To ask the Secretary of State for Education
(1) what assessment he has made of the merits of developing a formal funding agreement with the New Schools Network; and if he will make a statement;
(2) whether the contract awarded to the New Schools Network was advertised prior to its award;
(3) pursuant to the answer of 6 September 2010, Official Report, column 357W, on the New Schools Network, what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the applicability of HM Treasury guidance to his decision (a) not to develop a formal funding agreement with the New Schools Network and (b) to enter into a funding agreement with the New Schools Network;
(4) what advice he received from his Department in respect of the application of competitive tendering procedures to the allocation of funding to the New Schools Network;
(5) what consideration he gave to inviting other eligible organisations to bid for the funding awarded to the New Schools Network.
My officials have now finalised a grant agreement (rather than a contract) with New Schools Network (NSN) to provide advice to groups wishing to establish free schools. The Department considered carefully the options for securing the requisite services from an external organisation. Given the need for specialist skills and experience to be in place quickly it was decided to award a time limited grant to NSN. In doing so the Department took account of the UK Public Procurement Regulations 2006 and the Compact Commissioning Guidance. There have been no discussions with the Treasury on these matters.
NSN has championed the development of parent and teacher promoted schools and has been providing advice and support to those interested in establishing new schools since 2009. It has also been developing networks among interested groups and individuals. This experience makes it ideally placed to fulfil the role. The Department has given similar grants in the past, such as to the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, the Youth Sport Trust, Holocaust Educational Trust and the National Literacy Trust.