Governors demand apology after Zac Goldsmith said he would not send children to Shene School

Sticking by his comments: Conservative parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith told a hustings he would not send his children to Shene School

Sticking by his comments: Conservative parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith told a hustings he would not send his children to Shene School

First published in Richmond by

With the general election just days away political hustings are continuing to spark controversy - and the big topic causing a storm this week was Shene School.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative candidate for Richmond Park, said he would not send his children to the school, at a hustings at Richmond Theatre.

In a letter to the Richmond and Twickenham Times, the school’s governers said they were “appalled” by the comments and demanded an apology from Mr Goldsmith, who they described as “ill-informed and out-of-touch”.

Anne Hahlo, a parent governor, and Mona Adams, a community governor, wrote: “Does he realise the potential damage his kind of thoughtless and ill-informed politicising might cause to the many academically-achieving children currently at the school whom he might face one day as his constituents?”

But Mr Goldsmith has yet to apologise and this week reiterated his comments. He said: “It [Shene School] has failed to inspire parents to send their children there.

“I believe the solution is to slow or freeze admissions to allow parents to establish a parent board, set the ethos and re-open the school as a smaller, community school.

“Academy status may help, but the problem is not a lack of funds. The problem is that it exists in the community but is not yet part of it. It is not yet the school this community wants and needs.”

The school’s headteacher, Lesley Kirby, said: “I was surprised at the words Mr Goldsmith used as he has been very supportive of the school in the past.

“As a school we have improved radically in the past two-and-a-half years and almost doubled results and this has been due to the hard work and commitment of the staff.

“I’m absolutely totally 100 per cent confident that the academy plans will continue to let standards improve and this will turn the school into the school of choice.

“Why should we freeze admissions? We have some lovely children and this year a lot of local children are coming to the school.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer said: ”The school has made huge strides under the current headteacher and the school does need to work to gain the confidence of Richmond parents but there has been a lot of academic progress.

“If you lose a whole year of school you lose funding not just for for one year but every following year loses a significant amount of money. In addition you have 120 children starting school in September and no empty places in local schools.”

The Sunday night hustings, part of Rory Bremner’s battlebus tour, saw both the Tory and Lib Dem hopefuls face a grilling from constituents, including questions on electoral reform, the environment and joining the euro, when the comedian opened the floor for questions.

Comments (9)

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10:41am Thu 29 Apr 10

Twickenham Bob says...

The secondary schools in this borough are handicapped by the Lib Dem anti-sixth form dogma.
A Levels are challenging & most parents recognise this is no time for them to be going thought the upheaval of changing institutions at this critical time of their education.
With sixth formers choosing and applying for university - it gives everyone in the school great focus to concentrate on getting good exam results.
Just aiming to scrape into the local collage doesn't have the same results.
its a shame our Children s future is being damaged by such dogma
The secondary schools in this borough are handicapped by the Lib Dem anti-sixth form dogma. A Levels are challenging & most parents recognise this is no time for them to be going thought the upheaval of changing institutions at this critical time of their education. With sixth formers choosing and applying for university - it gives everyone in the school great focus to concentrate on getting good exam results. Just aiming to scrape into the local collage doesn't have the same results. its a shame our Children s future is being damaged by such dogma Twickenham Bob
  • Score: 0

2:57pm Thu 29 Apr 10

Haraveleben says...

I am not voting for either of the main parties in Richmond, so my opinion is unbiased and non political. No way would I send a child of mine to this school. The pupils behaviour on buses and in the street is disgraceful. The only positive thing that can be said, is that fortunately most do not live here, and are bused in, no doubt to improve their lot, whilst wrecking the decent standards of our area.
I am not voting for either of the main parties in Richmond, so my opinion is unbiased and non political. No way would I send a child of mine to this school. The pupils behaviour on buses and in the street is disgraceful. The only positive thing that can be said, is that fortunately most do not live here, and are bused in, no doubt to improve their lot, whilst wrecking the decent standards of our area. Haraveleben
  • Score: 0

4:43pm Thu 29 Apr 10

kingpin says...

Those with long memories will recall that Twickenham Bob's Tory mates were the people who closed the sixth forms in the first place. They tried to bring them back last time they were in power. They managed one and that has 7 students in it now. Back to Zac, this over-priveleged toff would probably only send his kids private anyway
Those with long memories will recall that Twickenham Bob's Tory mates were the people who closed the sixth forms in the first place. They tried to bring them back last time they were in power. They managed one and that has 7 students in it now. Back to Zac, this over-priveleged toff would probably only send his kids private anyway kingpin
  • Score: 0

7:27pm Thu 29 Apr 10

mortlake64 says...

Channel 4's documentaries about synthetic phonics in primary schools impressed me: a copy on CD to everyone responsible for primary schools in Hammersmith and Wandsworth where many Sheen pupils come from could do a great deal of good. If there's some technical reason that I don't understand why badly taught pupils can't be admitted to this school, then maybe a campaign to make Hammersmith and Wandsworth primary schools work would do the trick.

On the subject of hustings.

Folk have put at least a dozen political messages through my letterbox near Sheen School this month, but unfortunately none
• was a national manafesto
• was a local manafesto
• told me about this meeting
• told me about http://www.votematch
.org.uk/ - the quick fix questionnaire on headline issues for the undecided.

As I started writing this I was trying to print out the two national manefestos from the leading party web sites, but I'm out of ink even trying to print two sheets to a page. If political activists could just pop a manefesto, local and national, through my letterbox once every 5 years and leave out all the personal stuff that would be much appreciated.
Channel 4's documentaries about synthetic phonics in primary schools impressed me: a copy on CD to everyone responsible for primary schools in Hammersmith and Wandsworth where many Sheen pupils come from could do a great deal of good. If there's some technical reason that I don't understand why badly taught pupils can't be admitted to this school, then maybe a campaign to make Hammersmith and Wandsworth primary schools work would do the trick. On the subject of hustings. Folk have put at least a dozen political messages through my letterbox near Sheen School this month, but unfortunately none • was a national manafesto • was a local manafesto • told me about this meeting • told me about http://www.votematch .org.uk/ - the quick fix questionnaire on headline issues for the undecided. As I started writing this I was trying to print out the two national manefestos from the leading party web sites, but I'm out of ink even trying to print two sheets to a page. If political activists could just pop a manefesto, local and national, through my letterbox once every 5 years and leave out all the personal stuff that would be much appreciated. mortlake64
  • Score: 0

7:50pm Thu 29 Apr 10

ratcatcher says...

Kingpin,
It seems as you are the new Chris Squires, its a shame that your are so out spoken but don't show who you really are.
Lib Dem campaign guide: "be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly
Kingpin, It seems as you are the new Chris Squires, its a shame that your are so out spoken but don't show who you really are. Lib Dem campaign guide: "be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly ratcatcher
  • Score: 0

11:09pm Thu 29 Apr 10

LaurenceMann says...

Having been a governor of Orleans Park (a school so popular that Mr Goldsmith's children couldn't get in even if he wanted) for many years, I can testify that the problem with getting sixth form provision is not some strange dogma, peculiar to this borough, but money!

Because to provide a decent sixth form unit in any one of our secondary schools would cost around £8m, and there is no capital funding available or likely to be available, it is actually a waste of public resources to pipedream about it.

No political party is likely to be able to offer the opportunity for such a provision, although they may spend a great deal of time looking into it, as has happened before.

In addition, no-one should be deluded into thinking that the sort of post 16 provision which could be offered if such investment could be made would offer the same environment as the cosy cloisters of academe which middle aged voters such as myself recall from their teenage years.
Having been a governor of Orleans Park (a school so popular that Mr Goldsmith's children couldn't get in even if he wanted) for many years, I can testify that the problem with getting sixth form provision is not some strange dogma, peculiar to this borough, but money! Because to provide a decent sixth form unit in any one of our secondary schools would cost around £8m, and there is no capital funding available or likely to be available, it is actually a waste of public resources to pipedream about it. No political party is likely to be able to offer the opportunity for such a provision, although they may spend a great deal of time looking into it, as has happened before. In addition, no-one should be deluded into thinking that the sort of post 16 provision which could be offered if such investment could be made would offer the same environment as the cosy cloisters of academe which middle aged voters such as myself recall from their teenage years. LaurenceMann
  • Score: 0

10:31am Fri 30 Apr 10

Twickenham Bob says...

The sixth forms were closed in a different era Kingpin - 50 years ago you could walk out of school and get a job where you could climb up the ladder and the majority of pupils left education at 16.
Times change and now you need to have good qualifications and a degree to get on in life.
Councils across London and the country are adding sixth forms as its seen as key to lifting educational standards.
As the deputy head of one of the borough schools said to me last week the REAL REASON there are no sixth forms is because the teachers haven't taught to A Level standard for years and thus to introduce a sixth form would require sending a third of the staff off for intensive training or replacing them with ones who have recent experience.
A difficult situation - but many (including Lib Dem) authorities have decided the right thing to do is to spend the money and introduce the sixth-forms.
The sixth forms were closed in a different era Kingpin - 50 years ago you could walk out of school and get a job where you could climb up the ladder and the majority of pupils left education at 16. Times change and now you need to have good qualifications and a degree to get on in life. Councils across London and the country are adding sixth forms as its seen as key to lifting educational standards. As the deputy head of one of the borough schools said to me last week the REAL REASON there are no sixth forms is because the teachers haven't taught to A Level standard for years and thus to introduce a sixth form would require sending a third of the staff off for intensive training or replacing them with ones who have recent experience. A difficult situation - but many (including Lib Dem) authorities have decided the right thing to do is to spend the money and introduce the sixth-forms. Twickenham Bob
  • Score: 0

12:56pm Fri 30 Apr 10

kingpin says...

Richmond College gets great results, among the best for the IB. Other students choose Esher College. Laurence has said how much a sixth form costs, where will the money come from Bob and wouldnKt it be better to spend that money on education for all, not just some
Richmond College gets great results, among the best for the IB. Other students choose Esher College. Laurence has said how much a sixth form costs, where will the money come from Bob and wouldnKt it be better to spend that money on education for all, not just some kingpin
  • Score: 0

2:49pm Tue 4 May 10

Twickenham Bob says...

KingPin – two good questions and I will try and answer them in turn.
There has been money up for grabs to build new sixth forms as the Labour Government wanted to encourage new ones to be opened. As part of their campaign to get rid of “bog-standard” comprehensives. Dozens of local authorities applied for and received funding, whilst our council decided to stick with just having one tertiary collage. So we have missed out on the funding – and with the state of public finances it will be more difficult to obtain funding in the next few years. As for the running costs, the funding will be switched from the Skills Funding Agency to the council as the funding for places follows the pupil.
As for the question; of should the money be spent if everyone cannot benefit. Everyone in the school will benefit from being in an institution that has a far greater sense of purpose the pupils will see from firsthand the importance of studying hard. Even those who don’t go on to do A ‘Levels will benefit from better teaching as the departments will be manned by staff able to teach up to A level standard. Experience in schools that have added sixth forms in recent years have shown it boosts GCSE performance and encourages more pupils to stay in education post 16.
If every secondary school in the borough added a sixth form then the opportunity will be equally spread over the borough and we would not have selection though house prices if only a one or two schools have a sixth form. Though, not having a universal service from day one shouldn’t stop new sixth forms being open as long as there is a borough wide roll-out programme. The over-riding aim should be to increase standards – not create a service of equal quality merely by levelling down by having no sixth forms.
KingPin – two good questions and I will try and answer them in turn. There has been money up for grabs to build new sixth forms as the Labour Government wanted to encourage new ones to be opened. As part of their campaign to get rid of “bog-standard” comprehensives. Dozens of local authorities applied for and received funding, whilst our council decided to stick with just having one tertiary collage. So we have missed out on the funding – and with the state of public finances it will be more difficult to obtain funding in the next few years. As for the running costs, the funding will be switched from the Skills Funding Agency to the council as the funding for places follows the pupil. As for the question; of should the money be spent if everyone cannot benefit. Everyone in the school will benefit from being in an institution that has a far greater sense of purpose the pupils will see from firsthand the importance of studying hard. Even those who don’t go on to do A ‘Levels will benefit from better teaching as the departments will be manned by staff able to teach up to A level standard. Experience in schools that have added sixth forms in recent years have shown it boosts GCSE performance and encourages more pupils to stay in education post 16. If every secondary school in the borough added a sixth form then the opportunity will be equally spread over the borough and we would not have selection though house prices if only a one or two schools have a sixth form. Though, not having a universal service from day one shouldn’t stop new sixth forms being open as long as there is a borough wide roll-out programme. The over-riding aim should be to increase standards – not create a service of equal quality merely by levelling down by having no sixth forms. Twickenham Bob
  • Score: 0

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