Okay, I’m sorry. The question might spoil your appetite and leave you nauseous. But is it really that far-fetched?
My concerns stem from an alleged overheard conversation by a friend who had to endure a tête-à-tête on public transport between two apparently well-informed Tories. So I suppose you should take all this with a pinch of salt and sincerely hope its all nonsense. But stranger things have happened in politics.
This alleged noisily whispered exchange started with who should replace Cameron. Obviously, Bojo AKA Boris Johnson’s name quickly came-up. Interestingly, they referred to him as Mr Bojangles and mutually agreed that he should not become leader as he, (allegedly), would bring more baggage than a pratfall of travelling circus clowns to the role at number 10.
So after much intolerable deliberation, they selected the present-day Education Secretary, Michael Gove, creator of freaky Free School policy, to be their potential future leader. This was the point of their conversation where the Twilight Zone fog finally descended. It was speculated that if Gove should be made PM, then Z-list celeb, Sun journalist and author of, ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’, Toby Young might be given the next available Tory-safe constituency and be hypothetically fast-tracked to the Ministry of Education. I presume to continue with his nuts Free School ‘experiment’, but possibly at a national level.
So is this purely a pile of garbage or does it have any credence? Would you be happy for, ‘Come Dine with Me’, Toby Young to have real power over state education? I’m not going to waste my life elaborating on Mr Young’s colourful history. Google him and see for yourself. But what if it did come true?
Is Toby Young the modern day Dr Frankenstein creating and advocating these experimental free schools across our country? In these austere times, Mr Young thinks tax-payers should fund free schools because they are the, ‘research and develop wing of state education’, although Gove has scrapped the urgently needed BSF, (Building Schools for the Future), Funding that many rundown state schools had been assured. Mr Young believes that his new West London Free School should be allowed, (at our expense), ‘to innovate and experiment’, and his school is a ‘bold experiment’.
So, like many experiments, what happens if or when it fails or those volunteers behind it get bored? Who cleans up the mess? Do we just flush the failure down the toilet including the many young lives ruined in this bizarre Free School experiment and let self-appointed individuals like Mr Young simply to try again if it takes their fancy? And when or if they fail, will it be our under-funded local comprehensive state schools that are eventually forced to clean the whacky Free School chaos?
So why should we trust Toby Young and other self-appointed Free School experimentalists? Why should our money be used in these ‘experiments’ when we already have thousands of established and highly successful schools across the country. Why don’t we use the professional educational experts managing these existing schools to drive up standards across the country rather than enter into a free school freak show where those like journalist Toby Young get our money and children to experiment with?
You might construe this to be unfair, after all Toby Young’s West London Free School was paraded on the recent Conservative Party’s TV political broadcast so his school must be successful? But hold on. His small school’s only been running since September last year and has merely a couple of hundred students. So it has no real history and no track record and nearly 4 years until the first GSCE or EngBacs are taken. So the school is still really just an experiment as Mr Young would phrase it? Hardly a blueprint of success to be already boasting about?
But if you switch on the television, Mr Young often pops-up giving the alleged impression that we may be treated to more high achieving Toby schools opening up, perhaps in a town near you? Could we be treated to more of his schools opening up similar to a large well-known expanding ubiquitous fast-food chain? Could his school’s curriculum be akin to a burger and fries set-meal with gimmick toy? The West London Free School brags of a set meal of academia and strong discipline with the gimmick (for the 21st century), being compulsory Latin? So where are all these experimental Toby Young Free Schools? Are they simply in the pipeline, waiting to spring-up everywhere and teach the teachers how schools should operate? No, I can’t see any mention of them on the West London Free School website or Young’s vainglorious webpage. Not even a small metaphorical hotdog stand or coffee booth of a Toby school is proposed outside of Hammersmith. So is the Toby Young Free School experiment faltering already? Can his school only operate where alleged London philanthropists and well-connected local friends can volunteer their services to make his experiment come alive in the laboratory of Dr FrankenFreeschoolstein? Or is Mr Young’s focus now on entering politics and the supposed novelty and ambition of creating more West London Free Schools starting to wear off?
So what now for the ‘experimental’ free school movement? Could celebrities like Keith Chegwin, Jedward and the Compare the Meerkats do a ‘Toby Young’ and also open their own experimental Free Schools? And would it be such a catastrophe if Michael Gove did become PM and appointed, Come Dine with Me’s Toby Young to the Ministry of Education? At least such a role might provide Mr Young with more sufficient personal experience to write a sequel to his film,’ How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’. That might give us something to watch in three years’ time on Film4 on a miserable Wednesday night?