Last month, after I had exposed the reality of the goings-on at the West London Free School (WLFS) that led up to the sudden departure of former head Sam Naismith, the loathsome Toby Young took exception to what I had written, accusing me of “libelling” him and spreading “malicious falsehoods”. However, and in this case there is a significantly sized however, Tobes has now come clean.
Tobes still there in the Weinbunker
In what I suspect he expected to be a puff piece for his introduction of new WLFS head Hywel Jones, Tobes was challenged on the slightly inconvenient fact that the school was now on its third head teacher in three years, and that Naismith had left not just in mid-year, but during term time. The Standard says the departure “shocked parents”. Tobes agrees that it “looks strange”.
He then tells that “What he would really like to do is establish an elite hockey academy but I am not sure his passion lay in creating the kind of school that the founders always envisioned”. And this is what I said last month: “But let us start with the ‘consultancy’ set up under the aegis of Naismith, which was, I’m told, a hockey academy”. Spot the difference, anyone?
So what did Tobes have to say after I posted that? Here it comes: “To my knowledge, Sam Naismith at no point set up a ‘hockey academy’ during the course of his employment at the school”. There were other points rebutted with the rather similar “I know nothing about ...” and “I know of no instances in which ...”, which makes one wonder what the WLFS CEO really does know about his own school.
And he signed off with this broadside: “Tim, I'm used to being libelled in the public square – it comes with the territory. But can I ask you to stop libelling members of the school's staff? These malicious falsehoods about a group of dedicated, hard-working professionals have got to stop”. Well, on at least one of those counts, Tobes has now come as close as can be expected to admitting I was right.
He could also come clean over the delays to building work at Palingswick House in Hammersmith, where it is now admitted that “contaminants” have been found. Spit it out Tobes – the building has a problem with asbestos, and removing it will take time and cost us taxpayers yet more money. Instead, he waffles on about the superior attributes of what he calls a “classical, liberal” education.
“Broadly the difficulties we had have been in finding heads who really understand what’s involved in a classical liberal education and what the founders’ vision is for a traditional knowledge-based education ... In Hywel we have found the head who ideally we would have begun with” Tobes tells the Standard. But he lavished similar praise on Packer and Naismith – and look what happened to them.
Still, confession is good for the soul, even if Tobes won’t admit it to me directly.