Jones gets A* as Barwell is forced to brush up on grammars

After a sly fag behind the bike sheds, WALTER CRONXITE has emerged to report back on last night’s rigorous oral exam at the Croydon Central education hustings

HAS GAV GIVEN UP (Part 94)?: Tory Gavin Barwell is against the residents of the Croydon Central constituency he has represented as MP for the last five years having access to grammar school education for their children. But this doesn’t prevent him from sending his own son to Wallington County Grammar School in Sutton.

Gavin Barwell in a primary classroom: it could be where he's working from September

Gavin Barwell in a classroom: it could be where the Tory MP is working from September

This uncomfortable contradiction was highlighted by retired teacher Geoff Boyce at an election hustings, organised by the National Union of Teachers and held last night at St Andrew’s High School (in Croydon South), where Barwell told the audience that he was against the introduction of the selective 11+ in Croydon.

Barwell was pretty much on a hiding to nothing at a hustings organised by teachers who were so antagonised by Michael Gove that the former Murdoch hack had to be moved from the Department for Education’s (DfE) to head the Conservative whips’ office. All those recent tweeted pictures of Barwell with Gove canvassing the streets of Croydon are not designed to court the teacher vote in the General Election on May 7. Mind you, it’s hard to imagine whose vote a picture of Barwell and Gove would attract…

You knew that Barwell was in difficulties the moment that the full room of more than 70 attendees grumbled its disapproval at that part of Barwell’s career history that included his time as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Gove at the DfE. Fortunately for Barwell, his latest job as a Government whip in Gove’s office went unmentioned. Gove has seemingly replaced Lord Ashcroft as Barwell’s political mentor. Though Cashcroft has at least offered a reference if Barwell loses the seat to Labour’s Sarah Jones.

Croydon teachers present were clearly angered by Gove – and Barwell’s – backing for the use of untrained teaching staff in our schools. Barwell spoke lovingly of his experience of untrained teachers when he was a lad. He somehow forgot to mention that the school he had attended was the private Trinity School of John Whitgift. At other occasions, Barwell often states his pride in being a scholarship boy at what is now a £15,000-a-year fee-paying school run by the Whitgift Foundation. It does make you wonder, though, if they use so many untrained teachers what all those school fees are being spent on at the expensive Whitgift schools.

Last night's high-powered Croydon education hustings, with Sarah Jones (second from left) and Gavin Barwell apparently catching up on his homework

Last night’s high-powered Croydon education hustings, with Sarah Jones (second from left) and Gavin Barwell, who was apparently catching up on his homework

Barwell kept talking about his experience as a school governor. He did not mention that he is a Trinity School governor. Not that Jones mentioned that this electoral contest is a Whitgift face-off: Jones went to Old Palace, also a Whitgift Foundation school, and her mother – a former senior staff member at her old school – is a colleague of Barwell’s on the Whitgift Foundation board.

When quizzed about what he might do if he is not re-elected as Croydon Central’s MP, Barwell said he might want to be a teacher. Presumably not in IT…

“I look forward to the election of a Labour government so that Gavin can receive proper training,” Jones said, playing her audience rather well.

This was just the first of a number of knock-out blows landed by Jones, who does not even contemplate that she won’t win on May 7. Barwell, meanwhile, has been telling some of his campaign team that he feels that the Croydon Central election is already lost, a view confirmed by the career politician’s former colleagues at Tory Central Office, according to right-wing mag The Spectator today.

Jones was cheered by the audience as she promised to do “all I can to support you” and referred to foodbank use and temporary housing that compromised pupils’ learning. More than 4,000 Croydon pupils live in temporary accommodation. Jones’ broadening of the debate to housing and living standards left her on top after being hemmed in by some very detailed education policy questions over the previous 90 minutes.

Up until those blows to his solar plexus, Barwell had been ahead on points. It was the hustings equivalent of “Rope-a-Dope”.

Labour candidate Sarah Jones speaking to parents at Wolsey infants school on Monday

Labour candidate Sarah Jones had prepared well for the education hustings

The debate was of the very highest quality, with very demanding, detailed points put to the candidates. With the general secretary of the NUT, Christine Blower, also being on the panel, this was a high-powered event.

Questions posed by the national NUT president, Philipa Harvey, were more A-level standard than GCSE, and all posed with challenging subsidiary questions. Both the candidates were admirably well-briefed and knowledgeable – clearly A* material.

Keeping the debate to just the two main challengers for Croydon’s one marginal seat enhanced the spectacle.

Barwell must hope that wavering UKIP voters make the same judgement as the NUT, see the seat as a “two-horse race” (is that the naffest piece of artwork seen on 21st century election literature?) and respond to David Cameron’s call to come “home” to vote Tory.

Barwell’s incumbency as MP and his experience in the DfE were used to the full and he answered all the questions. It seemed that Barwell had, after all, been more than just the Secretary of State’s bag-carrier at the DfE that he used to try to claim.

Barwell was self-assured. His remarks about this year’s 6 per cent increase in education funding for Croydon and the command of improved performance data by academies were part of a wider full grasp of all the education questions asked.

Barwell might be a Conservative Party loyalist in Westminster, but back here in Croydon, as ever, he was an apologist flirtatiously showing a bit of leg by disagreeing with the Tory party line. “I am very easy-going,” he assured the audience. Tanned by his street campaigning in the recent good weather, he played the part of the incumbent MP well, offering to take back issues to Ministers. It was pride before the fall.

Jones left some questions unanswered or even openly volunteered that she did not know the answer. Good exam technique suggests attempting to answer all the questions.

Barwell pointedly did not though answer the question about his experience outside politics, but there is a good reason for that: he has none, unlike Jones, who has career experience in public affairs and communications for government departments and industry.

At a union-organised event, a Barwell win was most unlikely. He will hope that his professed desire “to champion pupils’ needs” through the academisation of schools will be more attractive to the wider voting public seeking the best education for their children. And that very few of them discover his hypocrisy over his own education choices for his family.

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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, Croydon Central, Education, Gavin Barwell, Sarah Jones MP, Schools, St Andrew's and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Jones gets A* as Barwell is forced to brush up on grammars

  1. Which school did the private school educated Labour (party of the working class who implement Tory policies) candidate send her children to?

    Give credit to Gavin’s son who passed the Wallington exams same as our Croydon South Labour candidate.

    Jones going to Old palace is not a problem but Gavin’s son going to Wallington is a big issue.

    My daughter is not going to any of the Croydon or Sutton secondary schools.

    Labour had 13 years to improve the standards in Croydon and they didn’t.

    My challenge to the current Labour/Tory council administration
    – Build two grammar schools in Croydon.(one for boys and one for girls)

  2. The hypocrisy from Labour is unbelievable. We could start at A, for Diane Abbot, then B for Tony Blair. And probably get through the entire alphabet of Labour politicians who have sent their kids to public schools. But for some reason it’s easier to ignore them…

    • Who’s ignoring them? Last time we checked, neither Abbot nor Blair were standing for election in Croydon. It is a matter of relevance.

      Barwell and Jones both are, and their positions on policy and their own conduct is laid out above.

  3. Rod Davies says:

    This is a most peculiar argument. Surely what we need is an education system that meets the needs of the entire community, and where every child is encouraged to aspire to fulfill their potential. Every child means not just the progeny of the wealthy and the middle class; not just the brightest; not just those children advantaged by age in arbitrary entry procedures.

    Building a couple of grammar schools in Croydon won’t resolve the issues we face. My own recollections of a grammar school education are the abandonment of the slightly less bright, bullying, violence and homo-eroticism.
    Changing local education provision is a slow process, and there are no quick fixes. The school entrance exam system advantages the eldest in the school year. The child born in September has had almost an entire year more to mature and to be exposed to the school system than the child born in August, and no wonder that they do better.

    But our society is not composed of only potential grammar school pupils, they will always be a minority. Our society doesn’t just need people with lots of GCSEs, A Levels and degrees. It needs cooks, carpenters, plumbers and so on.

    Does the child who is already very bright deserve the extra resources of grammar schools etc, or should the child who struggles be awarded the greater resources to help them progress?

    There are also children in our community that live in such overcrowded conditions that they don’t have the luxury of their own bedroom or somewhere quiet to study. These children, through not fault of their own, are disadvantaged from the start. These children are the same ones whose parents have to work long hours in insecure jobs just to keep the family afloat, and simply don’t have the time to be there to help their child through their studies.

    All the politicians without exception are failing Croydon’s children, and that it because those with the loudest voices here are lobbying to maintain and augment the advantages they and their children have. But it is a fundamentally stupid approach, for without educated skilled workers the UK economy will struggle from recession to recession and social breakdown with saddening inevitability.

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