Tory Councillors mounted an astonishing attack on their own Local Education Authority at this month’s Council meeting. Amongst the words used by top Tory councillors to describe local education during a Labour-led debate about the establishment of a new ‘free’ school on the Bolingbroke Hospital site were’ substandard’, and ‘dire’ and ‘bog-standard’. Despite Wandsworth’s Education department’s four star rating by OFSTED – placing the Borough in the top three Authorities in the country – and steadily rising results, Wandsworth schools and state education in general came under attack from Council Leader, Edward Lister and Cllrs. Russell King and Matthew Maxwell-Scott.
Cllr. Andy Gibbons said ‘Instead of praising teachers and pupils for the progress made, supported by officers of the council, Wandsworth Tories set out to rubbish their own schools. Cllr. Lister openly stated that the establishment of the ‘free’ school was for political reasons. At £13m, that is a high price for Wandsworth’s residents to pay for a political experiment, especially when other schools such as Elliott, Chestnut Grove, Battersea Park and Graveney are crying out for repairs and modernisation. I’m sure ARK, who are sponsoring the Academy, must be feeling very uneasy about being used to support right-wing dogma of the kind we heard in this debate.’
Cllr. James Daley said ‘The Tories criticise Wandsworth schools but they have been running them for the last 20 years. If they don’t like them they only have themselves to blame – what have they been doing?’
In a further development six Councils have won a Judicial Review of the scrapping of the previous Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future initiative, which would have seen £300m allocated across all Wandsworth’s secondary schools. Part of this would have funded an extra 165 places across the Borough. Wandsworth Council did not take part in the review. Cllr. Andy Gibbons ‘Wandsworth Tories have let residents down badly by failing to challenge the government over this attack on our schools. ’