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Save our School Playing Fields

Grassclippings - School Playing FieldsMichael Gove, The Education Secretary has ignored the opposition of the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel to approve sell-offs five times in the past 15 months, documents show.

It has also emerged that the number of sales given the go-ahead by Mr Gove is far higher than the amount admitted by the Coalition this month.

Playing sport on a natural turf or grass surface in the fresh air is an important aspect of school life. 

Mr Gove apologised for publishing the wrong figures, saying he had been given incorrect information by his officials.  Labour has written to Mr Gove’s most senior civil servant demanding to know why the panel’s advice was being ignored, while council leaders — who have a representative on the panel — said they were “concerned” about the developments.

Applications for the sales of school playing fields in England have to be approved by the Education Secretary, after being considered by the independent panel. But the identities of the panel members remain secret and their findings are not published.

However, figures seen by The Daily Telegraph — which last week started a Keep the Flame Alive campaign to boost school sport following the success of the London Olympics — show that the true figure is significantly higher.

They show that the panel, which must by law give a recommendation on all sales before ministers make their final decision, received 35 applications to sell school playing fields between May 18, 2010 and July 22, 2012. Of these, 30 sales were approved by ministers, two were rejected, one was withdrawn and two are outstanding. The decisions were mostly taken by Lord Hill, the education minister, on behalf of Mr Gove. The documents show that Mr Gove overruled recommendations not to sell school playing fields five times between February 2011 and July this year, more than for the previous nine years.

Read more on The Daily Telegraph

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