1st December 1995 at 00:00
Poor old Canon Greenwood has got himself in quite a fix. This is Canon Gerald Greenwood, the director of education in the London diocese of Southwark. It is also the same Gerald Greenwood who has so enthusiastically embraced such non-political initiatives as grant-maintained status and city technology colleges, despite the doubts of clerical colleagues in Southwark and elsewhere.

The Rev Greenwood came to ministerial notice when he helped secure CTC status for the church-owned Bacon School in Southwark. And his warmth towards opting out has led him to high office on the board of the Funding Agency for Schools - the powerful quango which runs the GM sector and, in some parts of the country, meddles in planning decisions about the number of school places.

But now the Government has really gone and done it, proposing that parents at voluntary-aided (church-owned) schools be whisked on to a "fast track" to GM status; minus their right to vote one way or another.

A perturbed Rev Greenwood has been obliged to recant, in tones of hurt and outrage. In a letter to all directors of education in his diocese he says that the Southwark board of education is "extremely concerned about the proposals and sees them as unhelpful generally".

Removing the requirement to hold a parental ballot, he fumes, "is viewed as highly undesirable", and "wholly unacceptable".

A block transfer of church schools to GM status would be "viewed with total disfavour", while deciding that church schools do not have to publish detailed statutory plans before opting out would "seem to weaken the credibility of any decision taken to go grant-maintained".

Extraordinary stuff. This stern critic of Government policy has already "shared these views in appropriate ways" with ministers. And kissed goodbye to future aggrandisement, no doubt.

An anonymous correspondent has furnished us with the following comparison of two inner-city comprehensives: Each of the mystery pair is grant-maintained and both were among the first 50 to opt out. They contended with hostile local education authorities in the process and have become, in their separate ways, a frequent focus of media attention. Both the heads have received OBEs.

The first is the celebrated Small Heath school in Birmingham which this year had 27 per cent of its pupils achieving five or more A-C grades; 72 per cent on five or more A-G grades; and 84 per cent getting at least one A-G grade.

The second is the less-than-celebrated Stratford school in Newham whose results are, as it turns out, better still: 28 per cent; 86 per cent; and 97 per cent respectively.

Small Heath school is the subject of ministerial approbation and has been visited by the great educationist, John Major.

It is run by Cecil Knight, OBE, the chairman of the Grant Maintained Standing Advisory Committee and a man proud of the school's achievements in a difficult area of the city.

On the other hand Stratford, with better results, is still regarded as failing after two years of trying to get off the danger list.

It currently faces the threat of having yet more governors changed by ministerial dictat.

To Bexleyheath where a group called Marketing Network is listening to the considered opinion of Cyril Townsend, the local MP. The network is a gathering of public relations officers from the world of further education, people who know a thing or two about the sector.

Unlike Mr Townsend. Asked how he would think of improving FE's public image, the backbencher grandly explains that the Government has already helped his audience by turning polytechnics into universities.

Foot-in-mouth disease has spread to rural Worcestershire and the columns of the weekly Kidderminster Shuttle, one of which is riddled with errors.

The victim of this embarrassing complaint is Anthony Coombs MP, dapper darling of the Christian right and Gillian Shephard's new parliamentary gopher, who sagely explains to carpet-weaving citizenry that key stage 2 is for children of ages 11 to 14.

Mary Hufford may have spent five years of near invisibility at the National Union of Teachers, but her grim experience in the shadow of general secretary Doug McAvoy has in no way sapped her will to fight. Nor has the election defeat, which saw her toppled from the post of deputy general secretary.

Far from it, Ms Hufford has already persuaded Leicester's NUT association to cough up for full discussions with m'learned friends and is now planning to sue those she believes have besmirched her professional reputation.

Professor Anthony King, an inquisitor on Lord Nolan's committee on standards in public life, tells the hearings of a very disturbing event.

"Somebody was telling me the other day of a meeting at a rather troubled grant-maintained school... Apparently it was very well attended because there were troubles in the school and some of the parents were very vociferous. And when the temperature had got to a sufficient height, the chairman of the governors, in effect told the parents present to 'sod off' because the standing of this parents' meeting was zero. They could say what they liked. They could even pass a resolution condemning the governors but nothing much would follow. I just mention this."

As do we. Carborundum is actively seeking further information.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today