Sulivan Primary School is, regular readers will know, threatened with closure (see sidebar). The local council has voted to shut it down despite it being a popular, successful primary school. Sulivan is one of few London primary schools in the Mayor of London’s Gold Club which identifies and praises exceptional London schools.
But neither this success nor campaigning by parents has prevented Hammersmith and Fulham council voting for closure. The council wants the site to be used by a proposed free school.
The Council’s actions prompted Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, to ask the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, on 10 February 2014
whether he agreed that it was “unusual to close successful schools with growing rolls”. He asked Gove whether he would “save Sulivan school”.
Gove’s answer went like this:
1He admired “good local authorities”.
2Hammersmith and Fulham was one of the best.
3Sulivan is outside Slaughter’s constituency.
4He and Greg Hands, (Conservative) MP for Chelsea and Fulham, will “entirely support” any decision taken by (Conservative) Hammersmith and Fulham council.
Gove deflected any further comment on the specific point by asking a rhetorical question:
“…why should a former public schoolboy such as the hon. Gentleman, who benefited from the independence of a great school such as Latymer upper, wish to deny such high standards to others? Is it that the hypocrisy—forgive me, the double standards—of the Labour Front-Bench team now extends to the Back Benchers, too?”
The excellence, or otherwise, of a school attended by an MP a few decades ago is irrelevant to the question of whether a popular, good school should be closed to make way for a free school.
I’m unsure whether supporters of Sulivan Primary School will be impressed with Gove’s attempts to deflect criticism of the school’s closure by accusing the Parliamentary Labour Party of double standards. That accusation could be levelled at him. Gove has said in the past “Our aim is to allow good schools to expand.”
It appears this doesn’t extend to schools on sites which could be used for free schools. In that case, Gove would “entirely support” a decision to a close good school.
For updates, including deputations to the final Cabinet meeting of Hammersmith and Fulham council, see SaveOurSulivan