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.