Toby Young Outlines Plans for Acton School

Local writer wants to set up 'Comprehensive Grammar'

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Is anyone else in the same boat as me? Kids shortly to be of secondary school age and worried about their education? I want to start a secondary school in Acton and I'm looking for people to help.

The kind of school I want to set up is a "Comprehensive Grammar", ie, a school that embodies the ethos of an old-fashioned Grammar but which has a non-selective intake. The emphasis will be on pushing all the pupils, regardless of how well they've done at Primary, to the absolute limit of their ability. Anyone will be able to come to the school -- you won't even need to live locally. The only selection principle will be first come, first serve. And it won't cost parents a penny.

Pie in the sky? I don't think so. It looks almost certain that the Conservatives will win the next General Election and they're committed to a platform of educational reforms designed to make it possible for people like me to start their own schools. These will be called "free schools" -- privately run, but financed by the Department of Education. A similar policy was introduced in Sweden in 1992 and "free schools" have proved so popular there that 10 per cent of Swedish school children are now educated in this sector. I have no doubt the policy will prove equally successful here.

I'm in contact with the office of Michael Gove, the Shadow Education Secretary, as well as the cabinet member for children's services at Ealing Council, and there is a huge amount of enthusiasm for the idea.
They would love Britain's first "free school" to be in Acton -- we can blaze a trail so other parents, up and down the country, can see how to do it.

Even with their support, however, it's not going to be easy. My plan is to get the new school up and running by 2012. There's a huge amount of work to do and I need as much help as I can get. I'm going to arrange a meeting for all interested parties in September, where I'm going to be recruiting collaborators, and if you'd like to come please contact me on

I don't wish to belittle the existing educational provision within the borough. Some of the local state schools are very good. But comprehensive education didn't suit me. I attended two comps from the age of 11 - 16 and failed all my GCSEs. It was only when I went to a grammar school that I managed to get three A-levels and win a place at Oxford. I needed a disciplined, competitive environment in order to thrive and I suspect the same is true of a lot of other children too.

Such a school won't be to everybody's tastes, but it's the kind of place I'd like to send my children. That's why I'm doing this -- to increase the choices available to parents within the borough.

If you like the sound of a "Comprehensive Grammar", and would like to send your children to such a school, please join forces with me. I have no doubt that if enough of us club together we can turn this dream into a reality.

Toby Young

August 14, 2009