Saturday, 19 February 2011

Andy Slaughter answers Toby Young attack

Our MP has issued a statement to me following the attack made on him by West London Free School founder Toby Young, who himself was responding to comments made here. And at this point I need to own up to a pretty big screw up - I should not have reproduced the attack by Mr Young yesterday here without at least giving Mr Slaughter a chance to answer it first given the very personal nature of it.

Frankly on the subject of schools, even with the strong feelings involved, I think we could do with less of the nastiness

Anyway, here is what Andy Slaughter has to say in response:

I note the co-ordination of personal and inaccuarate attacks on me between Young, Michael Gove and the Tories in my constituency. It's not true that I come from a privileged background or paid for my education. The fact they they want to personalise the issue or tell lies is, I suggest, related to the high stakes for Young and Gove who don't want a critical examination of a risky project linked directly to them.

Young doesn't deny that they have conducted an enrolment process, discrete from that of other local schools, before securing a site, having their business case approved or completing consultation. If by 'perfectly proper' he means this is the normal way to set up a school, I disagree, but this is the same issue Michael Gove refused to address when I questioned him in the Commons last week.

As for catchment area, this appears to be a moveable feast. When I met Young before Christmas he tried to reassure me that local secondary schools would not be threatened by his school as his target market was outside the borough, and indeed he and his original supporters live in Ealing. Only when I suggested that Hammersmith residents wouldn't be very impresed by losing the local charities the council is evicting to make way for him if he wasn't taking local pupils did he change his tune and say half the recruitment would be local. This remains the case with as many children being recuited by lottery from up to three and five miles away as by how close they live to Hammersmith Town Hall.

Young's school is only in Hammersmith because the council here will do anything to accommodate him. Ealing and the other west London boroughs will not and it is ridiculous to think he could have got to this stage without Hammersmith & Fulham, as well as Gove, bending every rule in his favour.

The best example of this is the treatment of Cambridge school. Free schools benefit from this school for children with learning difficulites losing its £9 million Building Schools for the Future grant. Notwithstanding this, H&F were intending to fund a move to the Bryony Centre for Cambridge in September 2012. When Young pre-empted this by requiring a temporary home for two years, the offer to Cambridge was withdrawn. After protests from Sir William Atknison and Young's own parents, the decison was taken to move Cambridge a year early to accommodate Young on their current site in Cambridge Grove. This may be the lesser of two evils but it allows very little time for Bryony to be converted for Cambridge's needs. The priority at every stage has been the free school.

If the free school opens the local community will have to make the best of it - as will I. For the present I will continue to do my job on behalf of my constituents whose interests are being ridden over for reasons of ideology and to save face.


  1. Find out what your kids will be reading at the West London Free School, if Toby Young's recommended list is used, and then ask how will he explain a phrase such as this from the John Buchan's "39 Steps"?

    "If you're on the biggest kind of job and are bound to get to the real boss, ten to one you are brought up against a little white-faced Jew in a bath-chair with an eye like a rattlesnake. Yes, sir, he is the man who is ruling the world just now, and he has his knife into the Empire of the Tzar, because his aunt was outraged and his father flogged in some one-horse location on the Volga."

    I found this whole discussion misses the point if the poor kids can't read to start with. Of course it matters what one reads -- I read 1984 when I was 10 (hence my rat phobia) and Chandler when 12 (no jokes please). But I don't care if kids read comics, magazines or anything else if it improves their reading ability so that a real book is not an object of fear.

    In the meantime, where does the money comefrom to pay EC Harris for their consultancy support?

  2. If Andy Slaughter wants to do something on behalf of his constituents then he needs to leave Askew Road and take a walk around Shepherd's Bush at night.
    There are many drug problems and anti social behaviour issues being displayed most nights. The core to improving education is to solve these issues, not to have some petty argument with someone who is trying on their own account to improve things. I want to see our MP come back with solutions along with criticism or otherwise pipe down.

  3. Well said, Sourav. Take heed, Slaughter. Of course, he won't, he's too busy pursuing his own partisan political ideology - complete with distinctly paranoid undertones - to respect the wishes of the many parents who apparently are keen to send their children to the new school.

    P.S. I'm not a Tory.