Hilary Armstrong, MP for North West Durham, has obstructed a plan for an Academy School at Consett that has the backing of local councillors, according to an informed source. Instead, she favours an Academy sponsored by Sir Peter Vardy and Bob Murray, despite the fact that there is a great deal of local opposition to their scheme.
Last week Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families, announced government approval for an Academy at Durham, sponsored by DEEP (Durham Excellence in Education Partnership) which includes Durham University and Durham County Council. DEEP has also proposed to set up two other Academies, at Consett and Stanley. The minister has confirmed that one of these will definitely go ahead, probably at Stanley.
A Westminster source has told “Cobbler” that the only reason that Consett was not included in Mr Balls’ announcement was due to representations by local MP Hilary Armstrong. She and former PM Tony Blair strongly support a rival bid for an Academy at Consett by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF) whose backers include businessman Vardy and ex-Sunderland FC chairman Murray.
Hilary Armstrong has often taken advantage of the first-class hospitality at the Stadium of Light – free of course – when she goes to watch Sunderland. In the official register of Members’ interests, under “gifts, benefits and hospitality”, Armstrong has declared: “during the 2006-07 season I attended ten football matches at the Stadium of Light, as guest of the Chairman of the club, Niall Quin. At eight of the matches I was accompanied either by my husband or my brother.” [see “Free Hospitality for Hilary” in this blog, 13th March 2008].