WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on a piece of information that Croydon Central’s MP of the past seven years didn’t want you to know
A possible reason for gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell’s reluctance to engage with Croydon’s voters over the plight of the borough’s state schools has emerged with the news that the Tory career politician has sent his second son to a £16,650 per year private school.Sam Barwell is understood to have started at Trinity School in Shirley Park last September. It is the same school that his father attended as a boy.
“Sam Barwell’s a lucky lad,” one state school teacher told Inside Croydon.
“His new school is not going to be affected by the £20million-worth of real-terms budget cuts to education which his daddy’s government want to inflict on Croydon, which will mean axing more than 500 teacher posts in the state schools.”
Trinity also happens to be where, on Thursday night, the ballot boxes from across Croydon will be gathered for the count for the borough’s three constituencies. Gavin Barwell, who has been MP for Croydon Central since 2010, is defending a 165-vote majority.
“That’ll be like staging the count in Barwell’s own front room,” one Labour supporter said, unhappy at the choice of venue taken by the council’s chief exec, and returning officer, Jo Negrini. “It’s way out of the town centre and is entirely inappropriate.”
Croydon Council will also have to pay for the hire of the private school’s facilities out of tax-payers’ money.It is not known whether Sam Barwell attends the school on a scholarship, which the charitable trust which runs the school, the Whitgift Foundation, is able to fund out of generous tax breaks it receives as a result of its charitable status.
Gavin Barwell is a former chair of governors at Trinity School, and was a long-time member of the governors of the Foundation.
Barwell Senior has been playing hard-to-get on education issues in recent weeks. At first, his staff managed to accept an invitation to attend an election event staged by Croydon teachers, then they got the date changed, and then he pulled out of the event altogether claiming to be “double-booked”. When the Croydon NUT then put a set of education questions to Barwell by email, he failed to respond after more than a week and despite a polite reminder.
It is not the first time that Barwell has opted out of the Croydon state education system. In 2014, Sam’s older brother, Jack, started at Wallington County Grammar School in Sutton.
“Jack passed the exam for one of the local grammar schools. We are very proud of him,” his father said at the time.
Barwell Senior has never embraced with the same enthusiasm the political policy of reintroducing grammar schools, as his UKIP mates or his Croydon South colleague, Chris Philp have done.
His and wife Karen’s reasoning to send one child to a state-funded grammar and another to a fee-paying independent remains opaque – Barwell has not responded to this website’s questions on the matter, so it is impossible to know whether they may be in some way dissatisfied with the schooling provided for his older son at Wallington.
When he did, eventually, get around to responding to the NUT’s questionnaire, Barwell said about grammar schools, “I don’t want to see a return to the 11-plus with all schools either grammar or secondary modern, but I think some parents would appreciate having one or two grammars in Croydon as they do in Bromley and Sutton.”
Wallington Boys is now run as an academy, with its ambitious head teacher having plans to open a partly selective school in Croydon, to open in September 2018. Those plans include building on playing fields near Lloyd Park, land which would usually be protected from any such development.
The site is close to Croydon Central, the constituency Barwell says he has been proud to represent for the past seven years. Despite being minister for housing, Barwell has consistently resisted all development schemes on Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land in his constituency. Yet he has made barely a peep about the building of a vast selective school for Wallington on public playing fields.
In his election literature and political website, Barwell has frequently referred to or included pictures of his family, all as a blatant effort to win public support. On his website, he names all three of his sons (though carefully avoids mentioning his choice of schools), and in typically deceptive style, he makes reference to their first family home in Monks Hill, though not where they currently live, in Sanderstead, which happens to be outside the Croydon Central constituency.
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 grammar in Sutton. In both cases, the schools were chosen because the alternatives provided within Croydon were inadequate.
But where Barwell’s school choice for his children is informative is that, after seven years of Conservative-led governments, with many education policies foisted on the state sector by Barwell’s chum Michael Gove, it appears that there is not a single state school in Croydon which the erstwhile Tory minister considers good enough for his own children.
- This Friday, June 9, Inside Croydon is staging a free talk about the election from American politics professor Bob Beatty. Click here for more details and to book your place
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