Where are Gove’s ’crusaders for social justice’ now?

Janet Downs's picture

In September 2011, the first 24 free schools had opened. Michael Gove, then Education Secretary, was determined to show these were led by pioneering ‘crusaders for social justice’. He wrote an article in the Evening Standard naming three of them.

But one crusader has been dismissed and another leads a troubled academy chain. Just one, Tania Sidney-Roberts, head of the Norwich Free School, has emerged unscathed.

The sacked crusader is Sajid Husain Raza who opened the Kings Science Academy in Bradford. A highly-critical report about misuse of public money at the academy remained unpublished until Newsnight ran the story in October 2013. Raza has been arrested twice over the fraud allegations and was eventually dismissed in August 2014. Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, urged the Education Select Committee to ask why the Department for Education failed to ensure the police investigated the alleged fraud until the matter was leaked.

The most highly-praised of Gove’s crusaders was Patricia Sowter CBE, head of Cuckoo Hall Primary Academy, later named as one of his ‘Magnificent Seven’. Sowter’s academy chain, CHAT, is now in trouble. Gove wrote in the Standard:

‘Patricia Sowter took over her first school, Cuckoo Hall, when it was in special measures and risked closure because it was so bad.’

But, as we’ve said several times before, this was untrue. Cuckoo Hall Primary School came out of special measures in 1999 three years before Sowter arrived. An Ofsted inspection of Cuckoo Hall in January 2001 said:

‘This is a very effective school….Teaching is good and leadership and management are very good. Pupils make good progress. The school is providing good value for money.’

This is not a description of a school which was so inadequate that it faced closure.

This is not a description of a school in special measures.

Perhaps an apology is due to the previous head, Mr R Allen, and his team who were really responsible for turning Cuckoo Hall around. A question hangs over why it was thought necessary to rewrite history.

Sowter and Raza are two teachers, highly-praised by Gove, who are now affected by scandal. There are others. Sir Peter Birkett, knighted for services to education and another of the Magnificent Seven, was head of a Federation which charged £1m for non-existent pupils. Greg Wallace, also one of Gove’s Seven, left under a cloud. Sir Greg Martin, another Gove favourite, runs the Durand Academy Trust which has attracted nationwide notoriety. The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has expressed deep concern about ‘governance and oversight’ at the Trust.

Two of the three crusaders for social justice and three of the Magnificent Seven have been, or are, at the centre of controversy. The police are involved in one case. These raise serious questions about Michael Gove’s judgement.

UPDATE: 7 MARCH 08.57. Sajid Hussain Raza, former principal of Kings Science Academy, has been charged with fraud.

UPDATE: 13 March 2015 14.51. Two more former members of staff at Kings Science Academy have been charged with fraud.

EDIT: 1 October 2019: Formatting issues put right

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Sarah's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 10:40

The real scandal is the absence of proper reporting of all of this in the mainstream media.

When the Education Select Committee published its recent report on Academies it wasn't even covered by the Telegraph.

Education stories are getting very little traction and consequently the DfE are coming out of all of this relatively unscathed.

And the Labour Party seem singularly unable to grasp the nettle and condemn the Academies and Free Schools programme as a monumental and ideological waste of public money.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 11:34

Janet, once again this is a piece that links perfectly with other threads running at the moment. In particular, I have in mind David Barry's latest up-date on Cuckoo Hall school.


Sarah is right in her condemnation of the media, the official opposition and indeed, Parliament itself.

It is my view that, just creating one opportunity to focus the attention of the public on the seriousness of what has been happening, would be enough to open the flood-gates.

Were I a journalist now, I would be busting my gut to get into a story of this magnitude, knowing full well that it would make my career. I say this because so many dogged individuals, here and on other websites, have been doing all the hard investigative 'stuff'. Thank's for the invaluable contribution of Local Schools Network.

Phil Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 12:25

Thank you Janet:

'Two of the three crusaders for social justice and three of the Magnificent Seven have been, or are, at the centre of controversy. The police are involved in one case. These raise serious questions about Michael Gove’s judgement.'

Beautifully understated!

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 26/02/2015 - 21:08

And another Free School bites the dust. See BBC News report here


Guest's picture
Tue, 24/02/2015 - 15:01

Regrettably, the reason Labour don't/won't/can't condemn the scandalous waste of money on Academies and Free Schools is simple. They share the ideological support for them. The only tweak difference is a nod to limiting Free Schools to areas of need.

May there be shame on political houses of both main parties.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/03/2015 - 08:54

UPDATE: one of Gove's 'crusaders', Sajid Hussain Raza, has now been charged with fraud.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/03/2015 - 14:54

UPDATE: Two more former members of Kings Science Academy have been charged with fraud.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.