School Debate: Two Things for You

The great secondary school debate is getting hot, hot, hot. And twickerati has gone all biased as a result. You will recall that the recent online petition calling for any new secondary school in the Borough to be an inclusive school got an airing at a Council meeting last month. You may also remember that there was a show of support before the debate by those wanting an inclusive school and that was a counter-demonstration by those who don’t want an inclusive school, but instead want one with an admissions policy driven by Roman Catholic faith-based criteria. Such a situation would of course give Roman Catholics more secondary school choices in the Borough than everybody else: all the usual secondary schools, plus their own school. Should Council taxpayers be funding this? We don’t think so. Under the arrangements for a voluntary aided church school, the taxpayer pays all the running costs and c90% of the capital costs while the church pays c10% of the capital costs and controls the admissions. Here at twickerati HQ we think that’s not right. We reckon that religious beliefs are a private matter and that the world we live in today is very different from the one that existed when many of our church schools were founded over one hundred years ago. What’s wrong with teaching children about religion, belief, respect and tolerance in an inclusive way, without pursuing any particular agenda?

Richmond Inclusive School Supporters

The current online petition calling for a Catholic secondary is to be debated at York House on Tuesday, 1st November. Given that the Council declined to respond to the inclusive school petition until after this upcoming debate, the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign are hoping for a good turnout on the 1st to show that a great many people in the Borough support an inclusive, rather than an exclusive, school.

You can turn up and show your support:
Tue 1st November
6.00pm
York House

UPDATE: This debate has now been moved to 13th December although the Council will be discussing a Lib Dem motion calling for consultation on this issue. Details here.

But that’s not all. Oh no…
The Catholic Diocese of Westminster has now formally submitted two requests for consent from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, to publish proposals for Voluntary Aided schools on the Clifden Road site (the home of Richmond Adult College, now intended for the proposed Catholic school). In addition to the secondary school it looks as if a single form entry primary school could be on the table too. According to RISC, if Gove refuses then that will be an important, but not necessarily final, victory for the Inclusive Schools brigade. But if he does grant consent then a formal process beings which will include some consultation, but only on the Council’s terms. That means El Brute will decide what happens and there’s no right of appeal.

So where now?
RISC want you to write to your MP asap asking for consent to be refused or at least delayed pending an open and meaningful consultation about the Clifden Road site:
* St Vince can be written to at: cablev@parliament.uk or by letter to his constituency office at 2a Lion Road, Twickenham TW1 4JQ. (You’ll need to include your home address).
* Zac can be found at: zac@zacgoldsmith.com or by letter to: 12 King Street, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1ND. (Again, home address required)

Needless to say we’ve plagiarised most of the above from the RISC but we’re hoping they’ll forgive us. We should also say that this twickerati site makes no pretence to provide objective, impartial news. You can get that elsewhere if you really want it.

LINKS:
* www.richmondinclusiveschools.org.uk
* Previous twickerati item on this issue is here.
* LBRuT petitions page is here. With both the “Inclusive” and Roman Catholic school petitions on it.

UPDATE: School Petition Debate Moved from 1 Nov to 13th Dec. Details here.

7 Comments

Filed under Council, Local Issues & News, Schools

7 responses to “School Debate: Two Things for You

  1. The special meeting of Richmond Council will be on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 at 7 pm, i.e. before the Council meeting already scheduled that evening. The agenda will be published 5 clear working days before the meeting: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/home/council_government_and_democracy/democratic_processes_and_events/calendar_of_meetings.htm?

    The LD account of the latest twist is:
    • Cabinet member tries to cover up breach of procedure on catholic school plan [Oct 20]
    http://twickenhamlibdems.co.uk/en/article/2011/525680/cabinet-member-tries-to-cover-up-breach-of-procedure-on-catholic-school-plan
    ‘ . . “Cllr Hodgins is clearly trying to cover up the fact that the Conservative administration has bypassed the lawful democratic procedures of the Council and offered the Clifden Road site to the Catholic Church without any legal authority to do so.
    At no stage has a decision to offer the site to the Catholic Church been taken to a Council committee or open to public consultation. We have therefore asked the Chief Executive of the Council to investigate this apparent serious breach of procedure.” . . ‘

    How long before this bungling Council is put on ‘special measures’ by Government?

  2. UPDATE #1:
    The local Lib Dems have called an extraordinary council meeting to kick off a proper debate about what type of school should be provided on the site at Clifden Road in Twickenham. Lib Dem leader Stephen Knight also wants an answer to why the Tory Council Leader Lord True has offered the site to the Catholic church on a 125 year lease with just a peppercorn rent. To be fair, it’s not an unreasonable question to ask…

    Lib Dem item is here: http://bit.ly/q9kvqj

    UPDATE #2:
    And there’s another bizarre twist in this tale highlighted by RISC. In its approach to the Government’s Education Supremo, Micky Gove, the Diocese of Westminster indicated that it had been offered the Clifden site by Richmond Council. But it now seems that El Brute itself is less convinced that this has actually happened, indicating that there are still conditions to be met over the purchase of the site which meant that a decision on its future could not yet be made. The RISC has issued a press release on this rather confusing state of affairs. Curiouser and curiouser.

    RISC Press release: http://bit.ly/pV8pOJ

  3. In response to comments on here and Twitter about ‘taking sides’ and ‘bias’ perhaps a few words of explanation are in order. Yes, a rare excursion into the personal:
    * The points about rising demand for school places has been covered on here previously.
    * This website is not the same as the RISC. The RISC is running a campaign, putting forward its arguments in a sensible and clear way. Luckily this site is not obliged to be clear or sensible but does support the RISC’s aim.
    * Richmond Council under the the leadership of Lord True seems to have been incredibly eager to help get the Catholic School idea off the ground (e.g. witness the plans for Clifden Road). Rather than addressing the issue of schooling with a proper discussion, LBRuT’s apparent prioritisation of a taxpayer funded school which will not be open to 90% of children in the Borough just seems wrong. And of course, many places are expect to go to children from outside the Borough.
    * I don’t think that in our multicultural society we should be funding and prioritising schools for particular faiths whether Catholic, C of E, Muslim, Jewish or whatever. That may be an issue beyond the remit of LBRuT but the Council should not be helping push this agenda through.
    * The suggestion that because a group makes up 10% of the population, they are entitled to their own school also seems wrong. If we do that for religious groups why not for everyone else who can get a lobby group together? Yes, the Free Schools issue would seem to allow that but at least their admissions policies are supposed to be inclusive.
    * The RISC is running its own campaign and making its own views clear but my personal view is that any new secondary school should be a non-religious, inclusive school. Or possibly even a boys school to counter the Waldegrave factor, although that would of course exclude 50% of children. You can’t expect consistency in everything!

  4. TedF

    No, Danny is definitely not right because the main bone of contention is not faith schools per se, but rather tax-payer funded faith schools. Twickerati asks the question “what’s wrong with inclusivity” but the main point is clear – why should those of us who can’t send our kids there pay for the school?

    The Catholic Church is definitely not short of a few bob, paying no tax and spending lavishly on it’s clergy. Why don’t they dip into their vast fortunes and pay for their closed-door school themselves? There is absolutely zero justification for anyone else to pay for it.

    You also have to wonder why the Catholic Church feels that it needs to change the argument from “why should the tax payer fund your school” to “what’s wrong with faith based schools”. They ARE two totally different questions, and the only one we need to ask is the former. Don’t get bogged down in relegion, this is purely about money.

  5. mountvinson

    I agree with Danny. There are two separate issues here, one about limiting choice based on religion, and the other about the relationship between state funded education and faith organisations.

    For the record, I am against both, and I said as much in my e-mail to Dr.C

  6. Danny

    Twickerati takes sides… nice. Anyway, although the point you make about how religion should be a private matter and churches should not run schools is a valid one, it is not this argument RISC or the council really has any say in – that’s a central government issue. The main issue that RISC is campaigning on is that there will not be enough places for children in the borough’s secondary schools anyway, so we should be prioritising building schools for everyone first.