Toby Young recruiting on Twitter?

Julia Chancellor's picture
Toby Young (@toadmeister) is using Twitter encouraging a biology teacher to apply for a position at his West London Free School. A science teacher called Sarah Molloy (@sarah_b_ni) has been tweeting him and hinting that she is dissatisfied with the way things are –

“@toadmeister teaching is now to the lowest denominator just in
case you upset a child by telling them they have failed”

@toadmeister sorry not failed how unprofessional of me they have
"deferred their success" grrrr makes me so cross

@toadmeister like citizenship, learning for life and work, hsc to
name but a few!! You must look at llw gcse papers a joke

@toadmeister good blog though not all of us teachers are socialist
and in terms of being a union member we are told its compulsory-insurance

@toadmeister will u b going the revised curr route of content not
important that it's skills we teach now!?

@toadmeister I am so glad to hear that I feel like a dinosaur here in
NI wanting to teach content in my science lessons

Toby replied:
@sarah_b_ni Nope. Skills = dumbing down. We'll be teaching
subject knowledge

then said:-

@sarah_b_ni Have you thought about applying for a job at our
school? We'll be looking for a biology teacher in 2012

So Toby Young is saying that teaching non-Academic subjects is “dumbing down”. I bet by this he also means the Citizenship curriculum including inclusion, diversity, LGBT Awareness (he poked fun at a school in East London for celebrating this), etc. Doesn’t this attitude prove that he and his school are elitist and are going to concentrate on teaching a bunch of elite kids ? What if some of them aren’t able to cope with Latin and Ancient Greek etc? Will he just chuck them out?

His tweets with this Sarah Molloy also suggests that he might be selecting teachers not on their ability but because they share his right wing views? Would reading something like this not put a lot of good teachers from applying to the school? And are teachers there now going to be indoctrinating the pupils into their way of narrow way of thinking? To me, this look like Free Schools and especially Toby Young’s Free School is selecting children and teachers and will be concentrating on educating people who share his repulsive divisive opinions. Is this what the government means when they talk about choice? I wonder what other people here think?
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Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 21/06/2011 - 08:12

So Toby Young thinks that skills = dumbing down and the West London Free School will prioritise subject knowledge over non-cognitive skills. Perhaps he should be aware of the words of Andreas Schleicher of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development:

"How do we foster motivated, dedicated learners and prepare them to overcome the unforeseen challenges of tomorrow? The dilemma for educators is that routine cognitive skills, the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test, are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate or outsource. There is no question that state-of-the-art skills in particular disciplines will always remain important. However, educational success is no longer about reproducing content knowledge, but about extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge to novel situations."

"Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working, including communication and collaboration, as well as the tools they require, such as the capacity to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies, or indeed, to avert their risks. And last but not least, education is about the capacity to live in a multi-faceted world as an active and engaged citizen. These citizens influence what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, and it is this that shapes the role of educators."

To this list I would add: the ability to research a subject with an open mind, analyse and interrogate the evidence, and then reach an informed conclusion.,3746,en_2649_201185_46846594_1_1_1_1,00...

Melissa Benn's picture
Tue, 21/06/2011 - 09:49

I would imagine that the private sector are quite keen on all sorts of skills - from communication to team work to thinking across disciplines to emotional literacy. They just wouldn't call it that. And of course, they also make sure that it goes with fairly substantive subject knowledge.

Why the either/or? Today's young people need it all!

O. Spencer's picture
Tue, 21/06/2011 - 17:19

I don't agree with the thrust of this article at all.

Toby Young has suggested to Sarah Molloy that there is a teaching position available at the WLFS for 2012. Did he say 'We want people who think like you here..' No he didn't.

I fail to see how a concern about teaching standards is necessarily a right wing or left wing issue.

Rather than seeing the debate as between skills on the one hand and subject knowledge on the other, we should see that children receive ample attention in both areas.

Sarah Molloy shares Toby Young's concern that skills are prioritised over subject knowledge and feels alone in wanting to impart knowledge to her students.

Clearly both are important. If you look at the sample timetable for WLFS - here

you will see that in addition to the academic subjects, time is set aside at the end of each day for developing skills in other areas, netball practice, debating, drama, etc.

You will also see a tutor period including PSHE.

Thankfully when I left school in 2005 the era of 'equality and diversity' hadn't yet dawned and the most I had to suffer was 'citizenship'. I dryly thought of it as 'Citizen Sh**' for all it was teaching my class mates. I don't know how I would have coped with the LGBT 'equality and diversity' stuff.

Students can get a good insight into the treatment of minorities through studying English and History. It does not need an extra hour of precious class time to do this.

Julia Chancellor - what is your definition of elitist? Does Toby Young want the school he is helping to set up to be elite - yes of course- the aim is a grammar/private school education for people unable to afford the costs of private education.

I don't see how trying to gain a non-selective, academic-based education is in any way 'elitist' unless you believe that poor working-class children are not capable of real academic study and instead need more vocational skills?

Toby Young said nothing about selecting Sarah Molloy because of her 'right wing views' merely that if she was unhappy at her school because of the teaching ethos a suitable position was available at the WLFS.

I can't believe you wrote 'educating people who share his repulsive divisive opinions'. Which opinions are 'repulsive' and why?

And if they are so 'repulsive and divisive' why on earth would any parent want to send their children to that school?

Clearly demand for places at the new WLFS is high, which would suggest parents are attracted to the ethos of the school.

I am very disappointed that I did not get the chance to attend a Free School as I would have thrived in that kind of environment.

For me and most people, a good education=money. Your parents either have enough to pay fees, pretend to be Catholic or else buy an education through taking out a huge mortgage in a leafy part of town.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 06:32

O Spencer: if you read the comments above from Adreas Schleicher of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) you will see that the skills he feels are necessary for the future are a little more that netball practice. The skills you mention (which are in any case a narrow definition of skills) are, as you put it, offered in "time set aside at the end of each day". Of course, it is possible to develop the skills that Schleicher mentions within subject areas, and Schleicher points out that both subject knowledge and the development of non-cognitive skills are important.

You point out that there is one tutor period to include Personal, Social and Health Education. Such a small allocation of time is hardly a ringing endorsement for the subject. And as for your eloquent description of Citizenship, Schleicher points out the importance of producing citizens able to live in a multi-faceted world. That includes the equality and diversity "stuff".

caroline's picture
Tue, 21/06/2011 - 19:29

"Is this what the government means when they talk about choice?"

You can choose not to apply to get your kid in. Isn't it great that there is going to be a school out there that's free, available and different. That's choice, surely.

O Spencer's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 08:19

Hello Janet,

You seem to take the view that 'netball practice' is somehow an inferior way of developing skills. What about the teamwork involved, personal development and learning how to win well, and lose well.

The same with debating - it develops the 'soft' skills that give the independently-schooled children such an advantage when it comes to university admissions. Standing up and arguing your case develops communication skills and builds confidence.

Far from being 'narrow', I think my definition of 'soft skills' is very broad - interpersonal, communication, team-work, problem-solving, initiative - these are the very skills that independent schools impart to their students - and all state schools, be they comprehensive, grammar, free schools or Academies should be trying to mimic.

However, these can't come at the expense of academic excellence within the subjects. Although, if the timetable is extended later in the day and for longer periods of the year ( as is the case with Acadamies and the proposed Free Schools), there is no reason why both (academic and soft) skills can't be accommodated.

I don't think anyone has argued that children should not learn the values of being a citizen.

For me, 'citizenship' developed through the local community - parents, friends, neighbours, etc. I learnt that when taking the bus, you should give up your seat to elderly people. When shopping at the local shop, you should offer to help reach things that older people might struggle with. I learnt that we have a duty to keep our neighbourhood clean and pick up rubbish. When doing 'pocket money jobs' such as picking up the newspaper, I learnt to say please and thank you. I could go on listing these..

The point is - 'citizenship' is learnt from the community, and can't be imparted by teachers in 1 hour slots. Citizenship is seen by students as a 'doss' - they know that English, Maths, Science are the important subjects, and the others are just 'soft.'

Sadly, many children come from homes that do not impart such values. It is tempting to see the role of the teacher to step in and try and build these values. However, in a busy state school with 30+ pupils in a class, trying to tell the disinterested troublemaker that picking on people because they are LGBT is wrong is a pretty futile exercise.

As nice as it would be in several instances, a teacher will never supplant the role of a parent in a child's life. If what the teacher is saying is not supported by the parent or wider family then that child isn't going to become a nice 'global citizen' aware of minorities.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 10:15

O Spencer seems intent on taking on the mantle of PR manager for Toby Young and WLFS and I must admit his moderate tone goes some way to soothe over the rabble-rousing and aggressively sneering stance Toby himself often takes, certainly to the detriment of a school whose public pronouncements are keen to promote its inclusiveness.

No, Young doesn’t say he wants people like Sarah Molloy at WLFS but, at the risk of overloading this daft exchange with a Pinter-esque quality, it is what is not said, but mutually understood, that suggests her personal politics and ideologies chime with Toby’s own which encourages him to ask her if he she would like to apply for a post at the school. There is nothing here for us to assume he is offering her the opportunity because of her teaching experience or skills is there? Given Young’s well publicised scorn of what he caricatures as left wing indoctrinators and dumbing-downers (a view shared by many of the right wing, and Young himself has promoted this as a political issue) I think we can bet good money that he would not have extended the same invitation to someone with obviously opposite ideologies, no matter how well qualified or outstanding they were as teachers.

The truth is, Young’s declarations in his media outlets are too often at odds with what is being promoted in the name of inclusiveness at WLFS. His blogs and pieces in the Telegraph and Spectator often take a partisan view with the result (deliberate I think) of putting many people off from applying to the school if they don’t agree with his politics and ideologies. This looks like covert selection, designed to weed out people who are not academically rigorous enough or people who feel they have been offended or undermined by his statements.

Quite a few people find his public pronouncements “repulsive and divisive”, so covert selection has been successful in weeding out those parents who would, as O Spencer says, categorically NOT want to send their children to WLFS. We can therefore quite reasonably assume that the parents who have signed up are people who would agree with his opinions and politics, secure in the knowledge that kids who won’t fit in have been weeded out. This leaves the parents who want an Eton education for free then – at WLFS they don’t have to pretend to be Catholic or take a mortgage out for an as yet unproven “good education”

O Spencer says he does not know how he would have coped with the LGBT stuff and that awareness of treatment of minorities can be tackled in English and History. Well this is precisely how it was tackled at Stoke Newington School, yet Young who never visited the school or attended the LGBT concert, took it upon himself to pour a bucketload of scorn on the school and put out a number of untruths which, sadly, people including O Spencer have now taken as fact.

Young tried to wheedle his way out of the box marked Borderline Homophobe by posting this excuse here He claims he attacked the school in order to get back at people who blog on this very site, but the fact remains that his jibes and criticisms would send out a clear signal to LGBT people that the Chair and Founder of WLFS somehow thinks their lifestyle and sexuality worthy of ridicule. Not the most inclusive of environments then and, by implication, offputting to other minorities who might wonder how supported they would be at the school.

It was heartening this morning to hear that Ben Cohen, the recently retired rugby player, is launching his “Standup Foundation” to raise awareness and counter all forms of bullying – in schools, in sport, against LGBT people – and is going, with LGBT organisations, to Number 10 to discuss and get support for this. He is a wonderful example of great, inspiring leadership, genuinely committed to inclusion, diversity and acceptance, whose actions and statements are not at odds with the organization he has founded. He would make a great school leader. Had he taken on the challenge of setting up WLFS, my guess is a lot more people would be more convinced that Free Schools are not divisive, covertly selective and a refuge for the self-interested.

O. Spencer's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 11:03

Morning Allan,

I knew that my posts here would result in 'accusations' that I am Toby Young's mouthpiece. I can categorically state that I have no involvement whatsoever with Toby Young or the WLFS. I am not a parent and do not live in West London. I am a former pupil of a comprehensive school (left in 2005) and am having my 2 cents on what I feel is wrong with state education in this country.

I'm sure other parents who have helped set up the WLFS share some of Toby Young's political views, but I very much doubt if all of them do. As you insist on making this debate over politics/ideology - do you think that Henry Stewart's former life as a 'Revolutionary Socialist Feminist' in any way affects the decision of like-minded parents to send their children to his school?

You do not substantiate the earlier claim that Toby Young's views are 'repulsive and divisive' and provide no firm evidence of 'weeding out.' Sarah Molloy's tweets clearly show how unhappy she is with the ethos and emphasis of her school - and Toby Young reminded her that the WLFS will have an ethos much more suited to what she would like, and that perhaps she might consider applying.

The common view on this site is that parents who choose WLFS *MUST* have reached that decision not on the basis of the school's vision and objectives (available here: but because they are ideological partners of one of the people who has set the school up.

Of course, that view is absolute nonsense. People who want the best academic education for their children come from all walks of life and have wildly divergent political views.

To associate academic excellence as an aim with a particular political ideology is wrong.

We wouldn't dare suggest that people choose to send their children to Stoke Newington School because Henry Stewart shares their political views would we? So why try and smear parents and Toby Young when people decide to apply for WLFS?

Parents apply for school places because of reputation, results and because the school is part of the community.

In your analysis, nasty right-wing parents will choose the WLFS purely because Toby Young has similar views.

Your claim that Stoke Newington School handled the 'LGBT' 'diversity' issues as I suggested is partly incorrect. You also don't single out any 'untruths' which I have taken as fact?

As Henry Stewart said in the original piece, 'The whole of Year 8 had spent the day creating banners and other materials and this afternoon the whole year, over 200 students, walked round the local park displaying their messages.' That to me sounds like a deliberate attempt by the school to engage students in a 'parade' of diversity to enforce a one-dimensional view of important issues.

I agree with how Alan Turing was brought up as part of ICT, he is a very important individual who students should learn about.

However, the line about 'The PE Teacher talked about how the school’s first LGBT week had led him to challenge stereotypes in sport. Five years on the school has had champion girls teams in Rugby, Football, Basketball and Cricket' is almost laughable. So, school sports teams only achieve success when LGBT and 'diversity' is drummed into them?

You've said that 'too often' what Toby Young says/writes is at odds with the aims of the WLFS. This seems pretty silly, as surely Toby Young wouldn't have invested so much time and effort in the WLFS if its ambitions for academic excellence, a classical education and firm discipline were opposed to his own views? That is not to say that his personal political beliefs will be mirrored in the school's teaching, something I wholeheartedly doubt.

To repeat - there is nothing 'self-interested' about wanting a good education for your child. Please explain to me why you consider it to be?

As for covert selection - you'll find it in leafy suburbs where the selection is done by how much money the parents have to afford a mortgage or where parents must be good Catholics to get into a school - like the Oratory.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 18:00

O Spencer - you didn't mention the interpersonal, communication, team-work, problem-solving in your earlier posts. If you had I would have agreed with your definition. As it was it only seemed to cover debating and netball.

You seem to be under the impression that state schools don't encourage these skills. They do, and have been doing so for years. If your school didn't, then it was failing you, but please don't judge all schools by that standards. And if pupils believe citizenship is a doss, then the school is not doing it properly. It covers such things as government, democracy, voting, charity, volunteering, taxation and so on.

You are right that teachers can't supplant parents and if those parents are feckless then it's very difficult to counteract this. However, teachers can show by example and by sensitive teaching that there is another way.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 18:11

O. Spencer -

I’ll be brief:-

It is Toby Young who has turned this into a political issue. I suggest you read his blogs.

Henry Stewart is Chair of Governors at SNS. Unlike Young, he is not the founder. Unlike Young, he has not made a career of expounding his political affinities and ideologies all over the media in order to promote his own interests or that of his school, with the result that his comments could be interpreted as offputting. Therefore, I doubt whether many parents have any idea about his alleged former affiliation as a “revolutionary” and would not have made the decision to send their child (or not) to SNS based on his. They applied because it is a good local school. I think Young has more to be embarrassed about in respect of his “former life”.

I don’t know what Julia herself would find repulsive and divisive but quite a few people consider the way he promotes his political agenda and his hectoring over a school innocently celebrating diversity and inclusion unacceptable and incompatible with someone leading a school and schoolchildren. His polemics aggressively and publicly divide opinion and therefore compromise any notion of inclusivity or impartiality.

You have fallen into the trap of re-hashing Young’s assumptions about the LGBT concert and joining in the ridicule. Young wasn’t there and you have taken his prejudices on board to reveal your own.

Nothing wrong with finding the best school in the area for your child. Self-interest kicks in when your support of a system which benefits your own child but leaves other schools and other families vulnerable and segregated. There are much wider implication nationwide about the implementing of the FS policy which affect other people beyond one’s own interests.

You say that “Parents apply for school places because of reputation, results and because the school is part of the community” but WLFS has not even opened yet in its community and therefore has no reputation based on results or good teaching. So my reasonable guess is they are applying because of the grandiose and unsubstantiated promises being made by Young and/or because they are in agreement with his ideology or politics.

I am bemused that you bring up covert selection at the London Oratory. Young himself said that he is in partnership with this very same selective school. The head there denied it to parents. When challenged again, Young reiterated that he IS in partnership with them. Someone is being economical with the truth. Neither the Oratory nor Young come out of that association smelling of roses.

O. Spencer's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 18:20

Good evening Janet,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I'm sorry I didn't explicitly state those skills in my initial post - I had hoped it was clear that through activities such as netball, debating, drama, those skills are encouraged and developed.

I didn't assert that schools don't teach these at present. My point was that in order to best develop these citizenship skills, the parents of children, family members, neighbours and other members of the community all need to be involved.

I believe that the best way to develop the skills we both agree are essential is through practical activities. Getting involved with projects and competitions teaches students the value of these skills and how in addition to strong academic knowledge these skills are also vital for success in life.

The original post here concerns whether teachers in mainstream comprehensive schools are teaching content or other skills. This country has a massive skills shortage in science, so schools should be focusing on boosting attainment in Science through content, and not through other 'skills'.

A cursory glance at the WLFS or Michaela Community School websites will reveal the strong emphasis put on community values and global citizenship. However, these schools will ground these skills in a broad academic base that encourages a thirst for knowledge and nurtures inquisitive minds. Holding an LGBT parade and 'celebrating diversity' are silly politically-correct notions that don't produce well-rounded citizens.

I touch on similar issues in my response to Allan Beavis' post.

O. Spencer's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 19:05

Good evening Allan,

I have read Toby Young's blogs thank you very much, and I have cross-referenced his claims against the claims made on this site and others.

I think we need to delineate between Toby Young the Chairman of the Board of Governors at WLFS and Toby Young the conservative columnist. Of course they overlap. I would hardly expect Toby's employers at the Telegraph and the Spectator to employ Toby to write guffy press releases for the WLFS and not impassioned expositions of his own views and biting critiques of the present system. For a rational analysis of Toby Young's views of and plans for the WLFS, it is best to read his contributions on this site and others.

I personally find the savage attacks made upon the WLFS by Anti-Academies Alliance, trade union activists and other 'professional lefties' to be 'repulsive and divisive'. Remember, the WLFS has been accused of displacing disabled children and Toby Young has been accused of being a homophobe and sleeping with prostitutes. All unfounded and untrue claims. Parties on both sides are guilty of mud-slinging. I'm trying to weigh in with some objective analysis.

I disagree that the SNS 'celebrating diversity' post was a case of a school 'innocently celebrating diversity and inclusion.' The 'LGBT' agenda is political in nature and seeks to impress upon children a certain view of minorities and 'rights'. Anyone who remotely opposes this view is labeled as 'bigoted' and 'homophobic'. As I've said, I'm all for teaching children the role of homosexuals in history - Alan Turing, Oscar Wilde are only two good examples. I'm also all for minority rights, yet I disagree that the exact nature of teaching children about these minorities - through active 'parades' is necessarily a good thing.

I fail to see how I have 'fallen into the trap' of any re-hashing. I simply pointed you to relevant sections of the post in question -for instance saying that now the PE teacher had taken on board diversity issues, suddenly the school sports teams were champions.

Pointing out how ridiculous this sounds has suddenly 'revealed my prejudices.' I don't think so, and I would like you to retract any assertion that I am motivated by any 'prejudice' against a group of individuals.

Could you explain how, for instance, the WLFS will leave other schools and families 'vulnerable and segregated.' As I understand it, funding follows the pupil, and now with the pupil premium under-privileged pupils will have extra support provided by their schools whichever type of maintained school it may be.

You are right to point out that the claims of the WLFS to get 100% to pass 6 rigorous, academic GCSEs at A*-C are unfounded as of now. Look at Mossbourne Academy, where a similar ethos exists with a very 'challenging' set of pupils and look at the results there. I'd expect to see a very high % of GCSE passes and the EBacc at the WLFS. Parents should be reassured that with this ethos , such results are fairly likely.

If some parents are motivated to apply to WLFS because of an ideological affinity with Toby Young - so what? What right does anyone else have to interfere in a parent's decision about the best education for their child?

I'm not sure about this Oratory business. I'm not a die-hard defender of the notion of free schools, Toby Young nor the WLFS - but I feel the complaints leveled against them here and elsewhere are misguided and in some cases factually wrong.

Could you go into the wider implications of the free schools policy? If demand for current bog-standard comps slumps because parents have a good alternative in the form of an academically rigorous free school, I don't see the national tragedy in that comp closing as clearly there is no demand for it?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 19:43

1. I think you make a valid point about the overlaps in Young's career. Henry and most other governors have avoided this and have not left themselves open to accusations, as Young has. Quite difficult to separate his founder role from the polemicist role, especially when he himself mergers both. As I said, quite offputting for a lot of people and at odds with promoting inclusion.

2. I won't retract any assertion, if you don't mind. The truth is, the more you reply, the more you reveal your barely concealed prejudices and intolerance.

3. Mossbourne does very well. As do a lot of maintained schools. There are failing Academies just as there failing LA maintained schools. Many maintained schools are excellent. Academies don't have the monopoly on good teaching. Free Schools promise much but they have not opened yet to put this to the test like existing schools do. WLFS's reputation rests on unsubstantiated claims and the reputation of Toby Young which some find attractive, other repulsive. If he spoke and attacked less, we would know much less about him and judge the quality of the school on its merits.

4. Yes, so what if people base on Toby Young's ideological affinity but you are the one who brought up whether people might send their children to SNS because of it's Governors membership of some obscure organization in the past. No they don't because they don't know about it and Henry doesn't use every media spotlight to publicise it. How clear can I be?

5. If you don't mind I won't go on about the implications of the free schools policy. I haven't the time or inclination quite frankly - I suggest you look at the many postings here or on the internet and get yourself more broadly informed about the issues. You might have your eyes opened a bit but that does assume you want to actually open them!

6. I didn't know there had been allegations that Young had slept with prostitutes!! Only that he had a self publicised history of drug and alcohol abuse, so thanks for sharing!! It does make membership of some "Revolutionary Feminist Movement" in one's youth quite dull and respectable in comparison!

O. Spencer's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 20:37

Evening Allan,

Apparently, my suggesting that the role of LGBT people in history and society is better taught through historical and literary studies such as reading works by Wilde or looking at the history of computing in WW2 reveals my 'barely concealed prejudices and intolerance.' Well, fancy that. I'm not prejudiced against LGBT people, thank you very much. Nor am I intolerant of them - I fully support full civic and political rights for every citizen.

I think we're in agreement that these issues are best tackled -as occurred in some respects at SNS - through proper classes. Where we disagreed - and where you did not reply to my point -was on the PE Teacher/ success point and the virtue of having children make banners and go on a parade.

I'm impressed that in your estimation I have gone from having a nice 'moderate tone' to now being intolerant. Not bad for a day's work, eh!

Sadly, in many cases Toby Young's blog posts are in response to the array of distortions, misinformation and downright smears made about him and the WLFS. Depending of course which side of the free schools debate you are on - you may find Toby Young's posts insufferable, or you may find the accusations made against free schools and the WLFS in particular wrong.

I think we crossed wires on point 4. I meant that this site and many posters on it have emphasised Toby Young's right-wing credentials as reasons for like minded right-wingers to send their children there. I made the point that the school's academic focus and promotion of, for example, music and healthy competition in sport were reasons for parents choosing to apply. I contrasted this belief that the WLFS is a 'right-wing' school with the idea that the SNS, with its Chair of Governors a former 'Revolutionary Socialist Feminist' and emphasis on equality and diversity - is a 'left wing' institution and parents would see the arguably implicit left-wing views of staff as a reason to apply. You are right that Henry Stewart's past (and present?) views are difficult to find, and right to point out the subtle difference in Toby Young's position as 'founder' and Henry Stewart's position. Sorry if I didn't make that clear in earlier posts.

When you said
'Self-interest kicks in when your support of a system which benefits your own child but leaves other schools and other families vulnerable and segregated'

I just wanted a little clarification as to how other schools and other families are segregated by the free schools policy. You then mentioned wider implications - I wasn't asking for your take on the whole policy and it's pros and cons - just a bit of detail to back your point up.


Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 22:33

I already said that at SNS the bulk of LGBT Awareness was included in classes. I don't think going to the park for an hour once a year constitutes valuable time taken out of academic curriculum do you? They did not "go on a parade".

The staff - not the governance - do not make a habit of publicising their political views, unlike Young, so I don't think you can crudely label SNS a "left-wing" institution. It is a school, for Heaven's sake. Henry's views are difficult to find possibly because he hasn't made a career or a living out of publicising them. You have dredged up some alleged revolutionary organization for Henry and false allegations about prostitutes for Toby to add onto to his already colourful youthful escapades.

The bit of detail you seek is well documented on this site. Please go and read them as I would just be repeating here what other people have said in ways for more patiently and eloquently than I can manage

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 06:40

All state schools are free. All state schools are available unless over-subscribed which is why there is a system by which parents can complain. Unfortunately, with free schools and academies, parents will be unable to complain to local authorities as at present. The only person who can compel an academy (and by extension, a free school) to take a child will be the Secretary of State.

And is the West London Free School so different? It is true that the head has said that the curriculum will not be suitable for all (unlike a true comprehensive school). However, it will offer subjects available in other state schools even the much publicised inclusion of Latin. The Times Education Supplement, 17 June 2011, ran an article entitled: "Dead and loving it: how Latin conquered the comprehensives". The report revealed that "research carried out by the Cambridge Schools Classic Project (CSCP) reveals that, in England, 511 comprehensives now offer Latin... This represents a 9% rise in the number of comprehensives offering Latin since May 2007 and a dramatic quadrupling since 2000".

So a growth in the availability of Latin in comprehensive schools has been going on for ten years. What a pity there hasn't been more publicity about this. Perhaps the quiet revolutions are the most effective ones.

And to all present and future pupils of Latin, the TES article has a crib of useful phrases including:

Canis studia domestici devoravit, which translates into "The dog ate my homework".

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 07:00

O Spencer - in reply to your 6.20pm post. It seems we are in agreement about skills. Unfortunately, the excessive emphasis on exam results means that these non-cognitive skills may be squeezed out of lessons in the relentless drive for league-table position. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned about this in their latest Economic Survey of the UK.

You mention the skills shortage in science. This is indeed a worry. However, the UK is well-placed to fill this gap as UK school pupils were above the OECD average for science in the 2009 PISA figures (although you wouldn't think so if you just relied on the extremely negative portrayal of these figures by the Government and certain sections of the media). The earlier (but smaller) Trends in Maths and Science Survey revealed that English students were above their European counterparts in both subjects.

However, these good results do not mean that everything is wonderful. The Times Educational Supplement, 17 June 2011, reported evidence given to the Common's science and technology select committee. The committee was told that a decline in science experiments was "due to exam pressure", and the emphasis on results meant that pupils just wanted to be given the answer rather than discovering it for themselves. This bodes ill for the future of science. As a member of the Earth Science Teachers' Association said, "Schools are good at getting children to pass exams: they are not so good at producing good scientists".

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