Toby Young Responds to Steve Pound's Remarks

As debate continues on the West London Free School

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To read Steve Pound's article in the Gazette click here

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Steve Pound wrote an opinion piece for the Ealing Gazette this week in which he warned of "severe consequences for the wider educational field" if Toby Young's plans to start a school in Acton come to fruition.

We asked Toby to respond to the piece and his comments are reproduced below:

"I enjoyed Steve Pound's article about my plans to set up a new secondary school in Ealing -- it was lively and well-written -- but I'm afraid he has got the wrong end of the stick.

"I'm not waiting for the Conservatives to win the next election in the hope that I can then opt out of the state education system and set up a Swedish-style "free school" for the children on my street. I'm the leader of a 250-strong group of parents and teachers trying to set up a new Academy in Acton.

"It won't be necessary for the Conservatives to change the rules to enable us to do this. Schools secretary Ed Balls made it possible for groups like ours to set up Academies under the existing rules when he dropped the insistence earlier this year that Academy sponsors need £2 million pounds.

"Steve is right in one respect: we are hoping to set up a "comprehensive grammar". By that, we mean a school like Twyford -- with rigorous setting, high standards of behaviour, an old-fashioned system of pastoral care and the emphasis firmly on academic attainment -- but which is open to Christians and non-Christians alike.

"And it won't just be for our children. We plan to admit 120 students a year and our admissions criteria will be exactly the same as the other comprehensives in the borough. That is to say, every child in the neighbourhood will be welcome.

"The reason we want to do this is not because we have anything against Acton High School, which is an excellent modern comprehensive. Rather, it's because the exploding birth rate -- not to mention immigration -- means there's a real need for a new secondary school in the area.

"Steve is right to praise Ealing Council for putting plans in place to deal with this population boom, including the creation of a new school in Greenford. But the mathematicians and economists in my parents group have analysed the statistics and concluded that these plans won't be sufficient to cope with the huge demand for secondary school places in Acton.

"We need at least two new schools in Ealing, not just one, and we're working with the Council to try and persuade the Department of Children, Schools and Families of this fact.

"Now that this misunderstanding has been cleared up, I hope we can count on Steve's support."

December 16, 2009