Bankers' free school story underlines that free school policy will favour the rich

Laura Brown's picture
There's a lot of noise about the proposed Northcote free school, the Bolingbroke Academy, at the moment with recent press reports of the GMB union branding it to the bankers' free school:

'The bankers who were "bailed out" with £850 billion of public funds have acquired a taste for using public money to fund their pet projects. 30 of them have gone public on the council's website supporting the "banker's "free" school" in Battersea'

One of the bankers involved is reported as saying that while the area was popular with City workers, the school was in no way restricted to those with parents working in finance. I guess we should be grateful that admissions policy can't yet be manipulated to that degree!

As we have mentioned on this site before, there is lots of evidence that this school will be much more affluent than existing local schools that are shunned by parents in the area (with only 27% of secondary aged kids in the area attending Wandsworth state schools) with concerns about the feeder school admissions policy that has excluded the most deprived school in the Borough.

However, there is a bigger question rearing its head - how many free schools will be set up by similar groups of powerful, affluent parents who have the time, influence and expertise to set up a school? And, how could the vast majority of ordinary parents possibly do it? It seems by definition that this way of creating additional schools is inevitably going to favour certain parents (who frankly already have more choice than most people). Given the achievement gap between children from the poorest families compared with the richest, how can it possibly make sense to make extra resources available based on who is most able to organise a campaign?

Back in April, the parents in the Bolingbroke case were featured in an article pointing out exactly this issue:

'Simon Fitzpatrick – who is leading a group of parents who want to set up a school in Wandsworth, south-west London, if the Tories win the election – said that to get help, "you ring mates and talk to people".

The managing director of a management consultancy firm said: "We have asked for favours. Without too much work, you can find people who know folk. You make some calls and stuff happens." He said he was sending about 50 emails a day to get the project started.

Alright for those who have mates in high places but what about everyone else?
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Laura McInerney's picture
Thu, 16/12/2010 - 22:22

If people are willing to call in favours to support education then I think that is a Good Thing. It's just a shame people able to do this will only call in favours for 'their own' school, rather than one that is already established and needs support. On the other hand, we are a fairly selfish species and we do prefer to have things of our own to invest in.

Jon De Maria's picture
Fri, 17/12/2010 - 15:37

I hadn't seen those comments by Simon before - interesting. For whatever reason, I think he was somewhat gilding the lilly back then. As one of the co-founders of the campaign (Simon was not), I should confirm that the reality was a bit more prosaic. Our previous Labour MP Martin Linton (and his team) was the guy who really got behind our campaign in the early days and was the catalyst for our subsequent success. All I did was email him and arranged an intial meeting from there. He once said a bit of 'grit in the oyster shell' was no bad thing and supported the need for a school. And indeed in those early days pre-election, the campaign was not a free school as such. That first meeting with Martin was in July 2009.

Laura Brown's picture
Fri, 17/12/2010 - 17:36

So you're saying that Simon wasn't actually telling the truth here Jon? How strange. Sometimes it's hard to know what to believe when it comes to the Northcote free school campaign what with the apparent aim of ARK to help kids in the most challenging urban areas while explicitly excluding kids from one of the most deprived primary school in wandsworth which is nearer than one of your other feeder schools....

Jon De Maria's picture
Fri, 17/12/2010 - 18:34

I am sure you will believe what it suits you to believe Laura. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story? As I recall, Katie from ARK spent some time discussing with you the choice of the 4 local primary schools at the recent consultation? Part of the reason is that Gail Keller, the head at Battersea Park school, sees the primary schools to the north of Battersea as being very much part of his community. We have met Gail a few times now and would like to respect his objective to form a comunity school in north Battersea. So we will take the kids from our 4 local primaries to feed into a new local state comprehensive school in south Battersea. As I said above, the truth is often more mundane than the perception or spin.

Laura Brown's picture
Fri, 17/12/2010 - 19:36

Jon - it would be really interesting to hear your views given your experience. Do you think the free school policy will favour a certain type of parent or could/would any ordinary parent manage this?

Laura - I completely agree that it's great to have people doing what they can to support their schools including calling in favours where appropriate. I'm sure the existing local schools would have been glad of the involvement of these parents and their influence - it's a shame they aren't willing to be part of what is there already!

Jon De Maria's picture
Sat, 18/12/2010 - 13:14

Laura - no, I do not think the Free School policy favours a certain type of parent. Our core parent team comprises 3 mums and 2 dads and we are all very ordinary people. So yes, any ordinary parent can manage this - absolutely.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 20/12/2010 - 08:08

So, because certain parents already support local state schools (in the form of Battersea Park School which I think is a mile away from your new school site but attended by only 5 kids from your area), they don't deserve extra choice. Extra choice should be focused on the parents who currently go privately or out of borough? Katie from ARK also conceded that this free school would not be the typical ARK scenario given its location in such an affluent community and that the feeder schools policy was an attempt (however limited) to slightly improve inclusion. It is rather limited given that the numbers suggest that up to three-quarters of places will be reserved for pupils from 2 of the most affluent schools in Wandsworth. But you know all that already!

I don't want to cast personal aspersions but I think most people would question whether the core parent team in this case are ordinary people as Simon Fitzpatrick's remarks to the Guardian make clear.

Andrew Nadin's picture
Mon, 20/12/2010 - 20:40

The 'bankers' school' story only came to my attention last week, so I'm new to the story. But the comments exchange above highlights one of the murkiest issues with the way this policy has been introduced and deployed. The question concerning who is behind a Free School proposal is hardly ever clear - irrespective of claims of 'ordinariness' by the campaign team. I have had a Freedom of Information request to release all the details in the Stg2 proposal for the Kempston Free School turned down. The grounds? "Commercial interests". So, we are no closer to knowing who are the accountant, lawyer, educational consultant (amongst other 'ordinary local parents') listed in the redacted Stg2 proposal. My take on Battersea would be ordinary people? Unlikely, esp when you take into account the average wage of 'ordinary people' in the UK is £25k. To bankers £25k is a half year bonus, not an annual salary, that's how ordinary they are.

Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 21/12/2010 - 11:47

Andrew - neither myself nor the rest of the team are 'bankers'. The 3 mums are just that - 2 are full time mums and 1 works part time from home. The other dad on the team runs a local cafe. And as for myself, I am virtually broke having put so much time and effort into the school campaign over the last 18 months. But thats my choice and I wouldnt have done anything different. As for the 'bankers free school' story, its interesting that so much time was put into that, but only about 25 names were then detailed - barely 1% of the 2,500 local people who have signed up to the campaign. But as I said above, why let the truth get in the way of a good story? Laura's point about BPS is again economic with the truth - what she fails to point out is that there are 17 other primary schools that are closer to BPS than Belleville primary. Its a similar pattern the other way between Honeywell primary and Chestnut Grove (8 closer primaries). All we are trying to do is open a local secondary school that will take kids from our 4 local state primary schools. We do not have a local comp in south Battersea but we do have 2 of the largest primary schools in London. There is a massive spike in local birth rate which the extg state schools cannot accomodate - there is a need for additional pupil places. The rest of the borough - to the west, south and north does have extg secondary schools (2 of which are about to have c£70 mill spent on them). So the council has backed our campaign to open the school to the east of the borough that does not have one. I have no doubt this will all get shouted down by the 'bash the rich' brigade and so to a degree it is pointless me posting on this site, but it just seems to me that protests based on ideological sweeping statements and generalisations are an equal waste of time. But heh, thats democracy in action. Plus ca change. May I take the opportunity to wish you all a merry Xmas or should that be a 'bah humbug'?!?

Jane Eades's picture
Tue, 28/12/2010 - 12:26

Andrew: I have also been trying, since July, to get information from the DfE about the groups which have applied to set up a "free" school. At first this was refused on the grounds that it was going to be published in the Autumn. I also asked for a justification of the claim that considerable numbers of teachers were involved in the schemes. At first I was told that the DfE did not hold this information. When I pointed out that this was part of the application form, they have now claimed section 35 applies. I wonder, would Jon perhaps support our request for information by asking for it to be publicly released? I don't understand why there is so much secrecy about where my taxes are going to be spent, particularly when this money is to provide surplus places - a fact which even Jane Ellison, our Battersea MP, admits.

Perhaps, also in the interests of openness and transparency, Jon would like to let us know how many of his supporters actually live in the catchment area of the proposed Bolinbroke school. He has also talked about the number of secondary schools that the children in his area go on to. Would he like to say how many are private schools and how many are states schools?

Gale Keller's picture
Thu, 06/01/2011 - 15:40

As Headteacher of Battersea Park School (BPS) I have not as yet entered into the debate regarding the Free School in a public forum.

However, I have been misquoted by the supporters of the Free School on their blog and I therefore wish to make clear my position on this issue.

The academic results, behaviour, attitude of students, curriculum offer, specialism and community involvement at BPS, lead me to believe and hope that BPS should be the school of choice for all students who live in the Battersea area.

I also believe all schools should be community schools in the heart of the community. For BPS this would include the whole of Battersea, some of Lambeth, and the areas close to us across the river. A community school cannot be so closely defined as one that draws from 3 or 4 local schools, but more appropriately a highlighted geographical area. BPS welcomes visits from parents particularly those who are prepared to look at the school as it is rather than as it may have been.

Gale Keller
Battersea Park School
6th January 2011

Jane Eades's picture
Sat, 08/01/2011 - 17:41

I fully support Gale Keller's comments. Not long ago I spent 1 1/2 hours in Battersea Park School and was hugely impressed. I have also looked at their exam results. BPS may have had a dip while it was a CTC (another expensive failed attempt to "improve" education) but has a very honourable history of producing excellent results. BPS has always struggled with an extremely unbalanced intake. If those who shun it now were to send their children to the school the intake would be more balanced.

If it were the case that more places were needed in Wandsworth (the figures dispute that) then BPS has room for expansion if Wandsworth Borough Council stopped renting out part of the building. Some of the £13 million WBC can spend on buying the Bolingbroke Hospital could also be spent on replacing the portacabins at Chestnut Grove School (another local excellent school) and doing some essential repairs to Elliot School and others which have lost out on the Building Schools for the Future money.

Thus a fairer allocation of the money could improve the facilities and capacity for all in Wandsworth, not just a favoured few.

As a footnote, we have leafleted in Clapham Junction, Tooting and Balham. The Bolingbroke Project is extremely unpopular amongst ordinary members of the public.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 09:45

For the sake of balance, I should point out that I never actually quoted Gail Keller about anything. The source of the misquote is the GMB press release dated 6/1/11 that stated: "Last month the leader of the free school claimed that the Head of Battersea Park school had agreed to divide up the area on a north/south axis. GMB has checked out this claim and find that it is not true". I'm not surprised the sleuths at GMB found that not to be true - because it's not! It's ludicrous to make up a blatant lie saying there was some kind of agreement in place to carve up Battersea. But there you go, thats politics. So no, I didnt misquote Gail. In fact I didn't quote him at all. The source of the misquote is in fact the spin used by the GMB. All Gail states above is that he would like BPS to be the school of choice for all of Wandsworth and parts of both Lambeth and K&C. I am sure the heads of all the other schools in those 3 boroughs would rightly aspire to the same thing.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 09:59

Thanks for this Jon. There was a report in the Sunday Times this Sunday which indicated that certain groups were "bullying" people wishing to set up free schools. Fiona and the LSN were named as being part of a "cabal" involved in this. I would like to make it clear this is certainly not our intention. We will give you as much space as you want to outline your views. We basically want a full and open discussion about topics that concern the various "stakeholders" involved. Bullying involves threatening and "silencing" people, this is the opposite of what we want to do. I, for one, have no objection to new schools being set up as long as they don't drain resources from other schools and are fair in their admissions procedures etc. I feel the LSN has been a good forum for discussing people's views. Discussion is what we want so that this new movement which is spending taxpayer's money is scrutinised in the proper way.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 13:07

I don't think it is a secret that I have been campaigning publicly against academies since 2005 when the last government introduced an Education Bill that eventually had to rely on Conservative votes to become law ( clearly we weren't alone then). I remain completely opposed to the concept of independent state schools, which evade local democratic accountability and also have freedoms (and money) that other schools don't have. It is already clear that some of the free schools will be using these freedoms in ways that we predicted back then.
I don't see myself as part of an cabal and disagree with the AAA on a number of issues. However it is ironic that the Sunday Times ( from the stable that gave us phone hacking and Fox News!!) should accuse anyone of bullying for simply making an alternative argument, especially since the academy movement has been riddled with both bullying and bribery from the start. Under Labour it was -" take an academy or lose all your BSF money," under the Tories it is " have a big fat bribe at the expense of other schools". See my Education Guardian column for more on that tomorrow!

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 10:44

Yes, I saw that article too about the left wing 'bullying' tactics. Jane Eades, who posts at length on this and other sites, was or still is the treasurer of the AAA - a body also mentioned in the Sunday Times as being union backed with close links to the SWP. So zero surprise about anything she writes in connection with Free Schools. Clearly she does not see the 2,500+ parents who support our school as being 'ordinary members of the public'.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 12:26

Just for the sake of clarity Jon - the quote from you, used in the GMB press release, is taken directly from your comments in this thread on December 17th where you say
" Gail Keller, the head at Battersea Park school, sees the primary schools to the north of Battersea as being very much part of his community. We have met Gail a few times now and would like to respect his objective to form a comunity school in north Battersea. So we will take the kids from our 4 local primaries to feed into a new local state comprehensive school in south Battersea. As I said above, the truth is often more mundane than the perception or spin."
I assume it is this comment to which the head teacher refers, and objects.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 13:10

My comments above Fiona are about GMB spin - a concept you no doubt are familiar with. I have no idea what question the GMB put to Gail or how he therefore replied. I am of course more than aware of what I actually said in this thread. Gail's own comment above speaks for itself - that's why I said it is natural for him (or any other head) to aspire to be the best school in the community. Why would he not say that? The reality is that capacity at his school is clearly inadequate of course to take all of the Year 6 pupils in the area he actually defines. As I said, we have met Gail and toured the school with him. He may well see our new school as a threat and/or be opposed to Free Schools on ideological grounds - I dont know but thats his choice. We stressed at our meeting with him that it is very much our hope to work with all the existing local borough schools in partnership, both working hard to meet the increasing demand for pupil places in the borough and widening parental choice. As I have also said countless times, in part this is a simple supply & demand issue and so for us it is above party politics or partisan issues.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 14:09

Thanks for the clarification Gale. It is very interesting what you say about what makes a community school.

Jon - I think it is a shame that those in favour of free schools feel that the best way to advance their argument is to accuse anyone in opposition of bullying, being a militant trade unionist (which seems to be the Council's stock response) or generally somehow being involved in subversive activities.

As you are aware, I am not a member of a trade union and am a local parent and primary school governor with no links to the Socialist Workers etc (although of course those with links to trade unions/AAA etc are contributing to the debate in a very helpful manner too and should not be dismissed out of hand either.)

Many of the people who support our campaign against the proposed Bolingbroke Academy are not politically or ideologically motivated but are just concerned about funds being diverted to the group of parents who happen to shout loudest and who also just happen to be amongst the most affluent in our Borough with a range of schools already available to them.

Unfortunately, I am aware of many people who signed up to support your proposed free school due to misleading data/comments that told local people that children in your area struggle on distance grounds to gain access to local schools. As we now know, that is not true - there are several local schools that parents could choose (including Gale's) but in fact only a quarter of secondary-aged children in your area currently attend Wandsworth state schools at all. The schools you are shunning are not failing and they are within walking distance or a very short bus ride. No wonder people are concerned now we have also discovered that your proposed admissions policy will exclude some of the most deprived nearby areas and focus exclusively on children from 4 primary schools creating a school which is significantly skewed towards the affluent when compared with the other local state schools.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 14:18

Laura - I don't think you have added anything new there that adds to the debate have you, so there is little point in my answering the same points that you have raised on this and other web forums in recent weeks.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 15:01

My key point is that not everyone opposed to free schools is subversive, hugely left-wing or bullying. Normal, ordinary people are really very upset about what you are doing and trying to dismiss the opposition by attempting to discredit it as ideologically driven is avoiding facing up to the growing local concerns about your activities.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 15:42

And by the same token, normal/ordinary people also support the school. Your whole rhetoric is based on 'bash the rich' while your gushing praise for the GMB on your Facebook page makes it very clear how much you support their 'bully boy' tactics. There is no 'growing local concern' about our 'activities'. You fundamentally fail to address the problem of lack of choice and supply in the borough in connection with existing and more importantly projected pupil places. The additional capacity that the new school will add to the borough will take pressure off existing schools to the benefit of all parents - 78% of non-VA borough schools are oversubscribed. If parents across the borough supported their local school, then that problem would be even worse and you know that. And thats before the additional 1,700 pupils projected between now and 2017 hit Year 7 - most are already in the pipeline. And yet you continue to portray us as the 'affluent few' - even to the point of spinning our admissions policy to the very opposite of why we are actually using the feeder schools. And yet you write about us discrediting you?

Andy Smithers's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 16:29


From your previous posts here and elsewhere you keep telling all that there are plenty of places at the local secondary school Chestnut Grove and therefore there is no need for a new school.
The facts however do not support you.
Chestnut Grove has 90 available places based on distance. There are 8 primary schools in and around Balham's Chestnut Grove with approx 360 pupils leaving each year - Chestnut Grove is their local school before you get anywhere near the area of the Free Schools. As a result Chestnut Grove is both over subscribed and full - there are no surplus places. This is before you get to the area where Bolingbroke Academy is proposed. There are further 300 pupils leaving the primaries located around this site. You continually claim that all children could get into Chestnut Grove - this is simply impossible. The same is also true when you get North Battersea and Battersea Park School, it is surronded by many closer primaries and has no surplus places.
Additionally as you may know several primary schools in this area have been expanded to cope with the masive increase in the birthrate - 40% increase in the lat 8 years. You and the anti brigade always totally ignore this.
Finally its hard not to think you are associated with the GMB Union when you are mentioned as helping to write their press releases.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 17:19

Chestnut Grove is indeed full but with pupils who live up to 2.6 miles away (based on last year's distances) so if even some of the free school supporting parents who live within 1 mile applied they would get places over some of the many children who live further away but are currently attending the school (and in addition to the 90 available on distance there are another 60 places based on specialist aptitude which are also open to children from the local area). As I recall, as another example, Burntwood school is letting in girls who live up to 3 miles away. That is why it is not true that people in the free school area struggle to get into local schools on distance grounds as your campaign has suggested.

I am not in the business of telling anyone where they should educate their children. All the local primary school leavers have a range of choices both in Wandsworth and elsewhere and can exercise those choices as they see fit. However, when one group demands that it needs more choice, one has to question on what grounds that group needs more choice when compared with other groups/people in Wandsworth. In other words, do you have less choice than others in Wandsworth? The answer is clearly no. As I have said before, as one minor example amongst many, I live in Tooting and my nearest non-selective mixed school is also Chestnut Grove except I live further away than those in Northcote so would have less chance of getting my children in.

So, you don't struggle to get into local schools on distance grounds and you do have a similar level of choice as everyone else in the area.

I am also not denying that we may need extra school places in future or that many people (ordinary and otherwise) in the immediate local area who stand to benefit are very supportive of your campaign. However, in a time of constrained resource, I am asking that the Council (or other suitable body) work out where these are needed and how they should be provided based on a impartial and independent assessment of the needs of everyone in the Borough rather than basing the location of a new school on the group of parents who happen to be demanding it most vocally.

This is also not about bashing the rich. The facts show that your secondary school will be much more affluent than the alternative most local option Chestnut Grove; is restricted to 4 feeder schools which include some of the most affluent catchment areas in the Borough and will exclude children from Falconbrook Primary School (the most deprived school in the Borough) which is closer than one of the other feeder schools.

I am not personally 'associated' with the GMB Union - they picked up on a press release I produced for my campaign and have included it in theirs as it summarises many of the key facts (and, to be transparent, I spoke to a researcher from there about our campaign and the sources of the data in my press release).

All parents want to do what is best for their children and we all have different views about what that means and that is absolutely fair enough. In this case a specific group have mobilised to do what they think is best for their children (again fair enough) but as significant public money is involved, it seems only right that there should be some sensible, impartial analysis of whether this is the right way to spend it.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 18:39

Laura - the needs of the rest of the borough are already well served. One only has to look at a school map to see that.

The council does support our case for a new school to the east of the borough and the DfE is providing the analysis of whether monies should be allocated. We are not doing anything illegal or undemocratic.

You continue to ignore the issue on pupil numbers supporting their local school because you know that defeats the very basis of your objections. You also continue to ignore the issue of £70 million being spent on two secondary schools alone. If you are concerned over use of taxpayers funds then why do you not also query that expenditure?

In terms of the admissions policy, we would point out the following which I hope explains why we went with the feeder schools as we did:

•Our school will be comprehensive, non-selective and non-denominational and is open to all children in Wandsworth (and, indeed, other boroughs should there be sufficient places available). The academy's admissions arrangements will be managed by Wandsworth Council and are subject to the same admissions legislation as other maintained schools.
•Like all schools, the academy requires 'oversubscription criteria' to determine how places will be allocated if there are more applications than places available. We know that the hospital site is located in a relatively affluent area of Wandsworth, and in view of this have worked hard to come up with oversubscription criteria which do not exclude any one particular group and specifically which are not based solely on straight-line distance to the school - which would mean that only those who lived in the small area immediately around the hospital would be likely to gain a place.
•We have opted for a feeder school policy which prioritises applications from children who attend one of four local community primary schools - Belleville, Highview, Honeywell and Wix. Between them these schools have a broad demographic and geographic spread and, despite the relative affluence of the borough, two of the feeder primary schools have FSM percentages that are well above the national average. The aim in selecting these schools is not to exclude other children but to ensure the school is accessible to those who live in the south Battersea area.
•We have consulted widely with local parents, primary school headteachers and the council on this proposal. At the end of the day, the admissions policy is about enabling the local state primary schools access to the new local state comprehensive in south Battersea.

As a group of parents, we are immensely proud and passionate about what we have all achieved to date and we are only working within the prevailing political climate - as can anyone else who would like to make a postive contribution to the education of their local children and give parents a better deal.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 19:54

I'm sorry Jon but the precise point I am making is that despite the map which shows that yes, you have to walk a mile from the Bolingbroke Hospital site to get to your nearest secondary school (hardly a gaping chasm really, a mile!), there is extremely little difference in provision in your area compared with other parts of the Borough and, in fact, as I described by reference to my situation, the choices for those in Northcote are very similar to those in Tooting and elsewhere. The Council support your campaign without providing any pupil projection data (that I have seen) to back it up factually which doesn't really help give an impression of local democracy and transparency in action.

You say that I am ignoring pupils in other primary schools who also may not support the existing local schools. I'm not - as I say above, people are free to exercise their existing choices however they choose. This debate is about where any extra choice is needed in the system.

Your campaign and comments above focus on a desire for a local, neighbourhood school as if there is not an outstanding local school within a mile already which is almost totally unused by your community. Currently most secondary aged children in your area travel a long way to school - locality does not seem to have been an important factor in choosing schools in the past. Inevitably, local people then ask if attending a local school is so important, what is wrong with the existing local schools? As Gale (whose school is a mile and a half away from the new school site) says above: "The academic results, behaviour, attitude of students, curriculum offer, specialism and community involvement at BPS, lead me to believe and hope that BPS should be the school of choice for all students who live in the Battersea area."

But it isn't. Only 5 kids out of 500 in your area go there. And, perhaps it is just unfortunate, perhaps it is entirely coincidental, but the fact is clear that existing local schools are far more socially and ethnically diverse than yours will be.

So, while I welcome any attempts you might make to encourage a more inclusive intake, it is hard to see how excluding the most deprived school in the Borough which is closer than one of your other feeder schools is helping with that. And, given all of this, it is inevitable that many local people outside of the immediate area will feel like this is an attempt by the affluent few to create a school mainly for the affluent few.

Jon De Maria's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 20:24

I too am sorry Laura that you continue to tar us all with the same brush and indeed have lapsed into subtle accusations of racism yet again ('socially and ethnically diverse' is the phrase you use). I think that is pretty low on your part. Clearly you are ok with allowing all other parents to exercise a choice with the obvious exception of us. The council produced an SFC doc detailing an additional c1,600 pupil places through to 2017. We have two of the largest primary schools in London but no secondary school. And you still ignore the £70 million allocated to two borough schools only. Plus your final dig at the 'affluent few' again although you state yours is not a 'bash the rich' campaign. Our campaign is very much a great example of local democracy in action while your own motives for opposing us are very transparent. The so called English Bacc results are due out this week. I can already hear your cries about that not being a diverse enough metric - but yours is the tyranny of low expectation. You and Jane are doing Wandsowrth parents and their young children great harm by the negative stance you take.

Laura Brown's picture
Mon, 10/01/2011 - 21:11

I'm not sure what is transparent about my motives for opposing you unless you mean that it is clear that I care about everyone in Wandsworth having access to the best education possible, preferably in environments that reflect the broad mix of people living in our Borough.

I am a parent of young children and think you're getting a bit dramatic when you say I'm doing great harm to anyone. My desire to send my children to existing local schools does not signal an acceptance of low expectations and I'm not sure why you suggest it. We have good schools nearby (including within a mile of your area) that are improving all the time and the sad thing about your campaign is that it is reinforcing prejudices against existing schools. Thankfully, there are plenty of local people (both affluent and not) who are willing to support existing local schools and I don't think putting forward their point of view can reasonably be deemed harmful.

The figures on local school attendance suggest that Northcote parents have not been interested in sending their children to a local school... until, that is, a local school is in the pipeline that is expected to be populated largely by people like them.

Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 00:23

Put it this way Laura, if we were a lower class parent group and not middle class, I doubt given the nature of your comments that you would oppose us would you? Your campaign is based on class prejudice and the politics of envy. Your last comments about 'people like them' gives the lie to your argument that you oppose our campaign on other grounds. You call the GMB press release 'priceless' and yet the City workers they named are less than 1% of our support base. I really do think you should pay a visit to the likes of Highview or even Belleville and see the mix of kids in those schools. Plus do some work on the projected increase in pupil numbers. The school league tables are out this week, so we will see what they show then - the tyranny of low expecation means that people like you are more than happy to accept the lowest common denominator as the accepted benchmark for all schools to be compared to. And you still refuse to comment on the £70 million being spent on Burntwood and Southfields - do you consider that best value for money in this age of austerity?

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