The Beccles Free School Consultation Report the DfE didn't want anyone to see...

Back on 8th March I emailed Seckford, the DfE and Cambridge Education asking for a copy of the consultation report that Cambridge Education had produced for the DfE on Beccles Free School. I heard nothing and chased it again in April. I submitted the request to the DfE as a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request.

Ian Goodyer also submitted an FOI and continued to chase this right the way through until last night when we both wrote to the DfE.

What happened is we were just stonewalled. The DfE did not even respond to our emails until just before the decision was made Ian had a reply saying they would look into what was happening.

Today I received an “unreserved apology” from the DfE which you can read on WikiSuffolk together with the emails sent last night.
In relation to the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted by yourself and Mr Goodyer, I unreservedly apologise for the significant delay there has been in responding to you both. You should have received a response within 20 days of making the requests and I can only apologise that this didn’t happen on this occasion.
The email told us that the Consultation Report and Appendices had just published on the Beccles Free School website. They make fascinating reading and I can well imagine that neither Seckford nor the DfE wanted them to be seen until after the decision has been made.

This chart shows the consultation response:

This is described in the report:
A majority of people who responded to the public consultation did not support the proposal that The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust should govern Beccles Free School on behalf of the Department for Education.
Some incredibly weak attempts are made to explain this away including the bizarre assertion that:
Anti-Free School campaigners were active at each of the public consultations and approached members of the public. This may have impacted engagement and influenced opinion.
Presumably attending a stage managed consultation meeting does not count as influencing opinion! What is wrong in a democracy with trying to influence opinion?

Much is made of the “majority” of parents who support the proposal but actually these amount to 21 people…the full breakdown is shown below:

The conclusion however that Seckford come to is that:
Whilst there remains concern and uncertainty amongst stakeholders, the consultation responses indicate there is still support for the establishment of Beccles Free School, particularly among potential parents/carers.
Interestingly the Saxmundham Free School consultation showed 87% in favour and this was described as follows:
Whilst there remains some uncertainty amongst stakeholders, it can be concluded that there is strong support for the establishment of Saxmundham Free School.
Clearly this is far from an objective analysis of the Beccles response. The petition of 3,000 people against the school is dismissed in this way:
Cambridge Education are also aware of a separate petition running in parallel with the public consultation but are unaware of the details as information has not formally been provided.
So this consultation evidence adds to the long list of reasons why the Government should not have approved Beccles Free School. Added to this it seems that the DfE ignored emails in order to ensure this report was not released until after a decision was made. I think this is a true scandal and the DfE, Seckford and Cambridge Education should be ashamed of themselves.

The consultation was a waste of everybody’s time. It did not matter what anyone said. Even the local Tory MP opposed it and Seckford boasted with impunity that the “approval” would come in May. It seems clear they knew that the DfE would approve it whatever anyone thought

Seckford promised:
We have consistently made clear that if, contrary to our understanding, the desire is not there, then we will have no wish to impose a free school on the community. 
But when the consultation showed the desire was not there they pressed ahead regardless.
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