Tubby Isaacs wrote:
Seeing that I can't read those Telegraph people, can someone tell me? Does their defence amount to anything more than "lots of people have expressed an interest in the free school". Does it query the surplus places argument?
This is Toby Young's piece in full:
There's a disgraceful attempt to smear Katharine Birbalsingh in this morning's Observer. Under the headline "Katharine Birbalsingh criticised over 'wasteful' free school project", the paper's policy editor Daniel Boffey tries to create the impression that there's growing local opposition to the Michaela Community School – Birbalsingh's free school – which is due to open in Wandsworth this September.
The article is misleading in three respects.
First, Boffey refers to Jane Eades, the leader of the opposition to the new school, as a "retired teacher from Wandsworth". What he neglects to mention is that she is one of the national organisers of the Anti-Academies Alliance, an organisation with close ties to the Socialist Workers' Party. This is a bit like quoting Christine Blower saying something against Michael Gove's education reforms and describing her as "a former modern languages teacher" rather than the General Secretary of the NUT.
Second, Boffey uncritically regurgitates one of the key bits of misinformation being disseminated by the Anti-Academies Alliance and its Trotskyist allies, namely, that there isn't any need for a new secondary school in Wandsworth and, as a result, the Department for Education is wasting precious resources that would be better spent elsewhere. In support of this view, Boffey points out that "official figures" show that there will be a "surplus" of 2,000 secondary school places in the borough once the Michaela Community School has opened. What he fails to point out is that the proposed site for the new school is on the Lambeth border and in Lambeth there's a huge shortage of secondary school places. Indeed, Birbalsingh originally wanted to set the school up in Lambeth but was unable to do so thanks to the opposition of the left-wingers – officers and councillors – who control the local authority.
Third, Boffey reproduces another of the smears being put about by the Anti-Academies Alliance which is that the school's proposed site is currently home to 400 local businesses and that the opening of the school will inevitably lead to job losses. Again, he's left out a crucial bit of information which is that the owners of the site in question – the Trident Centre – have signalled their intention to sell it willy nilly. Consequently, if it isn't bought by the Department for Education, it will just be sold to a developer and the 400 business will have to move out in any case.
Katharine Birbalsingh is an experienced and hard-working teacher who has dedicated her life to public service. The reason she's being targeted by the hard left in South London is because she had the temerity to criticise state education at the 2010 Conservative Party conference and is therefore regarded as an apostate. Next time a journalist from the Observer or the Guardian writes about her, he or she should take the trouble to find out the whole story and not just obediently trot out the lines being disseminated by the Socialist Workers' Party and its various fronts.
And here is a section from Birbalsingh's:
We hope to attract a mixed multicultural and multiclass intake of children from Wandsworth, Lambeth and Merton because we are on the border of all three boroughs. South London has a massive shortage of secondary places, confirmed by all the statistics. By Lambeth’s own admission, South Lambeth is the worst hit for secondary places. Many of Wandsworth's schools are selective. We are going to be one of the few Wandsworth schools that will not be selective in any way, and the only one that will be taking a banded intake in order to ensure we get a truly comprehensive intake.