The travails of Michael “Oiky” Gove’s Free Schools revolution have continued this past week, with Warwick Mansell’s suggestion that another had been rated “Inadequate” by Ofsted proved true as news emerged that The Hawthorne’s Free School on Merseyside had indeed got the lowest possible rating. And the saga of Oldfield School, in Bath, is, as they say, ongoing.
I wouldn't celebrate just yet if I were you, Tobes
But the most significant news, and potentially most worrying to all those parents in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham ambitious for their children, is that there is to be yet another change of head teacher at none other than the West London Free School, the brainchild of the loathsome Toby Young. WLFS opened its doors in 2011. So that’s a third head teacher in three years.
Colour me unconvinced, because I am: this appears to be at least the tenth teacher departure from WLFS since it opened. Moreover, it seems the impression was given by the departing head teacher that his predecessor was still very much involved, despite “moving upstairs”, but he, too, has since departed. Why there is such a high turnover of staff is worrying, but Tobes’ advert for another head is worse.
“The West London Free School is an all-ability secondary school that asks every child to do at least eight academic GCSEs or IGCSEs” it begins. Does this mean “study at least eight subjects to GCSE level”? If so, that is how the text should read. One might have expected the Hon Toby Daniel Moorsom Young, who took a First in PPE at Oxford, to have a more coherent grasp of the English language.
And, as the man said, there’s more: WLFS “takes children from across the local community and gives them a classical liberal education”. Political interference klaxon sounding long and loud on that one. Why so? Tobes, who is an ardent supporter of the Tory Party, describes himself as a “Classical Liberal”. Indeed, the label is another way for the right to reclaim the word “Liberal” for themselves.
Perhaps Tobes is unaware just how loaded that remark is: describing the kind of education on offer at the school over which he presides in the same terms as his political orientation suggests a disturbing and only slightly illegal slanting of the curriculum. No sensible school administrator should even suggest such a move. Did he not get someone else to read through the advert before placing it?
And that is not an isolated slip: Tobes tells that the successful candidate will “Be committed to a classical liberal education” (mind you, he also wants the new head to have “flare [sic] and dynamism”). Perhaps, in the interests of clarity and openness, Tobes would like to explain his choice of an expression that means “right-wing” when it comes to the kind of job from which that sort of thing should be absent.
Then he can also explain why there is such a high turnover of staff. We’re waiting.