Nothing, it seems, rewards failure as much as having connections, knowing the right kinds of people. And no-one epitomises both failure and being properly connected than the loathsome Toby Young, who very nearly made a complete hash of running the Free School he helped to set up, but who has now been - otherwise inexplicably - rewarded with the role of Director at the New Schools Network (NSN) charity.
Another less than grown up contribution from Tobes
The NSN claims to be independent, but in 2010 it was bunged, sorry, awarded, half a million notes by the DfE, at that time under the less than auspicious leadership of Michael “Oiky” Gove. And NSN was put at the heart of the Government’s decision-making process on Free Schools, as Tom Clark at the Guardian explained.
“The [grant] decision embeds NSN at the heart of a policy that was inspired by Sweden's independent state-funded schools, by giving it a hand in the application process. The department's website tells parents: ‘All proposers interested in setting up a free school must contact the New Schools Network to discuss their ideas.’ The guidance goes on to say that unsatisfactory forms, which need more work, will be referred back to NSN”.
Rachel Wolf, a previous Director of NSN, had been an advisor to Gove. Even before the 2010 General Election, it was noted that “Of the organisation’s nine listed trustees and advisers, six have a direct interest in different elements of the government’s existing academies programme”. Dominic Cummings, Gove’s chief polecat at the DfE, has worked at NSN. COO Natalie Evans had been at Policy Exchange - as had Gove.
So the claim that NSN is “independent” is, shall we say, an interesting one. And why they would want someone like Tobes on board is mystifying - except for his miraculous ability to get himself on the telly, where he makes no more sense than in the papers, and of course to effortlessly fail upwards. And failure is what he has specialised in.
The West London Free School (WLFS), co-founded by Tobes, went through three Head Teachers in worryingly short order, with the second of those, Sam Naismith, being caused to move on not at year end, or even end of term, but mid-week during term time. Zelo Street covered the Naismith affair at some length (HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE), and from this there was one inescapable conclusion: Tobes was utterly and totally inept.
Yes, Toby Young was not fit to be CEO of WLFS. Had it been a local authority school, he would have been sacked on the spot. Instead, he was allowed to carry on in the post and only last year, so I’m told, was he “eased out”, and allowed to tell how he was voluntarily handing over the reins to someone else, honestly.
Toby Young is not fit to be put in charge of any significantly-sized organisation. That he has been gifted charge of an apparently right-leaning charity tells you all you need to know about how being correctly connected is preferable in Metropolitan political circles to being able to correctly distinguish arse from elbow. As Graham Linehan put it, Tobes is “Literally one of the dumbest men in the UK”. He’s called Captain Bellend - because he’s a Bellend.