Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rewriting History

My response to the letter of Debbie Shears letter in the Wimbledon Guardian.

In the Wimbledon Guardian of 23rd November, Debbie Shears Cabinet member for Children Services published a letter claiming the credit for academies in Merton. Seeing the letter, it was a clear attempt to re-write history given the Tories record on the establishment of academies prior to the local elections in May.

Before the election, the Conservatives were busy opposing the plans of the then Labour Council for academies in the Borough. Indeed, Cllr Ooonagh Moulton now the Conservative Cabinet member for Secondary schools stated in a Life Chances scrutiny meeting "that the case for academies was not proven".

Following a motion at full Council, which was defeated by the then Labour majority to delay the start of academies till January 2007(bascilly to stop academies going ahead) they put out a leaflet in my ward Pollards Hill where one of the academies is now based saying, "Labour Councillors voted to hand the schools over to private sponsors and give away millions of pounds of Council taxpayers money . . . .The Labour Government shower the sponsors with knighthoods and peerages."

The peer who sponsored Tamworth Manor(now Harris Academy) happened to be Lord Harris, an ally of the Tory leader David Cameron who had been awarded his peerage under a Conservative government. Whatever my disagreements with the politics of Lord Harris, he had a genuine commitment to improve the life chances of students in the area and his support was invaluable.

The reason that we now have academies in East Mitcham is due to the actions of the then Labour Council and Siobhain Mc Donagh MP. This point was admitted by the Conservative MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond in a recent leaflet that "the establishment of two academies in Merton was the action of the previous Labour administration."

Since the establishment of the two academies in East Mitcham, both are now oversubscribed for next year and ethos of the schools has changed completely. While I welcome the late support of the Conservative minority administration to academies, it has to be be remembered that if the Tories had been running Merton Council prior to May, we would have had no academies in East Mitcham and the tremendous opopportunities from having academies would not have been available to students. From speaking to people in the area, people now want to sent their kids to the schools instead of trying to find alternatives schools many miles away from the local area.


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