Wondering what the latest was in the ol’ secondary school debate, were you? Fear not because we are able to bring you a brief and possibly quite inaccurate update. It’s certainly preferable to an accurate but overly long one, that’s for sure*.

The Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, with assistance from the British Humanist Association, is pushing ahead with its legal challenge to El Brute’s decision to support a voluntary aided Roman Catholic school Twickenham. The issue is a divisive one but El Brute press on regardless. In this brave new world of free schools and academies (where a maximum of 50% of places can be faith based) the decision to pursue a voluntary aided school which gives the Church rights to select all pupils according to faith seems out of kilter with current education policy as well as the views of many people in the borough. Under the Education Act, proposals for free schools and academies should be explored before going down the voluntary aided route, something not done in this case and made a tad more bizarre given the Council’s own statement that it is “encouraging schools within the borough to convert to academy status, within the framework offered by the recent broadening of the Government’s academies programme”. Obviously some Councillors know better. El Brute’s decision is now being put to the test by the RISC and BHA through the legal system with a judicial review being sought. As part of their initial response the Council has asked for names of people against whom costs could be enforced, suggesting they’re not in the mood to compromise on this issue any time soon.

Meanwhile the New School For Twickenham brigade received a set-back. Their bid to get approval for a new free school in Twickenham did not get the go-ahead for a 2013 opening from the Department of Education. The campaign had also set its eyes on Twickenham’s Clifden Road site (now bagged by the RC school, of course) as a possible location, although other option were being explored. The school would have been, and of course may still become, an inclusive local school but for the moment it’s a case of “carry on campaigning” with a view to getting approval in the next round. Down the road in Hampton, the plans for a Marharishi School also failed to get the Gove-ahead.

And finally, in case you didn’t spot it a month or so ago, El Brute is proceeding with its plans to re-introduce sixth forms to the borough’s schools by September 2014. Some see this as an expensive and unnecessary exercise, others as a move to widen the choice for post-16 education in the borough from just one single option to more than just one single option.

New School For Twickenham Campaign
Richmond Council Education pages

* not necessarily true