education secretary at the time – Michael Gove.
ADDENDUM: In July 2018, FE Week reported how Bright Tribe was allowed to open Greater Manchester UTC in 2013 despite warnings it was not viable. Bright Tribe was also given a £300k grant to develop the project. This, again, was when Gove was education secretary. The UTC received a £221k bail out before closing in 2017. Not one pupil attained grade A*-C in both English and Maths in 2016. There was no need for Gove to go back to 2007 for an example of a school with poor exam results. He could have highlighted two schools with even worse results opened under his watch: Greater Manchester UTC and Route 39.
UPDATE; 13 June 08.56. Agov has sent me a link (see comment below) which shows Gove said one pupil not 1% or none. I have corrected the article. I have also added 'likely' to my revelation that Parklands was the school he was referring to. My hunch that it was Parklands was because the Daily Mail in April 2010 (before the 2010 election) wrote that Gove cited ' a school in Liverpool, where only one percent of pupils passed five GCSEs including English and maths'.
UPDATE 13 June 09.36: In 2013, Gove wrote an article in which he said, 'One particular [school] caught my eye. A comprehensive on Mersyeside where just 1 per cent of the children had managed to get five C passes at GCSE, including English and maths'. Much of the content of this article and the earlier one in the Daily Mail was regurgitated in Gove's leadership bid speech.
*In 2004, grade 3 schools were judged adequate. This subsequently became satisfactory before being recalibrated as requires Improvement.