Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

Camden schools turnaround a big success story – weird that the Government prefers to focus on failure

Posted on 28 November 2012 | 8:11am

I was out last night raising cash for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research at the Midtown Business Club dinner, to whom thanks for your cash and your support.

In my speech, I talked a bit about the Boris phenomenon and said his appeal was rooted in his positivity, which is why it was odd that he was such a cheerleader for maintaining the status quo for a media which is responsible for much of the negativity which holds Britain back.

As we were in Camden, I predicted for example that there would be very little coverage anywhere of the report by Ofsted showing that Camden has the best primary schools in the country. Ripple of applause led by the Camden councillor at the top table, exhortation from me not to believe the relentless propaganda against State education from both the media and, more alarmingly, senior members of the current government.

However, I was wrong about one thing – by the time I had sat down, around half ten, I was getting messages that the story of Camden’s success was featured on the national news, and the school they chose to film was the one round the corner from our house, where our three children were all educated, Gospel Oak primary school.

It is almost twenty years since the school had a dreadful Ofsted report, which led to an exodus of some parents out of the area or to local private schools. My lifelong loathing of private education as one of the great dividers of our time, which has also held Britain back, hardened. Those who stayed, led for most of the last 20 years by my partner Fiona, decided the only way to turn the school around was to get more involved.

The resulting turnaround has a lot to do with Labour investment and Labour reforms, to continuing support from the council, above all to the dedication and professionalism of the teaching staff once we finally found the brilliant head the school needed. But Fiona’s passion for State education in general, and that school in particular, cannot be underestimated either. Being a Governor or chair of Governors requires commitment, understanding, political nous and drive. Being a Governor who can actually make a difference requires all that and more.

Camden is a huge mix of both affluent and disadvantaged, with some of the wealthiest people in the country alongside some of the toughest estates, and every nationality you care to think of. If the schools there can do well, and give every child the chance of a decent start in life, the same can happen anywhere.

The problem today is that doesn’t fit with the government/media narrative that says Michael Gove has to bring in all his reforms because State schools are all failing. They are not. And with proper support from Government, and more involvement of parents, those schools which are failing could be turned around.

It is really odd that we have a Secretary of State who prefers to highlight all that is bad in our schools because he knows that most of the good has very little to do with the policies he has introduced. Bizarre. But of course the leading lights of the media, most of whom use private schools and so attack State schools to justify their decision, love him for it, and that I fear is what really matters to him.

  • Anonymous

    Boris? In India? Using Ladhdahn tax payers money to go and see the cricket tests methinks, as if there isn’t enough english out there at the moment baffling them.

    Take it away Boris,

    But of course Alastair, we have effectively got an se engurland public schooled tory government in, constantly smacking our hands and telling us all that we are very very bad boys/girls, and sit next to the devil. What’s new?

  • Anonymous

    re.twiiter Alastair – Tidy ey, no need to shove it under the covers, it goes on, for all, and nice to see common sense is trying to prevail down by ‘ere pal, ey?

    Read the comments at the bottom all, it is all educational of the simple human mind in all it’s forms. The main danger of the mind is if it gets into a closed loop of feedback inside, at a certain time, with no outlet. If you start feeling out of it, come out with it straight – we are all allowed to go a bit nutty at some time in our lives, twice or thrice and even more even, whatever it takes to cope.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Weak media.
    The problem with the British media is that it is too weak, not too strong.
    The media does not probe enough.
    It does not tell who owns Barclays and HSBC. It does not tell who owned RBS and Lloyds before the financial crisis.
    It does not tell who is still running them.
    The media hails the appointment of former Goldman Sachs employee as the governor of the BoE.
    Little does it know about Goldman Sachs…
    The media keeps quiet about the ownership of ITV and FT.
    Fleet Street was not interested about City bankers before the crash.
    The fact that top Tory, Lib Dem and Labour politicians belong to same sercet and secretive groups run by bankers is never mentioned.
    The fact that the EU is being run by bankers and freemasons is not a story.
    The world would be a worse place without investigative journalism.
    But it faces lack of funding.
    Supporters of self-regulation accuse its opponents of endangering the PRESS FREEDOM.
    But self-regulation is self-interested regulation.
    Press freedom is freedom within the law.
    But we need to seek the truth.
    The digital age, of course, makes things difficult.
    Internet, smartphones and tablets change BUSINESS MODELS.
    The biggest media company in the world is Walt Disney Co.
    Rothschilds own it through State Street, Vanguard and Fidelity. Steven P. Jobs Trust owns 7.47%.
    Disney controls ABC.
    News Corp is number two. It controls Fox, WSJ, NY Post etc.
    Vanguard and State Street are big shareholders.
    Time Warner is number three. It controls CNN, HBO, Time and Warner Bros.
    Rothschilds own Time Warner through Dodge & Cox, Vanguard and State Street.
    Other big media companies are Bertelsmann (RTL, Random House), CBS (Simon & Schuster) and Viacom (Paramount).
    There is not much DIVERSITY or PLURALITY.
    Six companies control the world media.
    Microsoft, Apple and Google are controlled by same bankers who own the media.
    in Britain, the market shares are as follows.
    News International 35%
    Trinity Mirror 25%
    Daily Mail 19%
    Northern & Shell (R Desmond) 14%
    Telegraph (Barclay brothers) 7%
    Guardian Media 3%
    Pearson/FT 1%
    Independent and Evening Standard are owned by Alexander Lebedev.

  • Great post. Thanks for giving most credit for school success to ” the dedication and professionalism of the teaching staff” plus headteachers and school governors. This is the reality, no matter what politicians claim for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Better vid with here Boris my friend(!), with music type-like bollywood from there, Shimla, in the winter and northern hemishpere as us Boris, if you did not do well in geog in school, or never read a world abstract atlas, charge of the light brigade-like, Crimea in present day Ukraine-like, in the 1850s, and that IS history, Boris,

  • Andrew Adonis said last night at the RSA that he supported all his own/Labour policies that Gove was continuing with (not the others) and that his test of a good school is whether he would send his own children to it. Education policy has become very personal nowadays which may not help things.

  • Segregating children in schools is a very wrong indeed. I grew up in Northern Ireland where, of course, children are divided into Protestant and Catholic schools. This division has been one of the greatest causes for the problems in Northern Ireland.

    We are now seeing increasing division in England with many of these new “Free” schools being faith schools.

    There is a curious conflict between the current government’s attitude to ethnic minorities who receive lectures to integrate and yet by creating more faith schools the government will often segregate the children.

    Segregating children along religious or economic grounds is a way of damaging their education.

  • Anonymous

    On Alastair’s favourite subject – state control of the press, here is a right winger in the Telegraph (Peter Mullan) describing why left wingers should fear a state controlled press (like that Alastair favours):

    “Because all authoritarian governments exercise extreme control of the press. They would be foolish not to, for they understand the power of the press. Along with the rest of Europe, Britain is in for a very tough time economically. If you think the supposed austerity of the last few years is as bad as it gets, well you ain’t seen nuffin’ yet. It would be massively convenient for our politicians to be able to silence protest against the draconian measures they will wish to take by an appeal to “the national interest.””

  • Hurrah! So refreshing to read this from someone who really understands about state education, governorship, leadership…I despair at the left wing press and their silence on this matter. Too many privately educated journos…?

  • Anonymous

    and like nursing and doctors as well, teaching is still allowed to have their wind taken by twunts in Westminster, especially with these coalition tory idiots, that play games of their own with things for just their personal selves.

    Gove is just a simple cunt, frankly, as imaginative as a McVities digestive biscuit.

  • Anonymous

    Gove as a comedian, a minute or five in here, after that jewboy Baddiel, 4:44 in there actually in the vid, from about 1990, umm, something,, to get you to the point – cringeworthy moment that I never ever have ever seen since, like that lootenant in Robin Williams’s film Good Morning Vietnam when he tried to be a DJ like him,

    Good Morning Vietnam as here,

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, well – people in education liken Gove to Hitler, ie deluded and out of control. Interesting story in the Guardian today about Lancashire (Conservative) County Council pillorying Gove. This is actually just the tip of iceberg. Pity Labour isn’t saying much, but apparently they don’t have anyone official prepared to kick ass on this.