Thursday 5 July 2007

Tory Leader Admits “We’ve Made Mistakes” With Borough’s Education but Still Plans to Close Local Schools

Speaking at the last full Council meeting on June 27th, Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F council, repeated his apology that he and his Administration had "made mistakes" with the borough’s education. However, he refused to withdraw plans to close two local primary schools and wouldn’t deny that his administration is still seeking to close a Fulham secondary school.

The Labour Opposition offered to work with his administration, local parents and teachers so as to take party politics out of the local education issue. We suggested that this would save his Administration from any further blame and allow us to come together to develop policies that would benefit all in the borough. This was rejected by the Conservatives as was Labour’s bid to involve local parents and teachers in the Fulham Schools Commission – which has recently been set up to look at secondary school provision in Fulham. The refusal to involve local parents has added to the widespread concern that the new Commission is little more than a Trojan horse being used to have another try at closing a local secondary school. See terms of reference here.

The announcement to establish this Commission was shrouded in controversy from the beginning as it was made on the same day that the Administration decided to withdraw its plans to close Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary School. The Council had previously valued the land on which the school is situated at £24million and had hoped to close the school next year. However, the Conservative administration were forced to withdraw their closure plans only hours before they were due to be considered by the Independent Schools Adjudicator and only because the Administration was advised that the Adjudicator would throw their plans out, as they lacked substance.

Labour’s proposal to involve local parents and teachers in the Commission seemed sensible and would have gone some way to allaying fears that it’s simply a front for more school closures. The Commission is chaired by Baroness Perry (Con) a former Chief Inspector of Schools.

Labour does not support the Commission. We think that it’s important that local parents are involved in its deliberations and will work to make sure that their voices are heard.

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