Hackney New School consultation meeting gets a rough ride

We received this report from the Hackney New School consultation meeting on Saturday 21st January.


Altogether about 100 people attended. Only 3 or 4 were black, including Pauline Pearce, the woman who confronted rioters in Clarence Road, perhaps explained by her admission during the meeting that most of the black people she had spoken with about the free school told her it was going to be run by the white middle class for the white middle class.


After the corporate financial advisor had given his powerpoint presentation one contributor said that as someone who had grown up in one of the most deprived council estates in South London he resented the assertion that children living on local estates would benefit by be able to attend the New School because it would compensate for the bad homes they came from. He got a big applause for this comment. There were other critical comments made.


The financial advisor and his friends were visibly thrown as other parents began to pick up on what had been said and began to ask probing questions and express doubts. The only thing that half saved the day for them was Pauline’s bravura performance as a working class black woman and ex drug dealer who only wanted to give underprivileged kids the kind of opportunities that are usually only available to middle class ones. She was asked if she didn’t think she was being used and she admitted that there was a danger of that.


Pauline said that we needed another meeting where people critical of the proposal could come and continue the debate. Although, by the end, there was clearly a minority of parents there who wanted the free school whatever the cost to the community, the organisers were clearly rattled.  They also agreed to call another meeting.


Opponents of the ‘Free’ school proposal are organising a campaign meeting.


Click here for our Briefing on ‘Free’ schools 

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9 Responses to Hackney New School consultation meeting gets a rough ride

  1. Andy WIlson says:

    Great points Andreas. Of course you are absolutely right – what would a teacher know about education compared to you, a corporate finance advisor.

  2. Finn says:

    I was at the meeting on the 21st, and as one man described me: “I looked like I was about to pop” this is true, and the reasons are as follows:
    “We think the children at the school should adopt attitudes of how to think about the world” – Andreas Wesemann.
    “The idea is to lift these children…and bring the area up” Andrew Tetlow (Architect involved in the project, anyone else think he’s thinking of his own business and potential rich clients hiring him if he designs the houses they will buy in Hackney?)
    “This will be a trial and error exercise” – Pauline Pearce (Nice to think your children will be guinea pigs)
    And my personal favourite from Andreas:
    “This is the whole point of the thing, to drag everyone up to the same level…” (kicking and screaming??)

    See you at the next meeting HNS team and fellow AAA comrades.

  3. James says:

    Nobody has yet come up with an argument as to why a ‘free school’ (sic) is actually needed in Hackney. The reason for that I suspect is that it isn’t needed. Wanting a free school and needing a free school are not the same things. This smacks of pure vanity on the part of those intent on setting it up. Be honest – what’s wrong with the existing schools in Hackney? Now there are certainly issues in our existing schools, but I fail to see how an undemocratic, unaccountable school could provide any form of solution.

    As for Mr. Wesemann’s views on the NUT, in response to a previous comment, I suspect he will not recognise the union. I suspect that this free school will be implacably hostile to it, and victimise any teacher who dares to join it. If anyone is in any doubt as to the reactionary, right-wing and rabid nature of this proposal, then describing the NUT as a ‘job protection racket’ should suffice as proof.

  4. Jane says:

    It seems to be a characteristic of those who support “free” schools that they attempt to reduce arguments to a personal slanging match, rather than address the intellectual argument. The initial report here is just that – a report, expressed in pretty neutral language. The opening sentence from Mr Wesemann is “This fanciful summary of what happened at that meeting is really amusing”, immediately putting the discussion onto a personal and emotive level. Does this mean that Mr Wesemann is unable to make the argument without abuse? If so, should he be in a position to influence the education of young people?

    Surely, the role of any union is to protect its members. Presumably Mr Wesemann believes the NUT is doing an excellent job and, unless he feel teachers and other school staff should be bullied and badly treated, he will support the recognition in any academy (“free” school) he is connected with.

  5. Steve White says:

    I was not at the meeting but I hope that the Free School fails. That women who was the darling of the Tory conference, Burbalsing, is causing all sorts of problems in south London. We don’t want your free school because it will take away resources from other schools and the LA. Do us all a favor and go away!

  6. Pete says:

    A question to Andreas
    Since you think that the teachers unions are rackets, will you recognise them in your free school?

  7. Andreas Wesemann says:

    Well, what people think and what the facts are can be quite different things – people are certainly entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. If I tell you (and the DfE) that “the admissions policies of Hackney New School will be governed by the School Admissions Code” then you have to explain to me which provision of this Code, which applies to all state schools, will permit us to make this a school for white middle-class people. I can give you the answer – there is none.

    It’s really not interesting for the development of any school curriculum that you found Latin boring and useless, but dropped it at the first opportunity. You may feel Latin would be “unlikely to attract working class kids”, but that may only be because people like you tell them that it’s boring and uninteresting – whereas, like all knowledge, it can be fascinating and extremely interesting. What a pathetic position: to derive from your own interests (or lack thereof) a general recommendation as to what others should study. Why not give them the the full range of options, and they can make up their own mind?

    We decided to drop Latin because we couldn’t fit it all in, and there were many parents who weren’t too keen on it in comparison to the other elements of the curriculum we want to offer: but they managed to convey that in an entirely normal way, without the spluttering rage that Ken displayed at Saturday’s meeting (and which led my partner Andrew Tetlow to ask him three times to calm down & let someone else get a word in, albeit to no avail).

    As you remind us, you are both a working class kid and went to a grammar school – that most selective, tax-funded institution in the country. I sort of think that you, the working class hero, don’t seem quite to have forgiven yourself for that treacherous class betrayal (class being, of course, this country thinks about all day long), attending – let me guess – a predominantly white, middle-class school. You should step over your own shadow and let children and their parents today decide for themselves what they’d like to do, uninfluenced by the personal history of Mr Ken Muller and the job-protection scheme of the NUT.

  8. Ken Muller says:

    In fact, it was Pauline who told the meeting that a lot of black people she had spoken to thought that HNS would be a “school for white middle class people, run by white middle class people”.

    Eastlondonlines, prior to the meeting, on 11 January, reported, “Pearce realises that Hackney New School will be using her to drum up publicity.”

    Eastlondonlines also noted that HNS intended to include Greek and Latin on its curriculum, which, intended or not, is unlikely to be attract working class kids. I didn’t say I hated it (actually I just found it boring and useless). What I did say was that as a working class kid who had passed his eleven plus, I dropped it at the first opportunity.

    Presumably a lot of other people told Mr Wesemann the samething, because he told the meeting that he had now decided to drop Latin and Greek after all. (Maybe they will be replaced as a covert form of selection by the selection of 10 per cent of pupils by aptitude in music, mentioned in his power point presentation.)

    Anyway, it’s gratifying to know that Anreas thinks the NUT is so “utterly irrelevant” that he feels the need to vent his spleen to the AAA about it!

  9. Andreas Wesemann says:

    This fanciful summary of what happened at that meeting is really amusing. Can I tell you what the facts are:

    1. We went through our plans for HNS.

    2. A history teacher voiced his strong opposition to our plans – there is no substantive criticims involved, just unsubstantiated claims that HNS would only be for the white middle-class, which is just factually wrong. The school will not be selective in any way – to say that the opposite is or could be the case is just wrong. He was particularly “angry” (seriously) about Latin being possibly part of the curriculum – on the basis that he “hated” it when he was at school. It’s a classic example of how many (NUT?) teachers base their opposition to free schools, or indeed any innovation in schooling, on their own personal experiences as pupils, which is obviously completely irrelevant or pupils in a contemporary school such as HNS.

    3. A second opponents voiced his concerns, in particular that having a core vision to foster “responsibility towards others in society” could prevent students with “anarchistic” preferences from developing their full potential! Really to silly or words – and hard to believe that anyone who is older than 15 really believes that this is a valid or useful objective for chidren.

    4. There were many interested parents there, but it was at times a bit difficult for them to raise their questions because our two NUT campaigners tried to occupy the Q&A time for themselves. Not a surprising tactic. We certainly had a lot of support from many people afterwards when they could emerge to catch a breath.

    5. Pauline has been very supportive of our plans and it’s great she’s on board. I’d like to know on what basis you claim that she believes that there is a danger she might be used. It’s news to us.

    None of this should surprise anyone familiar with the NUT as an organisation or its tactics. It operates as a protection racket for its members. You should read their list of reasons why they are opposed to free schools (http://www.teachers.org.uk/freeschools) – it’s all about themselves and teachers, with no consideration being paid AT ALL to the benefit some new ideas and innovation might have for children.

    It makes you weep – but in the end the NUT is utterly irrelevant, and I hope it remains that way, for what we are trying to do: improve the lives of young people in Hackney

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