While the loathsome Toby Young pops up occasionally at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs and suggests that his readers “look over there” at another example of why Free Schools are really very wonderful, his own West London Free School (WLFS) appears to be in serious trouble. And the lack of candour surrounding recent events is not going to help his cause one bit.
Time to get out of the Weinbunker, Tobes
When former head teacher Sam Naismith departed suddenly last month, even the Governors were tight-lipped about the circumstances. This blog has acquired details of the official line: the Governing body, it was told, were “surprised” at the news of his departure. This was “a combination of personal matters” that “brought things to a head”. The fog of officialise is now being rapidly decoded.
Palingswick House, main entrance: no sign of any of the necessary work being done (Photos (c) Tom Barry 2014)
There were two, perhaps unconnected, strands to the WLFS crisis: one is the apparently less than totally above board behaviour of Sam Naismith that led to his being sent out the door, while the other is the almost total lack of progress in the adaptation of Palingswick House on King Street in Hammersmith, where the work outlined in the WLFS blog back in June 2012 has not taken place.
Rear of the main building at Palingswick House. There are some broken windows, but, again, no sign of building work
Zelo Street regulars will recall that Tobes and his team had spent well north of £9 million – that’s £9 million of our money, folks – on an office block on Bridge Street in Hammersmith, which had next to no outdoor space, and a need for pupils and staff not to travel there using cars. The reasons for this were laid out in a post by Tom at Boris Watch: Palingswick House was seemingly not big enough.
The former annexe at the rear of Palingswick House has been demolished - but the replacement four storey structure has not yet been started
Now, photos taken only last week clearly show that the work required to make Palingswick House fit for purpose by the start of the next school year has not been carried out. The site, empty since all those pesky voluntary groups were turfed out by the now former administration at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, is even showing signs of neglect and disrepair.
The second strand in the saga of Tobes’ Very Wonderful new school is the behaviour of Naismith. Such was the aura around WLFS, much of it generated by fawning press coverage in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, that other schools believed that tapping into the supposed expertise possessed by Naismith and his team would be A Very Good Thing.
And Naismith, it seems, was only too pleased to pander to this belief. The only problem for Tobes and his team was that their school’s resources appear to have been used for this, shall we say, external consultancy, but whatever rewards came back in return did not seem to accrue to the school. More detail on what appears to have been a most creative free market exercise is expected in a few days’ time.
This looks like incompetence and corruption. How will Tobes explain it away?