To me, to you ... Barry Chuckle caught in tussle over Rotherham free school

1st April 2011 at 01:00
Oh dear, oh dear: NUT and local council object to proposal by children's TV star

As one half of comedy duo the Chuckle Brothers, hapless Barry Chuckle has made a career out of earnestly throwing himself into madcap projects, only for things to go spectacularly awry.

But the children's TV star, whose real name is Barry Elliott, could not have anticipated the furious backlash he has encountered after agreeing to become the unlikely patron of a proposed free school in his home town of Rotherham.

Principal designate Charlotte Blencowe, the girlfriend of Mr Elliott's son, is looking to open a 500-place secondary school in the South Yorkshire town in 2012.

Ms Blencowe told The TES she has secured backing from enough parents for the plans to go ahead, and is in the process of submitting a formal application to the Department for Education.

But the proposal has come in for stinging criticism, with the NUT dismissing the free school as "Chuckle Brothers education". The local education authority has contacted the DfE calling for the project to be scrapped, warning that it is not needed and would have an adverse affect on existing schools in the town.

A statement from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council said: "The proposal to open the Rotherham Central Free School should be opposed as it would have a dramatic impact on current Rotherham schools reflected in falling rolls, loss of school funding, teacher and other staff redundancies and falling educational standards.

"The council would receive reduced funding as any pupil who attended a free school would withdraw the allocation of funding the local authority received to give to schools under the dedicated schools grant."

NUT regional secretary Ian Stevenson said: "Chuckle Brothers education: is that where we are? There has been local opposition to this ... The main issue of concern is the impact on the rest of the schools. It's hard to see how this free school would improve choice or raise standards."

Mr Elliott, best known for the Chuckle Brothers' trademark slapstick humour and their catchphrase "To me, to you", previously described the plans as "excellent" and said they would "hopefully raise standards in Rotherham".

Ms Blencowe hailed the 66-year-old ChuckleVision star as a "positive role model" as "someone from Rotherham whose success has lasted a lifetime".

The plans for the school include a language and communications centre, which will support a "limited" number of autistic students.

Ms Blencowe, an assistant head on the Future Leaders programme, said: "We are still going ahead, we have reached the DfE target for pupils and are now moving all our information on to the new documentation for the Department."

The school's website says it "will be the heart of the community, an educational establishment which will deliver the ethos of life-long learning with a focus on developing positive global citizens".

It continues: "The embedding of leadership at all levels within the school community will create a positive learning environment, where every child can flourish.

"We will lead the development of sustainable improvements across Rotherham where young people communicate their aspirations and put into action their goals."

The borough council is also opposing the Nationwide Independent College of Higher Education's plans for an 850-place free school in nearby Wath-upon-Dearne.

A spokeswoman for Mr Elliott said he was unable to comment as he was "on tour".

PLAYING IT FOR LAUGHS - To the Chucklemobile!

After making a name for themselves appearing in clubs, cabaret shows and TV talent show New Faces, Barry and Paul Elliott, better known as the Chuckle Brothers, got their big break in 1985 when the BBC broadcast their children's TV series The Chucklehounds.

Two years later came the Elliott brothers' biggest success, ChuckleVision, with 21 series screened on the BBC to date, the last in 2009. In each episode, the brothers embark on a job or adventure which results in slapstick humour and calamitous mishaps. Their trademark mode of transport is the "Chucklemobile", a quadricycle with a red-and-white striped roof.

Barry and Paul's best-known catchphrases are "To me, to you" and "Oh dear, oh dear". A 3D film spin-off of ChuckleVision is rumoured to be in the pipeline.

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