Free School FOI Shorts: National Politics puts Cllr Newman in "a difficult position"

Head of Sir John Leman
Once the DfE gave initial approval for Beccles Free School in Mid October 2011 there was an exchange of emails between Jeremy Rowe, Head of Sir John Leman High and Cllr Newman, Portfolio Holder for Education - particularly about the proposed use by the Free School of the Beccles Middle School Site.
Dear Mr Rowe 
I completely comprehend your plea for help, and I know that Sally Rundell and Phil Whiffing were pressing the DfE at the end of last week to meet to discuss this issue in more detail. But there again, SCC has consistently said the Middle School building is not available for the foreseeable future - in every round of comment we've been invited to make on the Free School proposal. It appears this has just been ignored. 
Also I believe Ian Brown has agreed with you a supplementary letter to the admissions procedure to go out to parents in an attempt to establish exactly how many pupils are preferring SJL over any other option. 
,Personally I am mystifi ed as to why there is so little about the Free School group on 'the internet... just compare with Clare, Breckland (Brandon) and Stoke by Nayland - at
least the world knows they are there. 
I know Cllr Mark Bee and Peter Aldous MP are as concerned as I am and we will all do our best on the political front. 
Yours sincerely
Graham L Newman (Cllr)

Jeremey Rowe replied to this:
Thanks for getting in touch, Graham - as I said in the BBC Look East studio last Tuesday, I am not against Free Schools per se. The issue for us is that half of our building - promised to us through SOR - is now potentially to be handed over to a Free School! Parents are choosing SJLHS based on this promise. We literally will not have the space for our new year 7 & 8 students in September 2012 if this gets final approval - where will our students go?

I can only assume there has been a ghastly error at the DfE, but how do I ensure its put right?

We are desperate for someone to help with this.

Jeremy Rowe Headteacher
Sir John Leman High School
Cllr Newman replies explaining that he "is in a difficult position politically" 
Dear Mr Rowe
Thank you for the telephone call on Friday to my home number - I did pick up your message OK.

I have visited SJL, albeit a little while ago now, and we also met at one of the Milsom's Restaurant gatherings in Kesgrave nearly two years ago now.

Unfortunately I will be at a conference in London all day Monday and will already be on the train before school starts.

It is just possible I will get a chance to phone you later in the day if you are prepared to share your mobile or direct line numbers with me.

Alternatively, I will try and make contact on Tuesday on SJL's switchboard number.

I do appreciate last week's announcement is very difficult for all of us - in local politics, LEA and certainly at SJL. For obvious reasons, it's probably best I don't document these in an e-mail, but hopefully we can talk it over. I am in a peculiarly difficult position politically when you look at an exchange in the House of Commons ,last week - see the following link to Hansard... and scroll down to "Column 76" (Matthew Hancock's question)... -

Kind regards,

Graham L Newman (Cllr)
Member for Felixstowe Coastal Division
Portfolio Holder, Children Schools & Young People's Services Suffolk County Council
The exchange in the Commons Newman refers to specifically mentioned him (as lead member of education) and his support for free schools:
Matthew Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con): The Secretary of State will know that in West Suffolk we have two proposed free schools at different stages of development to replace closing middle schools. Will he join me in urging parents not only in Brandon, at the Breckland middle school, but in Ixworth and in Stanton to put forward expressions of interest in joining the free schools—whether or not they come through, and I hope that they do—in order to ensure that the project gets off the ground?

Michael Gove: Absolutely. One of the great things about Suffolk as a local authority is that its leader and its lead member for education recognise that, at a time of change, embracing academies and free schools can complement the already great state schools for which they are responsible. As for visionary leadership in local government, you have to go a long way to beat Suffolk.
Hancock made a point of emailing this to Newmann and I had thought previously that this was just gloating but it appears also to have the effect of painting Newman into a political corner. Maybe that was the intention?
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