- Tory H&F Council is having second thoughts about giving the Bryony Centre to the West London Free School
Faced with three weeks of uproar since its sudden decision on 18 January to give the Bryony Centre to the West London Free School rather than to the Cambridge School for pupils with special educational needs, the council may now let Cambridge have the Bryony after all. The free school would get Cambridge’s old building instead.
This follows HFConwatch’s exposé that, even after abolition of BSF last July, behind-the-scenes discussions with council officials on moving Cambridge into the Bryony continued until scuppered by the council’s surprise announcement.
Of course, the council’s change of heart will only matter if it spends some money on making the Bryony accessible to pupils with disabilities. Education campaigner Fiona Millar makes this point on the Local Schools Network website.
- The council is still favouring the free school over disadvantaged children
The other part of the original plan was for the Bridge Academy, a pupil referral unit for excluded and vulnerable young people, which is in a terrible condition (rains pours through the roof), to move into the Cambridge building once Cambridge’s pupils moved to the Bryony.
If Toby Young's Latin scholars now get the Cambridge, the Bridge pupils will stay stuck where they are. Not nice. A further rethink is needed.
- The council is still hiding behind Toby Young rather than defend its own behaviour
Irritating though the yacky and ill-informed Young is, we must remember that he is just the front man. It is Tory H&F council who is responsible for all the decisions. They have created this chaos, which is unsettling existing schools and will still led to the free school get a building at the expense of vulnerable kids.
It is tempting to imagine that the council has made some sort of Faustian bargain with Young: “We’ll find you a building but you’ve got to draw the flak”.
- Young still won't understand that discussions about moving Cambridge School into the Bryony Centre continued even after BSF was cancelled
In an email exchange over a fortnight ago, HFConwatch tried to get Toby Young to question what the council was wrongly telling him (that discussions about Cambridge moving into Bryony had died with BSF).
Following our blog “Is there anything more disgusting than making disabled children pay for the West London 'free' school?”, Young sent us a furious email, calling this “NUT balls”. We replied, “You’ve been sold a pup. The situation is genuinely more nuanced than you've been led to understand.” You can see the emails here.
Our hope was that, as a journalist and a man of good faith, Young would ask the council more probing questions. Hearing nothing for ten days, however, we blogged what he should have discovered: “How the West London Free School was found a building at the expense of children with special educational needs”.
Amazingly, in a response to Fiona Millar yesterday (see the yellow section here), Young still ignores reality, although his claim that the Phoenix School head has forced the council to rethink its snap decision to give the Bryony to the free school is intriguing.
He even trumpets his discovery that “the current condition of the Bryony Centre isn’t bad and could be made better with a small amount of money being spent on it”. Er, yes, this is what the ongoing Cambridge-Bryony discussions since July 2010 have been about.
Finally, Young inverts reality by claiming that “some people would accuse us of forcing young people with special needs out of their existing site and into what appeared to be a less desirable site.” No, we would obviously welcome the Cambridge pupils finally getting the Bryony site they have prepared for for years, assuming the council still spends money on adapting Bryony as needed. We wouldn't, however, welcome the free school leapfrogging the Bridge Academy to get the more desirable Cambridge site.
We shudder to think how much time the council is making H&F's education officers spend dealing with this farce when they should be helping existing schools.