The blogger otherwise known as Disappointed Idealist self-describes thus: “I’m an experienced teacher and Head of Department at a large comprehensive school in London”. Having also worked for some years at the Department for Education, this is someone whose insight into our education system is a comprehensive one indeed. And their latest blog is not good news for the loathsome Toby Young.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
Categorised under “Academy myths”, it is titled “Toby Young and the West London Free School : how to avoid educating your community”, and the gist of it is that the intake of the WLFS does not accurately reflect the end product of the nearest six primary schools, especially for those pupils who have English as an additional language, or EAL in education parlance.
In summary, if WLFS’ intake had similar number of those with Special Educational Needs (SEN), English as an Additional Language (EAL) and qualifying for Free School Meals (FSM) to those leaving the nearest local primaries, the SEN number would be 9 (it’s 4), EAL would be 45 (it’s only 14) and those eligible for FSM 38, against the real world figure of 30. Thus the post’s title.
That much makes interesting reading, but Tobes was not for leaving it there. Sadly, though, his attempts at self-justification only dug him in deeper. “Percentage of households on benefits in ward the school is in is exactly the same as percentage of kids on FSM at the school” he protested. But this is only valid if WLFS’ catchment area is only from that area, which it is not.
Then Tobes attempts to get his critic to “look over there” by suggesting “To make your analysis meaningful, you should include the six nearest prep schools as well” (he means private primary schools). But, as was pointed out to him, only two are within the same distance as the six state primaries, and there is movement both from state to private and vice versa on moving to secondary school.
Tobes’ final effort was to question the figures: “Where did you get your data from about the WLFS?” he demanded. On being spoon-fed the specific URL, he deploys yet another smokescreen by telling “it’s your numbers in brackets that confused me. You should change them as the total sample is 360 children, not 120”. This would only be relevant if there was a significantly uneven spread between years.
Toby Young has tried to rubbish the conclusions reached by Disappointed Idealist three times, and each time his excuse has been shown to be worthless. WLFS has a far lower proportion of SEN and EAL pupils than might be expected, and a lower number of FSM ones. Were it an independent school, that would be Tobes’ business and not ours. But it’s our money, and so it’s our business.
Why is WLFS not properly representing its community? Answers, please, Tobes.