Croydon Tory MP chooses Sutton grammar school for his son

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.

Unlike many MPs, Barwell is not averse to using his family in his political leaflets

Unlike some MPs, Barwell is not averse to using his family in his political leaflets

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.

Visits to schools are a mainstay of MP Gavin Barwell's website

Visits to schools are a mainstay of MP Gavin Barwell’s website. He tends not to mention his visits to selective schools in Sutton, though

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).

Wallington County Grammar, where Jack Barwell starts this week. It is not in Croydon

Wallington County Grammar, where Jack Barwell starts this week. It is not in Croydon

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:



Coming to Croydon


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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Chris Philp MP, Clare Hilley, Croydon Central, Education, Emily Benn, Gavin Barwell, Old Palace, Sarah Jones MP, Schools, Sutton Council, Trinity School, West Thornton, Whitgift School and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Croydon Tory MP chooses Sutton grammar school for his son

  1. You have to admire Gavin Barwell.

    A true Tory in every way. He and Michael Gove (remember him?… hopefully nearly forgotten) managed to find non-fee paying schools which are, to all intents and purposes, Public Schools for their children.

    It’s good for the kids… but what’s wrong with the “excellent” Academies in the Borough? They are mainly the spawn of Tory education policy and some, oddly enough, are not bad at all. Not prestigious, not smart but pretty good….but not good enough for Tory MP’s children.

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  2. A Member of Parliament has every right to send his son or daughter to any school. There is nothing wrong in sending his son to a grammar school. If his son is intelligent enough to pass a grammar school exam then there is nothing wrong in that.

    He could have easily sent his son to Trinity, Whitgift or Dulwich, especially with the 9% MP’s pay rise.

    The Labour party had eight years to sort out the schools in Croydon. There was a Labour government for longer than eight years. What happened to Tony Blair’s education, education, education?

    Croydon’s schools are doing better than before, but not up to grammar school standards.

    There are so many parents who just can’t be bothered to send their children to sit for grammar school exams. They are happy to send their children to secondary schools in Croydon. There are parents who spend money for extra tuition for their children so that they can sit and pass grammar school exams.

    Parents should make an effort to send their children to grammar schools rather than blaming the MP’s son who has worked hard enough to sit and pass the exams. My son goes to a good secondary school in Croydon only because he was on a waiting list for grammar schools and didn’t get a place.

    What we need is a Grammar school in Croydon.

    Good luck Jack.

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    • Barwell Junior’s personal progress is not the issue here.

      The significance of his parents’, and particularly his father’s, choice of school is. What does it say about the standards in Croydon’s state schools? And what does it say about all of the political rhetoric about rising school standards spouted by the MP?

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      • We all know about the standard of Croydon schools. There aren’t any grammar schools in Croydon and it doesn’t happen overnight. The school standards have improved under the Tory government as you can see from the results.

        If the child can pass an exam like the 11-plus, then that child should be given the opportunity to go to a grammar school.

        I think Gavin has made an excellent choice to send his son to a grammar school. Other parents should also do the same if their children are intelligent enough to pass the exam.

        Just because his father is an MP that doesn’t mean Jack should go to a school where the standards are hopeless.

        Not all schools are bad in Croydon though. My niece who went to St.Andrew’s got 8 A* and 3 Bs. A girl who went to a grammar school got 2 A* 6As and 3 Bs.

        It is time for parents to take responsibility instead of blaming the government and teachers.

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  3. It’s a symptom of the growing disconnect between Westminster and the rest of the country.

    How can an MP possibly know the challenges faced by ‘normal’ people when their children go to different schools, they increasingly have never held a job outside of politics and give jobs and internships to friends and family members?

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  4. It would be interesting and very helpful to know from Mr Barwell (Con. Whitgift Foundation) exactly which Croydon schools (if any, apart from his alumnus and the other schools in that group) he considered for his son and why he rejected them.

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  5. I remember, as a parent, fighting the LibDem proposals to close all the grammar schools in Sutton. They are now crowing about how good their schools are, hypocrisy or what?

    To another point…remember school league tables? On their very first publication they showed a very interesting fact. Guess where Croydon was…equal with Liverpool! So the situation in Croydon has been bad for a very long time.

    Why? Taboo subject, but 24% of children in the outer South London boroughs are privately educated (or were, pace the recession). So what parental pressure has there been on the state system? How careless and cheeseparing could the council afford to be, when their voters were happy anyway? Take responsibility and fight for complete literacy and numeracy by the end of primary school. They surely don’t stand a hope in hell of catching that up in secondary school.

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  6. Rod Davies says:

    Let’s be a tad kinder to Gavin for once.

    He may be our MP, but he’s also a typical middle-class Croydon parent and like lots of others he’s put his son through the various entrance exams to get the best school place he can for his child. Who on earth wants anything but the best possible for their child? And he soon may not be our MP but just another person living here.

    There is a very serious issue about the standard of Croydon schools, even though they have achieved considerable improvements recently.

    It is only recently that the local non-denominational schools have offered Sixth Forms and A Levels. Without providing this, they inherently are hampered in recruiting the best teachers. The migration of the wealthiest and brightest children into either private sector (yes, Whitgift is a business even if it is a registered charity!) or the grammar schools in Sutton or Bromley leaves empty places in Croydon that will be filled by children unable to pass entrance exams in adjacent boroughs, or who have been expelled from them. So Croydon got the academically less able and the disruptive.

    This situation went on for years and the council did nothing about it, largely it seemed to me because neither officers nor members cared very much about ordinary average Croydon children.

    It’s not Gavin Barwell’s fault that this situation existed and exists, its all our faults – far too many simply watched it happen and did nothing.

    Gavin’s actions simply emphasis the desperate need to prioritise education, provide real inspirational vision for Croydon’s children and provide the resources, environment and encouragement for them to do their best.

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