Opposition to a Hackney Free School Grows. Join The Campaign

Allan Beavis's picture
An extremely well chaired and politely conducted meeting took place last week in a library in Hackney, organised by a group of local people opposed to the setting up of a Free School. The driving force behind this Free School is Andeas Wesemann, a financial services professional whose career appears to have profited from extensive experience in brokering deals in which the private sector acquires public owned assets and public sector contracts.

Some people came to hear about the objections to Free Schools because they did not understand what they were, or how their existence would effect existing schools. Some came because they were confused about how Free Schools would offer more “choice” in a borough which already has excellent schools. Some came because they wanted to share their views about why they were opposed to Free Schools.

Were there left wing liberals there? Yes there were. We also had parents and teachers who were members from the NUT and we had a speaker from the Anti- Academies Alliance. Was the agenda hi-jacked by the “loony left”, “Trots” and politically motivated individuals masquerading as parents but representing the views of unions? No it was not. Were they rude to Andrew Tetlow, who came to the meeting representing the Hackney Free School steering committee? No they were not. Instead, they listened to his comments and arguments and challenged them fairly, politely and without attacking him personally.

Andrew Tetlow, who apologised that he was not a parent or teacher and had no experience of schools, read out from his mobile phone the mission statement of the Free School, which is essentially that it wants to provide quality education and to give aspiration to the underprivileged. He also made the point that Hackney doesn’t have enough school places but a teacher present reminded him that her community school has places and that it was primary schools that faced a shortage. He had no response when he heard that Free Schools in Sweden and America had failed to raise standards overall, contributed to social segregation and to the privatising of state schools but gave the impression that passion and sheer alone will was going to establish the school and make it successful.

Tetlow gave no indication that they had any strategy beyond appointing an excellent head who would lead the school. There appears to be no plan for the infrastructure of the school - hiring staff, contractors, building, hiring or refurbishing buildings, legal processes – and currently no sponsor or guarantees from the DfE. The Steering Committee are digging into their own pockets to fund the project. He refused to tell the audience how much they had spent so far but presumably the committee members don’t have bottomless pockets. His justification that the school would be accountable to the local community rested solely on the fact that parents would be invited to join the governing body.

When questioned about privatisation, Tetlow seemed not to understand that no one was accusing the Hackney New School of itself making a profit, but that, when the committee were no longer able to fund the campaign out of their own pockets or were defeated by the sheer scale of work and planning involved, they would be forced to hand over the school to the control of an Academy education chain. He did not seem to acknowledge that companies are preying on the contracts for services now up for sale because the government has cut Free Schools adrift from LA support and thus empowered private companies. He ought to know, though – his colleague Wesemann has stated that they have been getting advice from Zenna Atkins, former Ofsted Chief, now Chief of Wey Education, which aims to run a for-profit chain of Academies and Free Schools in the UK.

It might have been a better idea if Wesemann had come to this meeting, if only to reassure the audience that his extensive connections in profit making companies had no bearing whatsoever in his commitment to found a Free School.

According to his personal profile on the website of his employers, Ashcombe Advisers, Wesemann worked on the acquisition of Northern Rock by Virgin Money, a transaction that resulted in a loff of £400-£600m for taxpayers, helped Virgin Healthcare to take advantage of the shake-up of healthcare provision in the UK and worked on the acquisition of the Lowell Group, a debt purchasing business, by TDR Capital. His altruism when it comes to helping poor children might be more persuasive if his achievements don’t ring overwhelmingly of decisions that tip the world into an economic slump whilst making a few individuals a fast buck out of the misery they have engineered.

Perhaps it is his way, though, of giving something back to the poor when the financial services industry, upon which he has enriched himself, has done so much to impoverish them further. Yet Wesemann has links via his former employers in profiting directly from schools. When he was employed at Quayle Monro, they “invested equity in Argyll & Bute schools project” on behalf of PFT Infrastructure Company plc. This 30-year deal will cost taxpayers £370m, for buildings worth £87m.

A banner on the Hackney Free School website proclaims that their “vision for Hackney New School is to provide students with access to the widest range of opportunities in life by fostering academic excellence and instilling self-belief, intellectual curiosity and responsibility towards others in society” as if this were not unique to them and not, in fact, the mission of every single school in the country. Wesemann has fallen into the trap of portraying his altruism as being under attack by politically motivated organisations such as unions and the AAA, but he and his group have not adequately explained why Hackney needs another secondary school and neither have they dispelled the suspicion that a profit motive lurks somewhere not too far down the line.

Perhaps they find public scrutiny unpleasant but they should remember that accountability in community schools means the passing of the buck ends with them, so more transparency from their side would make the whole enterprise look much more honest and democratic.

The meeting concluded with the panel inviting Andrew Tetlow, The Hackney New School Steering Group and its supporters to join us in a public debate. The debate will be organised so that speakers from each side can put their case, and facilitated by an independent chair. We hope they will accept.
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James Donnington's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 12:49

Hello everybody,

I am a parent living in Hackney with an eight year old daughter, so naturally I have been following the progress of the Hackney New School for some time. When the school first came to my attention I attended a local meeting, where around 100 people turned up. Parents, teachers and what turned out to be a couple of NUT activists. The meeting was long but I suppose you would expect that with when explaining the intricacies of what a school had to offer and how it would work. Unfortunately two people who I now know to be NUT activists attended with the intention of being as disruptive as possible, during the course of the meeting. Decidedly inappropriate, when a lot of people had given up part of their weekend to listen and make their own mind up on if a new secondary school was for them.

I left the meeting undecided and had not really thought about the school any more until I was handed a No Free School in Hackney poster, in Dalston, at the weekend. I decided it was worthwhile listening to the other side of the argument so attended the meeting.

There were a total of 12 people at the start of the meeting, two of which were journalist, one person was representing the school (sat in the audience and identified themselves at the start) and at least 3 NUT members that had helped organised the meeting. As the meeting went on the numbers increased to 25. It appeared to me that the majority of the people at the meeting were NUT members involved in education but I could be wrong.

The meeting was chaired by a lady from the NUT who introduced three speakers. Dean Ryan (Previous mayoral candidate), An academic who studied education and Alistair Smith, the chair of the Anti Academies Alliance.

Dean Ryan, did not seem to know specific information about the Free School and was a poor speaker, constantly referring to a school which KPMG owned and were using for profit but he still thought it right to send his children there.

The academic lady (sorry I missed her name) had lots of interesting studies from abroad about social segregation that KIPP schools and Free Schools cause but again did not make any comparisons between her research and the actual free school proposal. All free schools and academies were banded together as being the same regardless of country, size specialism etc.

Alistair Smith, finished off by saying that everything had been said by the others. I have to confess I was left wondering why he had turned up at the meeting.
After this point, Mr Tetlow from the Hackney New School was given the chance to speak, from the audience. He explained that he had a lot of notes from the speakers and would run through them as bullet points. If there we any question after he had gone through them he would be glad to explain them.

What he had to say was compelling and relevant to the locality. He ran through the proposals for the school being smaller than other schools, the amount of local children that have to study outside of the borough due to shortages in places, that the school will not be selective and it will have specialist SEN provision. 600 children were already signed up to go to the school. That the school would aim to be part of the network of Hackney school and not a standalone school.

Question followed from other members of the audience, some of which repeated statements which had already been made by the speakers and were of a general nature about free schools rather than about the proposed Hackney one. The most relevant comment coming from a teacher, who said that her school had free spaces. She didn’t mention which school it was, how many places were available or why she thought this was.

A person sat at the back who introduced himself as an NUT activist made several fairly generic negative comments about free schools and ended by saying “but this proposal seems to be one of the good ones.”

Another NUT member near the front stated to Mr Tetlow that he had convinced him of his honourable intentions.

Until I went to this meeting I was on the fence about a free school in Hackney. Having seen what I would consider a poor presentation from the AAA, I left the meeting very upbeat about the school and have taken the plunge and signed my daughter up. I have also emailed the school to let them know that I would like to help them out, in whatever way I can.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 14:14

The proposed Hackney New School will actually be offering nothing which is not already offered by other secondary schools. All schools expect to offer a wide curriculum, aim to educate pupils to the best of their ability and have tutor groups where the tutor mentors pupils in the group. All schools offer SEN provision - state schools by law have to have a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO). If, as you say, the school will be smaller than other schools then it is difficult to understand how it will be able to offer the wide range of options detailed on its website.

Many free schools say that they are offering a radically different education when in reality they are not. Hackney New School's home page says it will offer Latin or Greek but these subjects are not included in the list of curriculum subjects. As they were given such a high profile, then it is strange that they weren't included in the detailed provision.

You say that Mr Tetlow said the school would not be selective - as a free school it cannot be selective although they can select up to 10% by aptitude. The Hackney New School will offer 10% of its places to those with musical aptitude.

The school's website admits that the number of pupils educated outside Hackney is going down (17.5% in 2011). It says it had 502 expressions of interest at the time of submission of the proposal. As these expressions of interest cover different ages of children, the school had actually only attracted enough pupils to fill half of the places in each year group. Any application for a free school has to include a financial plan explaining how the free school would manage if it filled only 90% of its pupils places. It's difficult to see how the DfE could accept a school whose projected numbers fall far short of this 90%.

When considering any proposal for extra school places it's important to think about the consequences to existing provision. Is there a need for extra places? If existing schools have places this suggests that there is not. If the extra provision were allowed to go ahead, then would existing schools find they have to cut back on courses if their numbers drop? This is the situation in Beccles where a proposed free school threatens an existing secondary school - if both schools are established then the town would end up either with two small secondaries offering a slimmed-down curriculum or with one of them becoming unviable and having to close.



James Drummond's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 15:04

Regarding the teacher you refer to, Mr. Donnington:

"...... The most relevant comment coming from a teacher, who said that her school had free spaces. She didn’t mention which school it was, how many places were available or why she thought this was."

Yes, she did. She clearly stated that she was a teacher from Haggerston School. She gave an approximate figure for how many places under roll it is. As for why, it's true that she didn't say, but there could be a whole series of complex reasons for this. What she did say was that Haggerston is a perfectly good - and improving - school, with a new building.

Maybe Mr. Donnington didn't hear this bit, but if so, it is a telling omission. The HNS people are at pains to point out that they don't think there is anything wrong with the existing schools in the borough, no doubt because this would be seen as snobbery and prejudice. They then assert that there is a need for more school places in the south of the borough which only their 'free' school can fill. If Haggerston School is under roll, and it's just as good as any other school, then where is the need for a 'free' school?

Mr. Tetlow also argued that the fact that so many children go out of the borough for their education demonstrates a need for a 'free' school. Unfortunately it does no such thing. There is significant population churn in Hackney - people moving in and out of the borough - and it doesn't automatically follow that if you move from Islington, say, then your child will also move school. Similarly, for many Hackney children, their nearest school could be in any of the surrounding boroughs. In order to establish such a link you would have to do some extensive longitudinal research, not just look at a statistic and magic an inference out of thin air.

As for the other comments, such as the erudition of the speakers or the proportion of NUT members at the meeting, Mr. Donnington offers only conjecture and opinion, and not necessarily fact.

What is fact, is that when challenged as to who exactly would be running the 'free' school in 5 or 10 years time, Mr. Tetlow did not provide an answer, beyond "the headmaster" (sic). This was a very evasive answer. He did not talk about what sort of governance there would be or who would own the assets, and he did not rule out that the school would be taken over and run by a profit-making education business. Either he doesn't know, or he isn't saying.

If Mr. Donnington has decided to sign up to this divisive project I can only hope that at some point he'll see the bigger picture. 'Free' schools are part of an ideologically-driven agenda which is about privatising our education system and exacerbating division and inequality, whatever the immediate intentions of the Hackney New School lobby.

howard's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 21:22

My concern over the Hackney New School is that it will not serve the needs of Hackney as a whole but simply those of the group of people behind it. Hackney Council itself recognises the need for extra secondary school places in south Hackney and, with the Learning Trust, went out to consultation in June 2011 on the setting up of a new secondary school on the site on Victoria Park Road, which is being vacated by the Cardinal Pole School, from September 2014. The Council consulted on two options for the provision of this new school; provision by an Academy by either Mossbourne or City of London Academy Hackney (both of which have been rated as "outstanding" by OFSTED); or provision by a free school.
According to the results of the consultation on the Learning Trust website, 208 responses were received, all of which were in favour of the new school, with 69% favouring an Academy running the provision and only 10% favouring a Free School.
My fear is that the DfE, driven by Gove's political desire for more free schools, will plump for this new free school, run by an untried and untested team, rather than an academy provider with a proven record of delivery.

Andreas Wesemann's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 21:51

Howard - you are quite right in your account of the events surrounding the Victoria Park Road site. I can understand that some, like you, might be "fearful" of the novelty that a school like Hackney New School would represent. But: a) it certaintly won't be an untried and untested team that would run it: we won't get approved by DfE if that was the case. That's why we have worked with many long-standing and experienced educational experts in developing our plans. Without an experienced, capable, outstanding head teacher and teachers we won't get HNS off the ground (if we are approved). So there is no need to be anxious that, all of a sudden, Hackney children will be faced with amateurs who don't know what they are doing. Far from it. My modest contribution is to have originated the project and thought hard, with my colleagues, about how to develop a coherent and innovative educational plan. We have been able to do this because we have used our brain, have tried to use our imagination and experience and, finally, have been able to draw on the experienced of capable, sophisticated and generous educational expertse who have lent us much of their time; b) it's worth remembering that when Sir Clive Bourne bought the site of the old Hackney Downs school in 2002 to convert it into an Academy he was doing so without any particular expertise in education - in fact he left school when he was 15. And today Mossbourne is certainly a good school. To say that HNS would only serve my needs, or the needs of our steering committee, would really be quite wrong - it's a bit like saying that Mossbourne has only served, and was only conceived to serve, the interests of Sir Clive Bourne. I think the history of the last 8 years clearly shows that it has served the interests of many people, but not really those of Sir Clive Bourne, other than (i) post-humously and (ii) by demonstrating what one determined man or woman can achieve for the benefit of a large number of people.
So much that is written about HNS is, or appears to be, driven by fear of the unknown. You should have more faith in the goodwill of strangers, however difficult that may be - but all of us who have worked on the plans for HNS are doing so for entirely honourable reasons.
If we get approved, in the fullness of time you will find, I am confident, that we are all working towards the same objectives and, hopefully, that we are all moving closer towards achieving them.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 21:57

Worth noting here that a significant number of people were outraged that the Learning Trust only gave two options ahead of the Education Bill being passed. They wrote "community school" or "comprehensive" on the consultation. Its also worth noting that an Academy provider is no guarantee of success either. They don't have the monopoly on success - as Henry Stewart's brilliant series of analyses on this site have shown - and a proven record of delivery really depends on how you set the criteria. Managed moves, "nudgings out", selection and dubious exclusions surely don't constitute "good delivery"?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:08

Hello Andreas

I would say that much that has been written about HNS or Free Schools is not driven by fear of the unknown but by fear that these schools will fall into the hands of profit-making companies with the result that the education of children is secondary to the dividends of shareholders. It is actually not an unknown fear. It is a horrible reality in America, where the existence of Charters over 20 years has not raised standards across the US education system and even Sweden is now reviewing the Free School policy because it has divided communities and there is a concern that the profit making element has compromised schools. You yourself have admitted that you are in talks with Zenna Atkins, so it is clear that you aligned yourself and the school with the profit-making sector. This is what is to be feared. Not the unknown. There is no unknown

Andreas Wesemann's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:08

"Managed moves, “nudgings out”, selection and dubious exclusions surely don’t constitute “good delivery”?".................they don't: which is why we have said in our appplication (and I quote) (p. 192):-

"HNS will not seek to achieve Core Outcomes with the help of an imaginative and liberal exclusion policy. Anecdotal evidence, based on conversations we have had with a large number of teachers, principals and educational specialists, confirms (data is largely unavailable for this) that many schools, including high-performing schools in Inner London have used exclusion policies to boost academic results. The removal of problematic children is clearly an effective way of doing so, thereby reducing disciplinary problems. However, it is clearly counter-productive from a point of view of social policy: moving “problematic children” outside the perimeter of official supervision and the reach of official data capture does obviously not address the educational and behavioural challenges of these children. Furthermore, these "liberal” exclusion policies are also expensive for society as a whole (treatment/service provision outside schools tends to be considerably more expensive than in schools) and can be so for the school itself (on the basis that schools often have to reimburse local authorities for these additional costs)." (end of quote)

We have thought a lot about these issues. I am pretty sure that a lot of rather unsavoury things are going on in this respect in many schools, including state schools. The general point seems incontrovertible to me: nothing prevents a local comprehensive from being a "bad school" in the same way that critics believe a "free school" could be bad. Cardinal Pole is a perfect example. What matters are the right incentives and the right motivation for doing what is right. In this respect, I think we measure up to the most motivated teachers and school reformers.

howard's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:28

While some people may have been outraged about the lack of a community school option on the consultation, surely this was only the Learning Trust and Hackney Council recognising the practical realities, namely that the DfE were only likely to approve and fund either an academy or a free school, given the Education Bill then going through Parliament only allowed these two options?
I agree with you that academies do not have a monopoly of success, but some undoubtedly are successful, including Mossbourne and City Academy Hackney.

howard's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:56

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my posting.
It's interesting you cite the example of Sir Clive Bourne, and present your endeavours as being for entirely honourable reasons. However, as far as I'm aware, none of Sir Clive's children went to Mossbourne as they were fully grown, and unless you can provide assurances that no members of your steering committee or advisory group stand to benefit directly from the new school, (ie from their own children going there), I can't help but think that the proposal is at least partly driven by the self-interest of those involved.
I'd also be interested in how Hackney Council and the Learning Trust have reacted to your proposal, given they have already recognised the need for a new secondary school in south Hackney.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:22

If you think you measure up, then will you be accepting our offer to join us in a public debate? The debate will be organised so that speakers from each side can put their case, and facilitated by an independent chair in front of the whole community.

Andreas Wesemann's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:23

Allan - your argument suggests that no private sector company could ever provide a service to the public sector: and yet, as you know, thousands do, in defence, education (think of the exam boards), health, local government, property management, prison services, etc etc. And it's not about providing public services to the enduser (some of that also happens) - but just providing a service to the government department that is the final service provider (where does the NHS get its drugs from?). It seems to be completely unreasonable to rule out, a priori and in entirety, the role of any private sector provider in public service provision. Hackney Council's property department has used them for years. The list is endless. Only if you believe that "profit" per se is exploitative and represents an unjustified transfer of value from a beneficiary (who created it) to a rent-seeker can you rule out any role of the private sector in public service provision. Surely you cannot make that argument; and if you do, why stop at the public sector - why not then also rule out the role of any profit-seeking enterprise in the provision of any service? Wouldn't that be logical? If we get plundered by a private company providing teaching supplies to a school (say), why should we be more sanguine about this when it comes to, say, the plunder that's being engineered by Pret-a-manger in the morning when I buy my cofffee? I am not being facetious - but that, it seems to be, is the logic of your argument: that all private sector, for-profit service provision is wrong and exploitative. I think that's the wrong. I pay for the coffee at a 75% margin to Pret-a-Manger, because it represents value for money. Zenna Atkin's company, for instance, would go through an OJEU procurement process, have to demonstrate value-for-money, and if, the governors, ever found that we didn't get value-for-money the contract would be terminated or amended. Remember we only have so much money to spend - we couldn't afford to pay "too much" to a contractor. So I don't think you argument really holds.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:47


There is a big difference between a Bill going through and a Bill being passed. At that stage, the Education Bill had not been passed so it would have been unlawful to only give the two alternatives of Academy or Free School. A challenge in the courts may well have upheld this. This example really only highlights the speed and determination of the coalition to impose Academy status on all schools and the pressure it is putting on local authorities to comply or stand aside. Mossbourne and City may be successful under the criteria of results driven data, but the same data shows that Academies on the whole do not outperform non- Academies. They are not representative of Academies just as a failing community school is not representative of the comprehensive system

Andreas Wesemann's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 08:15

I suspect nothing that I say will persuade you that I am doing this not for purely selfish, narrow-minded reasons, but there you are.. You say "I can't help but think...." Think on what basis? Try harder, if you can. And what an odd presumption to begin with: that initiatives where the initiator may derive a benefit as well alongside everyone else are somehow tainted. The truth is that, in your eyes, it'd be immoral to send my children to HNS and it would also be immoral not to do so. So there is no way to satisfy you. For what it's worth, I am not doing it for my son who is about 18 months old, and the two other members of the steering committee who have children of the same age aren't doing it for their children either. But I am sure you can't help but think that this statement is either wrong, or there is some other, secondary element of self-interest involved.

Andreas Wesemann's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 22:25

Happy to, Alan - but, please, in a civilised manner where speakers are prepared to listen and respond to each other, and not just deliver long lectures to their friends (if you permit me that reference to Mr Muller).

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 23:54

It is true that schools have always contracted out certain services to private contractors. The difference with Free Schools is that they have opted out of local authority stewardship and the services which LAs traditionally provided will be picked up by for-profit companies. It is the scale that is cause for concern. Whereas maintained schools only have to contract out a few services, Free Schools are vulnerable to contracting out the majority of their services.

Is this exploitative? Not necessarily but when profit becomes the number one priority, education is pushed to second place or worse. This is why the Free School policy in Sweden is undergoing review – they have not transformed the academic achievement of the country and there is evidence to suggest that private sector influence has had a negative impact on schools. The situation in America is much worse, with entire states and individual schools suing the companies that effectively run them. In some cases, governors had handed control of the school to companies that controlled the premises, the curriculum, the hiring of staff, even the land and many are now resorting to the courts to regain control of their failing schools.

You say that the governors of HNS would dispense with unsatisfactory providers but the question is who or what is this board, how are the elected and just who are they accountable to? Free Schools are not accountable to the local community but directly to the Secretary of State for Education, who can impose members on the board if he so chooses. They only need a minimum of two elected parents. The rest of the governors are appointed by the free school owners, with no entitlement to staff or local authority representatives. So if your board makes decisions about service providers it is in the autocratic manner of a private company unaccountable to the public. Or a tax-payer owned bank making decisions about rewarding senior staff with fat bonuses whilst refusing to lend the taxpayer any money to set up a business. Ordinary people will have no effective voice in your school.

Free Schools can do what they want without consulting or accounting to the local community. It’s the Free School company that makes all the decisions, including the ones that help their corporate chums, not the parents or the local community. The unfettered free market private sector has acted with colossal irresponsibility to the economy and to the public and it is responsible for the financial mess that we are in. Yet you are now arguing that we should just put our trust in Hackney New School, whose founders include someone who worked on the acquisition of Northern Rock by Virgin Money, a transaction that resulted in a loss of £400-£600m for taxpayers. The greed of the financial services sector caused the collapse of the global economy and one of the many consequences is amputations to social services and the education budget, with many schools facing severe challenges. Despite this, you are asking for presumably upwards of £15m? Surely this is money best spent on local authorities, to be shared out fairly in all deserving schools? Not just for the deserving few?

Jane Eades's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 09:28

The problem with privatising services is that they are unaccountable to a large extent and protected by their contract. You mention exam boards - not a terribly good example I would think.

However, let me give some counter examples. At this very moment, outside my house is a deep hole in the pavement. This is as a result of a Thames Water repair - contracted out. The road was reinstated but the pavement is still dangerous - despite it being reported now 3 times over 3 weeks. Presumably the private company can't be bothered.

Westminster City Council contracted out both catering and school cleaning. The catering company made most of its profit from pizza and chips, the price tailored to the free school meal ticket. When the school cook and I decided to take p & c off the menu once a week to encourage healthy eating (before Jamie Oliver), I was chastised by Westminster. The company had complained, not that they were losing money, but that their profit was lower than elsewhere.

The school was forced to take the lowest bid on the cleaning contract. Within a couple of weeks the company realised they couldn't fulfil the contract because they hadn't realised that the building was still occupied at 4.00 pm, or even 6.00 and 7.00 pm (they clearly believed the myths about working hours for teachers and pupils).

Again, a cleaning firm on another site sacked all the local parents who had been cleaners and employed illegal immigrants to cut costs. When they were found out, they blamed and sacked the supervisor.

Anecdotal, maybe, but how many more times are we going to hear about how much more efficient private companies are. I look round and do not see any overall improvement by breaking up the public sector and by destroying the public service ethos. What we see is that, when the chips are down, profit comes before quality and service. I, for one, do not want to see that extended even further into the education system. It has not benefitted us so far.

It is ironic that the Government keeps complaining that standards have dropped (without much evidence) but don't equate this with the increased privatisation in education.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/03/2012 - 21:50

James Donnington has given a false impression of the meeting. Yes, there were a few people there who were NUT members and yes, someone from the AAA spoke on the panel but this was not a gathering by a bunch of hard line militant “Trots” and “enemies of promise” (to quote Michael Gove) intent on derailing the altruistic mission of Andreas Wesemann and his colleagues.

The smearing of anyone critical or questioning of the Free School policy is not going to make the difficult questions go away. It is quite simply not enough for a group of people to found a school on passion and commitment alone. Since the first tranche of Free Schools opened, the government has made it much more difficult for groups of ordinary people to go it alone. Many give up once they realise the daunting, time consuming and expensive task ahead of them and that’s before they get the Funding Agreement. Academy chains are waiting to sweep in, with their financial reserves, operational expertise and coterie of profit making companies ready to snatch up lucrative contracts that have been snatched away from the local authorities.

On another site, Andrew Tetlow has either disingenuously or misleadingly stated that it would be illegal for the HNS to make a profit from the school but that it is not the charge being laid at their door. It is the education chains and companies providing contracts of services who will be enriched on the back of a school that is being funded by the tax payer. Andreas Wesemann, whose career has been enriched by his experience in brokering deals in which the private sector feeds off the public sector, has a lot of persuading to do that his motives really are as altruistic as he wants it to look.

By attacking the left as militants, people like Wesemann should not be surprised when the left respond by revealing the role he has played in dismantling state services and bringing the economy to it knees. The consequences of this greed and cynicism is that the most vulnerable are now suffering the most under austerity measures. I
would imagine that quite a lot of those disadvantaged people he and his committee targeted with their HNS leaflets would be relieved to know that others within their community are happy to tell them about the darker side of Free Schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 08:30

It is disingenuous of Adreas Wesemann to say that schools outsourcing to an education provider is no different from purchasing books, equipment and services such as pay roll (in the case of non-LA maintained schools) from a profit-making third party. A profit-making education provider will want to turn a profit which takes money from the education of the pupils. As Sam Freedman said about profit-making education providers: "They are not interested for altruistic reasons. It's an investment..." He added that profit-making schools are taboo in England, but there could be a series of simple incremental steps that would see them introduced almost by stealth (see Guardian article below).

It is this stealth that makes people suspicious - that something is happening which appears to be altruistic but has the potential to be damaging. We have already seen what happened with Cognita, a profit-making education provider set up by the ex-Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Chris Woodhead. Parents at Cognita's International School in London accused the firm of "milking" the school for profit.



James Donnington's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 10:28

Mr Beavis,
The reason I posted (I would not usually post about this type of thing) is because I believe your account of the meeting to be inaccurate and incomplete, telling a particular story, which I assume to favours your view. The purpose of my post was an attempt to let people make their own mind up about this matter; hence, I have endeavoured to give an accurate account of the meeting, without reciting word for word the dialogue. Ultimately, some of the comments are my views about the meeting, which you are entitled to disagree with.

I did not write anything about "hard line militant Trots". It is you that mentions these phrases in your original post. I simply said that in my view the majority of people at the meeting appeared to be NUT members. I ascertained this as the person at the entrance, greeting entrants, seemed to know most of the people entering. This is how it appeared to me and I may be incorrect but I did not state it as fact, so am not sure why you are getting upset about it?

Mr Drummond, I apologise, I must have missed the reference to Haggerston School during the meeting. I did not deliberately miss this from my post.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 11:29

James -

My original post already mentioned that people who were also NUT members were present. Is it not acceptable both to be a parent or a community member and a member of a union or other organization? Your post focuses on the presumed dominance of NUT members and is calculated to portray certain people in an unflattering light. The fact is the majority of people were not NUT members. You should not be in the least bit surprised that people in a Hackney community who are involved in some way in education would know each other, so you ought not have jumped to conclusions about them. You are entitled to where you wish to educate your children but please don't try and portray the meeting by making false insinuations about the influence of the NUT

The best way that the community can make up its mind is through an open and impartially chaired debate.

James Donnington's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 15:21

Mr Beavis,
On my original post, my comments about the NUT members were followed with “I could be wrong” As I have previously said, this is not a statement of fact and I do not see how it is calculating.

From your post, you imply that you know most of the people that were at the meeting and they are involved in education. Is it then fair to say, that the majority of parents in the borough, who do not work in education, were not in favour of your cause. Otherwise would they not have turned up at your meeting?

To me it seems quite compelling evidence, that the AAA meeting has 25 (primarily education related) people attending it and 600 children are signed up to go to the school.

I also note that you refer to yourself as a parent but on other posts outside of this site, you are referred to as a teacher. If you are a teacher, I would have thought that you should display this at the side of your name, perhaps below where it says parent. If you are not a teacher, then please do not think this as “calculating” or a statement of fact, merely a question.

Having read your post again, I’m not sure I like your aggressive tone towards me, so I will not post further here.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 19:07

James -

And I corrected you and pointed out to others who are reading your comments that the meeting was not dominated by the NUT, which is the impression you chose to give.

You have misrepresented what I said about people being involved in education as meaning only those who work in education. If you are a parent with a child at school, you are involved. If you write about education you are involved. If you provide services to a school you are involved.

You call this an AAA meeting. Yes, they were there and they were invited to speak but it was not an event organised by a group that you clearly find questionable. It was just a group of local people coming together. I find your insistence on labelling people (am I or am I not a teacher masquerading as a parent/NUT activist/previous Mayoral candidate) may be preventing you from being more open minded about this debate. I wonder whether you should consider the arguments more closely before making up your mind. You might also read two excellent book - Laura McInerney's on "'The Six Predictable Failures of Free Schools and how to avoid them" and Melissa Benn's "School Wars"

David Jacobs's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 20:50

Like most of your other posts, this is laughably bad. In fact, your lies are shameful.

James doesn’t say only NUT members were there and he clarifies this several times. It gets a bit like ground hog day reading your posts continually denying, many times before being questioned. Clearly this tells its own story.

Ken Muller organised the meeting, who is the Anti Academies Alliance, and often masquerades himself as simply a concerned parent. Presumably, like yourself. Maybe you and others feel this is the best way to connect with people who are parents that just want the best for their children. Removing the stigma of SWP, NUT and whatever other politically motivated organisations you are being driven by.

Your statement that people involved in education, in your mind, referred to parents in general and others, is again, grasping at straws. Do you really expect people to believe this post rationalisation? Just come out and admit it, the meeting was a failure and you are scrambling around trying desperately to generate some publicity for a cause that local people do not support, with a false account of events.

You have heard from one parent trying to give his views of the meeting, where quite contrary to turning him against free schools the meeting convinced him to sign his child up to the school. The simple truth is that you have very little support for your cause and I don’t blame people when you demonstrate this militant approach whenever anybody questions you.

What amazes me about this entire argument is that you and others on this site pretend to be looking out for parents and children, when in fact you are the thorn in their side that tries to prevent them from making a free choice about the way they educate their children. It is reported that 600 parents want to educate their children at the school. Why should they be denied the choice, if the elected government's policy allows for it. I imagine that they are law abiding citizens, paying tax, like others in the area. The right thing to do is to stop your propaganda and let people make their own choices about how they want to educate their children. This website is about a minority of people involved in local authority education, running scared that some competition will expose them.

David Jacobs's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 22:14


I read it as 25 – 2 reporters – HNS speaker – James – 3 organisers = 18 people max

18 = Substantial? (Did you miss math at school Allan?)

As I said, laughable!

David Jacobs's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 22:38

Face it Allan, the meeting was a failure. You don't like what you are hearing so you change the subject and call all other comment abuse. You have demonstrated a complete lack of ability to tell the truth when questioned and every time a difficult question comes up where you are proved wrong, you revert to I don't believe them, or refer to it as abuse.

Carry on with your propaganda war, with your 18 friends.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 21:54

I don't believe for one minute that the meeting changed James Donnington's mind. I think his mind was made up before he went and I suspect both he and you are taking to commenting here because you are worried that there is substantial opposition to the idea of a Free School in Hackney and you are doing your level best to discredit anyone who questions the policy. The increasingly hysterical tone of Free School supporters such as yourself becomes rather impotent when it is just reduced to spluttering outrage and distortions. Your arguments would be more effective if you could show that Free Schools did NOT divide communities, ARE transparent, did NOT take money and resources away from local schools, did NOT have provision to amend the Admissions Code, are NOT opening up the flood gates to privatisation, DID raise standards across the board (which they have NOT done in Sweden and the US) and actually offered a mission that no other school currently offered.

It is quite frankly tiresome that anyone who opposes the current government's education policy is immediately tarnished with the militant brush. This is nonsense and indicative of how desperate the government and right wing trolls have become - as you say, "running scared" that some criticism and questioning have actually exposed them. To paraphrase you further , the right thing to do is for Gove to stop his propaganda that his policies are leading to better results (Academies under perform, compared to maintained schools). This website is actually about a community of people coming together to discuss local schools.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 22:26

I think the substantial resistance to Gove's policies is increasing by the day as more and more of its fallacies and failures in other nations become more apparent. It is certainly more vocal and visible than an initial and informal meeting in Hackney 10 days ago. I'm sure HNS can claim 600 people wanting to get their children into the school but the school is currently hypothetical. It doesn't even have a building or staff. If the school's website linked to a site that showed how Free Schools have failed in other countries, how they covertly select, divide communities, are grossly unfair in that they cream off monies from other schools, have a narrow curriculum, are free to hire unqualified teachers, are totally unaccountable to parents and to the local authority, less FSM children than neighbouring schools and you might find that the interest may wane! What is risible, David/Donnington is that you are unable to articulate beyond abuse. You might be more persuasive if you could show evidence that Free Schools in Sweden and the US have raised attainment across the whole country. Or perhaps you are interested only in protecting the interests of the already advantaged?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 23:09

Such a frustrated demeanour David! Why the anxiety?

The meeting was a success. You appear to want to quote the number of 25 present as indicative of little interest but you fail to understand that this was a first meeting of people to exchange views and then organise a committee and campaign group. This is why a very small room in a local library holding no more than about 30 people was chosen.

This good cop/bad cop Donnington/Jacobs strategy isn't convincing I'm afraid. Empty jeering doesn't answer the very tough questions posed about Free Schools. Gove has failed to answer them, as has Sam Freedman and so have you. Demonstrate that the funds being sliced away from existing schools under the most severe economic crisis we have faced in a generation in order to fund schools which represent little more than an expression of Gove's ideology and free-market promotions (he was a member of the disgraced Liam Fox's Atlantic Bridge after all and chum and employee of Rupert Murdoch) but have failed in their mission in two other western industrialised nations and then you will have something to say that is worth giving attention to.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 11:24

Welcome, James, to LSN. Please continue to follow the debates and contribute your thoughts.

The reason Allan mentioned "hard line militant Trots" is because that is how Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, describes those who disagree with him (see links below to a speech he made in which he said opponents were "enemies of promise" who promoted a "bigoted, backward, bankrupt" ideology, and the uncorrected evidence to the Education Committee when he dismissed opposition by describing it as being supported by "Trots"). It speaks volumes that Mr Gove does not engage with the argument but relies on demonising any opposition by invoking the spectre of a Red menace.



Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 14:46

Janet & Allan Beavis

Michael Gove doesn't need to imagine a red menace. Most of the prominent people involved in the campaign against free schools ARE Trotskyites.

The Anti-Academies Alliance was co-founded by Nick Grant, of the SWP, who led the campaign against Toby Young's school.

In Lambeth, the camapaign against free schools is run by Ray Sirotkin, who's associated with an outfit called Socialist Action. According to Wikipedia:

"Socialist Action is a small Trotskyist group in the United Kingdom. From the mid-1980s Socialist Action became an entryist organisation, attempting to take over other organisations, with members using code names and not revealing their affiliation."

I notice reference is made above to a Mr Muller, in connection with the Hackney campaign. Presumably Ken Muller of the SWP, no?

I don't know much about Alistair Smith. Is he a Trot too?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 15:09

So some people on the left are opposed to Free Schools. So what? So are some people on the right, as are many liberals, even apolitical people. A whole diversity of people in fact. What is heartening is that all these people - whatever their background, beliefs and however they vote - care about stopping the privatisation of state schools and are campaigning for equal share of resources to all schools, equal access to good schools for all children, social cohesion and that the most deprived children are not further degraded by the cuts in education and social welfare, which hits them the hardest.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 15:14

Ricky - The TUC, NASUWT, NUT, ATL, UCU, UNISON, UNITE, GMB, PCS, MU and FBU are all affiliated to the Anti-Academies Alliance. Does that mean that every one of these organisations is Trotskyite together with the entire membership?

You have mentioned three names of people against free schools who you say are linked to Troskyist groups. And that is enough, according to you, to dismiss all arguments against free schools however well-argued or supported by evidence they might be.

In Beccles there is a campaign against a proposed free school which is supported by the local Conservative MP. Has he become a Trot? Are all the opponents of the Beccles free school also Trots? Elsewhere on this site there is a submission against a proposed free school in Stoke-by-Nayland (see link below). Are all the people who wrote this response Trots?

There is a logical flaw in your argument which runs something like this: A, B and C oppose free schools. A, B and C are allegedly Trots. Therefore anyone who opposes free schools is also a Trot.

It does not follow.


Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 15:37


A rather silly straw man argument, I'm surprised at you. Nowhere did I say that everyone who opposes free schools is a Trot (Fiona Millar springs to mind...). Nor did Gove.

You and Allan, however, seem to think it's absurd to associate the anti free schools campaign with Trots, in the face of the facts that the people coordinating the campaign in West London (Grant), North/East London (Muller) and South London (Sirotkin) are ALL Trots.

In the old days, Trots used entryist tactics to worm their way into existing organizations (unions, Labour Party etc.) with a view to taking them over. When this failed spectacularly, they changed tactics and set up front organizations on topical issues (uniting against fascism, stopping the war, anti-academies) which they already controlled from day one. That's proved much more successful for them. The well-meaning but naive individuals and organizations that then join/affiliate to these (usually) SWP fronts are, I believe, known in the trade as "useful idiots", after a remark by Lenin on a similar tactic.

That there are ANY members of the executive of a teaching union who are dedicated to the overthrow of democracy should be a cause of concern.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 20/03/2012 - 17:19

I'm afraid your letting your overactive imagination run away with you. There is no militant co-ordination here. Just a group of people coming together who want to oppose a Free School being set up.

By your analogy, we must assume that the founders and supporters of Free Schools and Academies are Gove's "useful idiots" then?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 10:08

Well Allan, it's clear you already do, with your tinfoil hat conspiracy theory about free schools being the thin end of a secret Gove wedge to hand over all our schools to for-profit operators. Even poor old Andreas Weseman (who comes across here as an amiable, public-spirited type) has clearly been marked down by you as an agent of the financial-industrial complex.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 18:28

Ricky -

There is no conspiracy theory about the privatisation of state schools under Gove. His advisers have gone public about it and he himself said right from the outset that he was not ideologically opposed to the idea. Privatising tax payer funded schools is very much the end game but the reason the government is being covert about it is because they sense that the public would be repulsed by the idea if it made obvious, for the same reason that they are appalled by the dismantling of the NHS. This is another reason why Free Schools are so opaque. I think if anyone here is being paranoid, then it is you in your attempts to divert attention away from the debate by the unoriginal and tiresome threats of reds under the bed. The discredited Joseph McCarthy would have been very proud of you.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 10:35

Ricky - it's not just Allan who has a theory about the introduction of free schools being part of a campaign to allow profit-making education providers to run English schools. Sam Freedman, one of Mr Gove’s senior advisers, told the Guardian in 2008, that profit-making schools could be introduced by stealth by taking small steps. When asked about the motivation of these profit-making education providers, he said, “They are not interested for altruistic reasons. It’s an investment.”

And Rachel Wolf of the New Schools Network, the organisation given taxpayers' money to promote free schools, co-authored a report with Policy Exchange in 2010 which said that although the politics of profit-making schools were at the time "unworkable", there was no legal reason barring profit-making education providers for running schools. All that was needed was for schools to be declared "independent".

And that's exactly what free schools and academies legally are - "independent".

It seems that the "tinfoil hat conspiracy theory" may be underpinned by evidence. I have provided the links below. If you have any evidence that shows that Mr Gove does not support profit-making schools then please provide it.



Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 11:15


The facts of the matter are plain. Gove has been encouraged to consider allowing for-profit groups to open free schools by Policy Exchange and others. For the time being (at least), he has rejected that idea.

Therefore, all free schools currently open, and those currently applying, are run by not-for-profit charitable trusts.

It makes no sense to me to oppose actually existing or currently planned free schools on the grounds that, at some future time, policy might change allowing different, for-profit schools to be established.

Why not simply oppose any change in policy?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 21/03/2012 - 13:52

Mr Gove has not rejected the idea of allowing schools to make profit. He made it clear before the last election that he'd be quite happy if Serco, a profit-making firm, wanted to run a school (see link below for links to the evidence).


It's disingenuous to say that because free schools are run by not-for-profit charitable trusts that the schools can't be managed by a profit-making education provider. All the charitable trust has to do is to outsource. This was made clear in the New Schools Network/Policy Exchange document linked in my post above, and this is what is happening with IES Breckland, the free school which is being totally managed by IES, a Swedish for-profit education provider with no experience of running English schools.

Even sponsored academies can prove profitable for their sponsors as the National Audit Office made clear. Many academies felt under pressure to purchase services from their sponsors.


You say it would make more sense to wait until there has been a "change in policy" towards allowing profit-making schools. The "change in policy" is already here and has been planned for years. As you say, "the facts of the matter are plain", and I've provided links to the evidence. You have provided no evidence that shows that the trend towards allowing profit-making schools is NOT government policy.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 22/03/2012 - 08:53


One way of determining what is government policy is to look at how the law stands. Education companies are forbidden by law from opening free schools on a profit-making basis.

Of course policy might change in the future, but there is little chance of that before the next general election.

Of the free schools currently open, how many are managed by a commercial education provider? I believe the answer to that is none.

You point to IES Breckland (due to open later this year) as if it were typical. Yet, in outsourcing to a commercial provider, it is an exception.

What is interesting though, is that IES propose to charge less than 10% of the school's budget for running the whole show. Previously, the LA witheld close to 15%. That means the entire running of the school will now cost only 2/3rds as much as a community school pays the council for external support.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 22/03/2012 - 14:15

Ricky - “At present academy sponsors are barred from making a profit. There is no
legislative reason why profit should not be allowed (these schools are simply classified as independent schools)." - Rachel Wolf, New Schools Network.

The fact that the Trustees can't make a profit doesn't mean that they can't turn the running of the school over to a profit-making school who can (I've said that before, but it seems I must repeat it). A proposer of a free school in Wisbech left a comment on the Telegraph website saying he asked Mr Gove about profit at a meeting at the New Schools Network. Mr Gove told the proposer it was no problem because the school could outsource (comment on 12/16/2011 at 12.15 mikestallard). In other words, it's easy to get round the legal nicety of the Trustees not being able to make a profit.



You are correct in saying that IES Breckland is as yet the exception but as more sponsors take over schools then this will become increasingly common - making progress by stealth was the way Sam Freedman described it. And Fraser Nelson of the Telegraph (see above) praised Mr Gove for acting "unobtrusively" in quietly allowing profit-making organisations to run English state schools.

I should be grateful if you could provide a link which says IES will charge less than "10% of the school's budget for running the whole show" and another link to the evidence that the LA will withold "close to 15%".

Toby Young's picture
Thu, 22/03/2012 - 16:01

Don't forget Henry Stewart, Ricky, Chair of Governors of Stoke Newington School, co-founder of this site and, by any measure, a hard left political activist. I delved into his colourful past in this Telegraph blog:


Here's an extract:

A cursory amount of research reveals that Henry Stewart was a member of an organisation called Big Flame in the 1970s and 1980s. Stewart describes it as follows:
"Big Flame were [sic] a Revolutionary Socialist Feminist organisation with a working class orientation in England. Founded in Liverpool in 1970, the group initially grew rapidly in the then prevailing climate on the left with branches appearing in a number of cities… They also devoted a great deal of time to self-analysis and considering their relationship with the larger Trotskyist groups. In time, they came to describe their politics as 'libertarian Marxist'. In 1978 they joined the Socialist Unity electoral coalition, with the International Marxist Group. In 1980, the anarchists of the Libertarian Communist Group joined Big Flame. The Revolutionary Marxist Current also joined at about this time."

One of Big Flame's most prominent campaigns was in support of what it called the "Irish revolution" and it expressed the hope that 1975 "could be the year of civil war" which it described as "the final price the Catholic working class will have to pay in order to achieve their freedom". Big Flame also pledged "its unconditional support of all anti-imperialist Republic activity to defeat the British military occupation". Among the organisations it made common cause with were "Provisional Sinn Fein", "the Irish Republican Socialist Party" and "the Relatives Action Committee".

The NUT is riddled with Trots, starting with Christine Blower at the top. More info on her and other charmers, including Ken Muller, here:


Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 10:56

I wonder why Toby Young is still promoting his Telegraph blobs? I thought he had joined Nancy dell'Olio to further Murdoch's interests at the Sun on Sunday?

This renewed, ridiculous piece of malice really does show how desperate the pro-Free School lobby have become. Toby Young’s own career has been a long and morally dubious litany of back stabbing, self-interest, poitical expediency and brown-nosing, sometimes dressed up for comic effect, now more often just unsophisticated mudslinging of the type that I expect the students of West London Free School may find at odds with the level of discipline they are straitjacketed to.

A cursory amount of research on the internet reveals myriad examples of Young’s intolerance and bullying, as exemplified most obviously by referring to people who don’t agree with him as “dunces” (is this how he refers, privately, to SEN students at WLFS I wonder?) and his ridiculing of LGBT Awareness (particularly toxic at a time when the streets of East London was being plastered with homophobic stickers).

He was sufficiently worried by accusations of homophobia, so penned a grovelling excuse to So-So-Gay and “drew a line” under the issue in the Spectator, which colluded with him by not allowing any comments challenging his self-justification.

Many people are idealists in their youth, so it is perhaps Toby Young’s autocratic tendencies kicking in again when he attempts to fix and brand someone’s identity on what they were thirty years ago.

With apologies for the Page 7 Fella pose, a cursory amount of research on the internet reveals this snippet about the young Mr. Young. In a letter to Harry Phibbs, which can be accessed here http://hfconwatch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/toby-youngs-schoolboy-letter-to... written when Young was a schoolboy and gripped by the need to found a provocative organisation called “Combat Communism”, as a result of his Bohemian upbringing, he comes over as a snotty-nosed, none too bright misognyst. Particularly sweet is the following:-

‘‘Recently I started up a political discussion group called the “the Young Apostles”, and we hold regular meetings where topics such as disarmament, feminism, culture, education, the media, the constitution and international finance are discussed. I originally banned females from taking part, partly because I don’t believe them equipped with the ability to discuss things and partly because I don’t know any bright females. Much to my horror some local saggy-titted feminists (Greenham Gremlins) found out about this discussion group and its high membership standards, and picketed the first meeting.

‘Naturally they weren’t prepared to listen to my arguments about the genetic character traits of women and just ranted and raved… so I was forced to enlist the services of the local constabulary in order to dispose of them.’’

Of course, decades on, Toby is not the same woman hating idealist he portrays himself as in this letter.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 11:34

Allan - this is so funny especially when read immediately after the post above. Apparently, I must now admit that as a member of the NUT throughout my teaching career, I'm a raddled old Trot - or did Toby say "riddled", I'm still crying with laughter and can't see properly. But now I learn, thanks to your research, that I would have been described by a youthful TY as a "saggy-titted feminist" who, like all women, has no brains.

Now I'm sure that TY regrets the rather silly remarks made when he was a youth - after all, he is now Chair of Governors of a school which includes females who are "equipped with the ability to discuss things".

Helen Jones's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 16:00

Putting Mr. Young’s exploits to one side. It does appear that every organisation seeking to oppose Free Schools, has some sort of governance by Trots, or people that you might classify as semi retired Trots, seeking to deny their past or current links to the ideology.

I wonder why this is?

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 16:30

Helen -

Like David Jacobs and James Donnington, you have the curious obssession with nailing people as Trots on very little actual evidence. I suppose the polar opposite of a Trot might be a Fascist but would you, David or James agree that accusing someone of being a Fascist because they are right wing or support Free Schools would be both entirely unjustified and deliberately provocative? I don't think you can just sweep Toby Young's exploits under the carpet as if they have not impact on the debate. He is, after all, the poster boy for Free Schools and he is part of the vocal cabal echoing Gove's desperate dismissal of his opponents as "Trots". Young's public pronouncements squarely position him as a divisive and opaque figure so he is pretty much a lightning rod for the divisive and opaque nature of Free Schools.

It is amusing that you trot out ideology as if Gove himself were not inflicting his own ideology on schools, even when communities don't want them and have had them enforced on them. You infer that ideology is bad, so I hope we agree that either extreme - Trotskyite and Fascist - would be unwelcome in a democracy?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 17:44

Oh dear, I accidentally clicked the "like" column to Helen's post when I meant to choose reply. I think I must still be laughing at the thought that I'm a saggy, raddled old Trot. But this labelling of groups as "Trots" or whatever masks an important point. Should an argument be decided not on its merits but on the basis of who is making the argument?

Suppose, for example, that a person puts forward a case in Court which is valid and supported by evidence. Should the judge decide on the evidence or on his/her feelings towards, say, the politics of the person putting forward the case? Should the judge be swayed by opponents blackening the character of the person putting forward the case?

The Government is very quick to label opponents, whether it's those arguing against free schools or parents campaigning against their school being forced to become an academy, as "Trots" promoting a "bigoted, backward, bankrupt ideology". In doing so it is avoiding discussing the issues around, among other things, the merits or otherwise of user choice in education, whether they are surreptitiously (as has been suggested by government supporters) paving the way for profit-making schools, or whether in a democratic society school governing bodies should be summarily dismissed by the Secretary of State who then imposes his own choice of governors on a school.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 10:25

Ricky - you have not yet provided a link to the evidence that IES will charge less than “10% of the school’s budget for running the whole show [at Breckland]” and another link to the evidence that the LA (Suffolk) will withold “close to 15%”.

You must have found the information somewhere - please could you share it with us.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 23/03/2012 - 11:58


It is on the website of the IES Breckland Free School under FAQs (scroll down to FAQ Four):



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