Here are a few updates (both real and imaginary) to keep you up to date…
BELIEVE IN GOVE!
Imagine the scene. You’ll have to imagine it pretty hard because it never happened and almost certainly never will. We can but dream…
After a chance encounter in the corridors of Westminster, Richmond Council Leader Lord True and Education Secretary Michael Gove are sitting in a small office overlooking the Thames. Outside it’s dusk and the autumn drizzle is drifting down from leaden skies. But they’re inside, toasting crumpets in front of a roaring fire, debating the relative merits of JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis. The conversation suddenly stops as a familiar sound from the 1980s floats through the fug of pipe smoke from an old Roberts wireless burbling away in a corner. Their eyes light up in shared recognition. It’s early 80s popsters Spandau Ballet. The men start humming along and then, unprompted, Gove joins the singing…
“Gold! (Gove) always believe in your soul, you’ve got the power to know I’m indestructible, always believe in me, coz I’m Gove! (Gove).” The men smile as the voice of Spandau’s Tony Hadley tapers off.
Gove says, “I bloody love that song, I do.”
True replies, “I agree Michael. And in fact, I’d go as far as to quote their number one hit, their 1983 tribute to me…” And with that, True strikes up a hearty tenor and sings, “Why do I find it hard to write the next line? Oh I want the truth to be said. Ah ah ah aaaah ha, I know this much is True.”
True stops singing and they chuckle like a couple of school boys in the dimly lit office. By now the music on the radio has moved on. It’s playing “Eighties” by post-punk rockers Killing Joke. Gove mutters, “I wonder whatever happened to Jaz Coleman,” before turning it down a notch. Both men return to their literary discussion. Spandau Ballet are forgotten for the time being. Their crumpets are ready.
What was the point of all of that? Nothing! We simply don’t know if Gove and True are fans of Spandau Ballet. And we probably never will. But at least that song is in your head now. Gove! (Gove).
SCHOOL DRAMA CONTINUES
Meanwhile back in the real world in Richmond Borough, the shenanigans over St Richard Reynolds college, the planned Voluntary Aided Catholic school continue. As you know, the Council’s approval of the school is being challenged in court by the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) with support from the British Humanist Association (BHA). El Brute says that it has a long running commitment to support such a school. The spirit of the Education Act seems to be that new schools should be academies or free schools in the first instance but the Council has put its weight behind a Voluntary Aided (VA) school. The VA status means that the school can determine its own admissions policy and offer 100% faith based places, as opposed to a maximum of 50% for an academy or free school. The judicial review is centred around the interpretation of the circumstances under which a Council can jump straight to a VA ‘solution’ without actively seeking other proposals first. So far, so same. But now the judicial review has a new dynamic added to the mix…
El Brute recently announced that the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove (Gove!) has applied to take part in the legal proceedings as an “interested party”. The Council press release says, “He [Gove (Gove!)] has stated that his view is that under the new legislation when a local authority is considering a proposal made under s.11(1A)… the local authority is not under a duty to invite proposals for an academy before lawfully being able to approve the proposal”. Much of this revolves around things like the ‘need’ for a new school as opposed to the ‘desire’ for a new school. El Brute has maintained there is no ‘need’ for a school but that there is a ‘desire’ for one, albeit from a small but well organised section of the community, which means they can take the VA route. The press release goes on to say things like, and for brevity we paraphrase very inaccurately, opponents of the plan should “think of the little children” and “the RISC and BHA are meddling in local democracy”.
Obviously the Council would like the case to go away but some of the strength of reaction in their response seems a bit bizarre given that a judge, yes, a real proper judge (n.b. a judge not a politician), has already said there are sufficient grounds for a judicial review. Furthermore, given that opposition to the VA plan came from many sections of the local community long before the BHA got involved, some might even view Lord True going on about the BHA the whole time as a bit irritating, a bit out of touch. There are many residents who don’t agree with the Council’s approach to this whole issue irrespective of their sympathies or otherwise for a humanist organisation but who welcome the BHA’s involvement in the judicial review.
Despite the rhetoric and strongly worded press releases from both sides, the judicial review will go ahead and we’ll soon see what the real legal experts have to say about it all.
TURING HOUSE SCHOOL
Meanwhile, the ‘new local school for Twickenham’ brigade are continuing to develop and promote their plans. Their inclusive free school proposal did not make the cut for 2013 opening but they’re trying again in the hope of getting the go-ahead for September 2014. It’s now got a name, Turing House School, and a possible site, at NPL in Teddington. Why that name? Well, clever readers (and also those with access to Wikipedia) will know that Alan Turing, Bletchley hero and pioneer of modern computing, worked at NPL after the war hence the local connection. Of course, the Clifden Road site in Twickenham would have been the school’s first choice but that’s earmarked for the Catholic School and so Twickenham’s new inclusive community school, if it gets the Gove-ahead could end up being just down the road in Teddington.
Turing House School is running open evenings for interested parents on October 17th and November 14th. What Alan Turing would have made of Spandau Ballet is anyone’s guess but it’s probably best to let that question remain unasked for the time being.