GENE BRODIE, our education correspondent, delivers another exclusive report which reflects badly on the real standards of schools in our borough
There is not a secondary school in the whole of Croydon that is good enough for the son of Conservative MP Gavin Barwell.
Barwell is the MP for Croydon Central who is a junior government whip. In the past he worked as a parliamentary private secretary to Michael Gove when he was the Education Secretary.
Barwell’s private interests include being the chairman of the school committee at £15,000-a-year Trinity, the school which he attended. He is also a governor of the Whitgift Foundation, one of the country’s wealthiest education charities, which operate two other large private schools in Croydon.
This week, Barwell’s eldest son starts in Year 7 at Wallington County Grammar School in Sutton.
Barwell told Inside Croydon: “Jack passed the exam for one of the local grammar schools. We are very proud of him.” The LibDems who run Sutton must be delighted.
Barwell made no further comment, and certainly did not elaborate on the reasons for his family’s choice of school.
However, the Tory MP’s decision may surprise many other Croydon parents of 10- and 11-year-olds, who will be familiar with Barwell’s frequent comments about what he has claimed to be the rising standards in the borough’s schools under the policies of his colleague, Gove, and what was, until recently, the Tory-run council.
No one can criticise any parent for wanting the best for their children. As a declaration of interest, the sons of this website’s editor both received excellent educations, one at a private school and one at a Sutton grammar. In both cases, the schools were chosen because the alternatives provided within Croydon were inadequate.
Perhaps this is part of the Barwells’ consideration?
Wallington’s results are outstanding, with all 130 GCSE pupils achieving at least five A*-C grades this year; 77 per cent of these boys achieved at least seven A* or A grades at GCSE.
And grammar schools in neighbouring boroughs have been a popular educational route for all sides of politics in Croydon in the past.
Clare Hilley, the outspoken and failed Tory councillor for Waddon, attended the girls’ grammar in Wallington, as did the Hon Emily Benn, now a Labour councillor for West Thornton and parliamentary candidate for Croydon South. In the sixth form, Benn attended St Olave’s, another grammar school, this in Bromley – the same school that was attended by her Conservative party rival candidate in Croydon South, Chris Philp.
Individual politicians’ backgrounds are instructive, how they conduct their family lives are usually a private matter. Unless or until, that is, they bring their families into the public arena, as Barwell has done with some of his early election campaign literature (whoever approved the use of that picture has really dropped a massive bollock).
As he fights to retain his seat at the General Election against Labour’s Sarah Jones (another who was educated at a Whitgift Foundation school), it is inevitable that Barwell will be questioned about the hypocrisy in his advocacy of Tory education policies in Croydon (Margaret Thatcher closed more grammar schools than any other education secretary) while choosing a selective school out of the borough for his own son.
Of course, Barwell could have chosen to send his son to his own old school, or to Whitgift. Fees, with three boys to educate, could have been an issue for someone on the “modest” £66,000 MP’s salary, although the Whitgift Foundation does claim to provide many bursaries at its schools – especially for the children of the school’s staff and governors.
So maybe there was another reason for Barwell avoiding going down the private school route – the political opprobrium he foresaw for exercising that option.
He may yet find that he has not escaped such criticism for his “I’m alright Jack”, “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude.
But there is a real lesson here for Croydon’s thousands of “ordinary” parents who are considering their own children’s secondary school choices.
If the local MP has to send his son out of the borough to a selective school to ensure a decent education, what does that say about the true standards of Croydon’s secondary schools, many of them run by Tory-sympathetic academy chains?
Other recent education stories by Gene Brodie:
- GCSE figures put Croydon schools at bottom of their class
- Barwell’s schools arithmetic offers only a partial picture
- One-fifth of an academy’s pupils “disappear” before GCSEs
- Whitehall warns council over unlawful reading lesson fees
- Ofsted reports signal concerns over College’s free school plan
- Exclusive readers’ offer: a free glass of wine for diners at Albert’s Table
- Special readers’ offer: 25% off meals at PizzaExpress Purley
Coming to Croydon
- Tell Me About Your Ex, Spread Eagle Theatre, Sep 9-13
- David Lean Cinema: Camille Claudel, Sep 11
- Warlingham rugby dinner with international Richard Hill, Sep 12
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Police question time, LNK at Centrale, Sep 17
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- The Complete History of the BBC – Abridged, Spread Eagle, Sep 19-20
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org