Rumours that Rupert Murdoch is in talks with government over the development of free schools continued to grow this week
News emerged of multiple meetings between education secretary Michael Gove (pictured), Murdoch and News Corporation executive Joel Klein, according to a ministerial meetings list published in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.
Klein met with Gove at a three-day series of meetings on free schools, which included a ‘large conference platform and assorted dinners with senior figures from education and media, including Rupert Murdoch’. Gove’s famous broadside against Richard Rogers and profligate ‘award-winning architects’ came on the last day of the event, which ran from 25-28 January, the Department for Education files reveal.
According to Labour’s shadow education secretary Andy Burnham, Gove met with News Corporation executives 21 times since joining government. The education secretary met Rupert Murdoch twice before he axed BSF in July last year.
Last week, Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein ramped up speculation when he commented on Twitter: ‘News Corp is indeed taking an interest in the creation of new schools. That is precisely what mtgs were about!’
A spokesperson for the Department for Education declined to comment on whether Gove had discussed free schools with News International, but said: ‘We would be open to discussions with anyone regarding free schools.’
A News International spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company was interested in free schools but said: ‘We are in general discussions with the department over an academy, but we are not prepared to comment about individual meetings.’
In September, it emerged Murdoch’s News International was in discussions about setting up an academy school close to its east London headquarters.
News Corporation paid $360 million for education IT company Wireless Generation in November 2010. Klein pioneered free school-equivalents, known as charter schools, in New York, where he was schools chancellor before becoming head of News Corporation’s Education Division last year. Gove worked for News International-ownedTimes from 1996 to 2005, and wrote a weekly column for the paper from 2005 to 2009.