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
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.