VA School Decision Goes Against Inclusivity Campaigners

UPDATE: The judge has ruled that Richmond Council were within the law when approving the Diocese of Westminster’s proposals for two Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic Schools on the Clifden Road site in Twickenham. So, a judicial review victory for the Council and defeat for those campaigning for new borough schools to have inclusive admissions policies. The full details of Mr Justice Sales’ judgement are yet to come but the earlier than expected announcement was designed to remove uncertainty about planning for the next academic year. Richmond Council leader Lord True is “delighted”, the RISC are disappointed. Of course had the Council gone down the route of inviting free school or academy proposals as extolled by Cammo, Bojo & Co then a range of school options could have been considered and any faith based school would have had a maximum of 50% of places determined by selective criteria, unlike the 100% permitted under the special Voluntary Aided status.

The Baron is quoted in the LBRuT Press Release as saying that the outcome “supports the clear, democratic decision that was taken locally” and that the British Humanist Association had “elbowed its way” into the borough with “uncaring and unsympathetic” actions. He goes on to say that he trusts the BHA “will now accept the verdict that they themselves sought and let Richmond get on with building an even better education system for all. A period of silence from certain all too well ventilated local voices would also be welcome”. Ouch! Gracious words indeed. So folks, that was democracy in action, the will of the majority prevailed and anyone who says otherwise is an outside agitator. At least we’re all clear on that now.

RISC leader Jeremy Rodell said, “Obviously there will be a lot of people in Richmond who will be disappointed with this judgement. Our key point all along has been that it’s simply wrong to set up a new state school in the borough that will discriminate against most local children simply because of their parents’ beliefs. That remains just as wrong now as it was before”.

And so there we have it, a clear legal success for the Council although whether they can claim a moral victory too is entirely down to your personal perspective.

Where next? Well, the St Richard Reynolds School is now on track to open in 2013; we can be pretty sure that the Blue Baron & co will pull up the drawbridge on any further Voluntary Aided schools (there’s no need for them, it’ll be free schools and academies all the way from now on); the RISC and BHA will review the detailed outcome before deciding whether to take matters further; and of course the Council gets ready to face its next judicial review on another of its controversial decisions, the approval of Solum’s plans for Twickenham station.

For the Conservatives, could this become what the swimming pool site became for the Lib Dems? It’s certainly been a very divisive issue and although the next election is some time off, we doubt this will be the last we hear of this matter despite Lord True indicating that he would welcome “a period of silence”.

* Richmond Council
* R&TT


Filed under Council, Local Issues & News, Schools

41 responses to “VA School Decision Goes Against Inclusivity Campaigners

  1. And now St Vincent has entered the fray with a letter to the Dept of Education regarding the department’s involvment in the recent judicial review which, he claims, goes back on a coalition deal on education. Cable was writing in his capacity as Twickenham MP rather than Business Secretary…. and he ain’t happy.
    Guardian Story:

  2. twickerman

    And finally, the R&TT’s roving reporter and record breaking referee Rachel Bishop has announced (via twittersphere 23/11/2012 to @twickeman and @twickerati):

    I think it may well be a record! Some strong debates going on…… 222 now!

    Jimbo, that’s a fact (well very nearly!)

  3. twickerman

    The only thing missing from these debates is a classic sparring match between Councillors Naylor (blue corner) and Roberts (yellow corner). Very unusual.
    Have you gents been silenced, gagged or whipped by your party leaders?

    I can’t wait for RTT feedback. 222 comments to date.

    • Perhaps “Nails” is keeping quiet on this particular JR given that the Twickenham station JR, of which he’s a fan, is imminent. As for “Red Robbo”, who knows? Whatever their views, perhaps they actually agree with each other on this one. Please say it isn’t so! Where would be the fun in that?

    • twickerman

      I’m sure they wouldn’t allow a little agreement to spoil their dualling. Recent tweets between them confirm this theory.

      I suspect their opinions are poles apart on the school.

  4. George

    A few months back I was chatting to a parent of a child at St James’ RC Primary. He was looking forward to the end of the link school status because unlike other local primaries St James did not have any links. He thought the link system was unfair as it effectively reduced the school choices open to his child, because living where they do, the chances of getting into Teddington or Orleans Park were slim compared to friends nearby with kids at linked Trafalgar or Archdeacon Cambridge schools respectively. He had a fair point. But he was also keen for the RC secondary to be established but we did not touch on how that fitted in with the notions of fairness and choice. Is going from wanting a more level playing field to having a dedicated school a bit “too fair”? I can understand why parents want particular schools but it doesn’t necessarily mean they should have them. Or rather, if they do want them then isn’t that what free schools are all about?

  5. Ignitionnet

    I dipped into my pocket for the first JR, I’m fine with doing it again for an appeal.

    Oh to have the option of recall of councillors. That said you get what you voted for, how many voted for the Conservatives because they were all horny over adding yet more planning restrictions to the already horrifically anti-development regulations covering the Borough? How did that work out for you?

  6. jimbo

    I will make a final comment. I am not a Catholic, I have been in education all my professional life, and I have not “taken sides” in this debate. My sole reason for joining in was to try to curb the exaggeration and the ignoring of facts by some contributors. This actually detracts from the strength of your argument

  7. Through the magic medium of Twitter, a request has been made to the 2 R&TT journos to confirm or deny (in other words, to let us all know) if the VA RC school story has the record number of comments on their website. It will be interesting to know although sometimes the R&TT run overlapping stories on the same item which can split the totals.

    • Rufus McDufus

      No offence intended but what has the number of comments got to do with anything? It feels like it’s still half term and all the children have logged onto twickerati to have an argument,

  8. twickerman

    I don’t recall a RTT article with anywhere near as many comments (171 now).
    You claim to be the FACTs man so please surprise me by proving otherwise.

    • jimbo

      that is not how it works. I make a statement and produce evidence to back it; you make a statement, you have to produce evidence to back it. 29 individuals out of approx 160,000 adults in the Borough: I still maintain that is “relatively few”
      I am not putting forward one view or another, just asking that facts be taken into consideration.

    • This can only end in a duel

    • twickerman


      I would rather jimbo presented some facts to disprove my assertion that there are a record numbers of comments and commentators on RTT. Until he does my assertion stands.

      But, if we must go into battle I think jimbo is well and truly outnumbered by you, me and 24 others on twickerati, as well as at least 29 others on RTT (and those are just the ‘crowing cocks’ as he describes us).

      Also in terms of facts, jimbo needs to differentiate between ‘the Humanists’ and the local people like you, me, sazzy, george and co who believe in inclusive schools and equal educational oppportunities for all children.

    • Simon H

      Given that the average number of comments per story is about five, there’s no way on earth it’s not a record.

    • Quite, Simon H. Twickerman has it right.

    • I see Jimbo has rounded up his ‘friends’. Not surprising given the behaviour of the Catholic lobby over the last year or two.

    • Probably logging on his children’s and relatives laptops. Sneaking in to unattended offices just to log in a give him a thumbs up.

  9. twickerman

    A while ago I thought that Twickenham station might be the current administration’s ‘Riverside’.

    How wrong I was, when along came the Heatham House and, more significantly, the Catholic ‘schools’ fiascos.

    There are 100 comments at R&TT online, nearly all against LRUT. But for some strange reason the article has been removed from the front page. Maybe it was too popular?

    I’m glad that twickerati doesn’t hide important and interesting pieces such as this.

    • jimbo

      If you look at the RTT thread, you will find that, notwithstanding 100 comments as you say ,only a relatively few individuals are involved. Reminds me of the old saying “Its the hens that do the work, but the cocks that do all the crowing”

    • Only have to look at the thumbs up and thumbs down count on here to see that you are talking nonsense, Jimbo. There are an unusually high number of comments and commenters on the RTT site on this issue. It is patently obvious that if the ‘consultation’ had been done now after the issue has had an airing in all circles rather than just in the Catholic ‘network’ the result would have been very different.

    • jimbo

      Please let us try to have some rational argument here. You say I’m talking nonsense: here are the FACTS. 153 comments on the RTT website, made by 29 different people (one person contributed 21 times). I think my phrase “relatively few” is justified. Please withdraw your remark

    • twickerman

      The record numbers of comments (and commentators) on RTT, and thumbs down to your original post are sending a very clear message.
      It’s time to stop digging and accept the outrage of local people.

    • jimbo

      Arguments are won and lost by paying attention to facts. I have stated a fact, that has been ignored. Twickerman – what evidence have you that these are “record” numbers? In cidentally, if you read the thread, you will find that several of the 29 are not supporting the Humanist’s view. Also – courtesy goes a long way to help a civilised debate.

  10. I suspect that this issue clearly slipped under the radar of the silent majority whilst a small group of self-interested people rallied themselves through their church and school network. To claim that the ‘outcome’ is democracy in action is a little disingenuous. The Conservative Party might well regret having this in their manifesto come the next election.

    If the school were to be called St Iaminfavourofgivingpeoplelikemeabunkup’s or St ‘Ourchildrenareoksodyours’ we might see it for the nepotism that it really stands for. I suspect that if the ‘consultation’ was conducted now the outcome would be very different.

    • Sazzy


      Lets hope RISC get the right to appeal this seems a very odd decision. And Jimbo it is not just a matter of legality to most of us, but an issue of unfairness and divisiveness in our community. It discriminates against the majority of local children – a sad and cruel practice.

      I hope all who are against the ghastly tower block proposals for the Station will come to the Public Meeting at St Marys Church Hall tomorrow evening to support TRAG.

  11. jimbo

    May I remind people contributing to this thread that the Conservative Manifesto for the lection in 2010 specifically stated that they would work for a Catholic secondary school. Now they have done this. For a politican to keep a manifesto promise seems to me a good thing.

  12. George

    A very disappointing decision although hardly surprising. Well done to the RISC and BHA for pursuing this case on behalf of the many, many residents of this Borough who regard the way this was pushed as just plain wrong. If there was a clear problem with education provision in the Borough and a Voluntary Aided Faith School was the only way to fix it then I could understand the route that has been taken. But there is not that kind of problem. This school has been pushed through just because some people want one, against a background of increasing demand for places that everyone can attend and an Education Act and government promoting free school and academies until they’re blue in the face. Will LBRUT support more VA schools to fix non-existent problems? Will they ‘eck!

    Arrogant & out of touch but at least there’s now a legacy so who cares?

  13. odtaaPaul

    It has been council policy to:

    1) dramatically Increase the number of primary and infant school places to the meet the surge school age children in this age group. This will greatly increase the demand for secondary school places over the next 5, 10 or 15 years.

    2) it is actively encouraging and funding the expansion of sixth form colleges within the borough’s secondary schools. This will reduce the numbers of class rooms available and therefore the number of places for secondary school pupils.

    3) It is funding at local people’s expense a school that will discriminate against 90% of potential students on religious grounds.

    The consequences are that a great many people paying their community taxes to Richmond council will find themselves having to fund their children’s travel out of the borough for their secondary education.

    Also note that the Catholic Children’s Society is now the sole provider of counselling to Richmond’s children. So will a fifteen year old girl who has had unprotected sex be encouraged to quickly go and take the morning after pill? Will a fourteen year who thinks they are gay be given objective advice?

    I though I lived an outer borough of the great cosmopolitan city of London – I find myself living in a town controlled by a tight group of religious politicians, putting their religion’s interest above that of the population – more like Arkansas than Britain.

  14. TS

    You’d think the idea of a faith school belonged in the 17th century really.

  15. jimbo

    I hope now all those who accused the Council (aka Lord True) of acting illegally will now have the good grace to apologise

    • odtaaPaul

      aka Lord True has totally ignored government guidelines on opening a new school. A new faith school should only be able to select 50% of its pupils by religion.

  16. beggars belief

    can i ask genuinely if you voted tory at the last elections if you intend to do so again? 2 judicial reviews, riding rough shod over your own policy, ignoring your own advisory panels. it is frankly depressing.

    • odtaa

      The trouble is who do you vote for – I’m not happy with either the Conservatives, who seem to be run by a small clique for their own narrow interests rather than representing their electorate or the Lib Dems, who do roughly the same.

      The three votes per ward election system we have favours the parties, not individual, independent candidates, and each ward either votes 3 Tories or 3 Lib Dems.

  17. twickerman

    I believe it may be a few weeks before the judge announces his decision on the outcome of the school JR. Odds are that he will report back before the station JR starts.

    • Sazzy

      Lets hope the JR gets approval and I congratulate RISC as a Christian. We need another school but it should be inclusive and NOT devisive. It is not correct to say the majority of local people voted for a Catholic school, only the majority of Catholics. There was a failure to consult with the majority. It is hardly Christian to discriminate against non-Catholics.