This morning, I was honoured to attend the official opening service and ceremony of the Kings Priory School in Tynemouth. As I’m sure regular Coffee House readers are aware, I’ve followed the creation of this academy in my home region with much interest. Despite Labour’s initial plans to sabotage the merger of the private King’s School and the state Priory Primary School, the new institution finally opened its door six week ago.
It’s a fantastic addition to one of the country’s poorest boroughs. Who better to open this school than Andrew Adonis, the man responsible for rejuvenating Kenneth Baker’s academies policy? At the ceremony today, Adonis explained to pupils how they are on the threshold of a ‘new and bold chapter’ for the area:
‘It is a brilliant opportunity for Tynemouth in the creation of this institution. It’s brilliant in the sense of offering opportunities for Tynemouth – a fantastic private school which has now dropped its fees. Open to the whole community without the big barrier of income and wealth, which held people back from being able to come to one half of this institution.
‘If the North East is going to thrive in the future, it can only be on the basis of having outstanding education — with all young people getting good GCSEs, staying on at 16, getting A-Levels or their technical equivalents and then going onto university or apprenticeships. That’s exactly the tradition which Kings has nurtured over its 150 year history and we know the new institution will take that forward…you will be the sum so much more than the parts that have have come together.’
I found visiting the new school, full of exuberant, enthusiastic and switched-on pupils, rather life affirming. The youngsters in both the primary and secondary parts of the academy were very smart and extremely polite. The standards and ethos of the private school appear to have been successfully transferred across to the nationalised institution. Every parent I spoke to was hugely enthusiastic for the new school — the local demand for places demonstrates that.
The fact this school is finally in existence is a victory for Michael Gove’s fight against the trade unions, this government’s support for academies, the Woodard Trust but also for Lord Adonis. He’s been trying to persuade his Labour colleagues for many years that academies are a good thing. If anyone in the local Labour authority (who fought the merger tooth and nail) visited they school today, they would realise how wrong they were.
But maybe the tide is already turning. Skulking at the back of the ceremony, I spotted the local Labour MP for Tynemouth Alan Campbell. Even the North East’s die-hard Labour MPs may slowly be realising the education revolution is here to stay.
Andrew Adonis found time to sit down for a chat after the opening, where we discussed Labour’s education policy, his take on free schools, High Speed 2, the question of whether he’s running for Mayor of London and his 30 year relationship with Ed Balls. Check back on Coffee House soon to read the full interview.
The story of the battle for the Kings Priory School:
- Another good private school wants to join the state system. Why is Labour trying to stop it?
- Parents vs. the system: which side is Labour on?
- Yet again, Labour’s self-serving efforts to block The King’s School merger have failed
- The King’s School merger will go ahead unchallenged — Labour should be celebrating
PS: If you are in any doubt about the challenges that lie ahead for education reformers, take a look at this (free post!) propaganda leaflet the NUT and NASWUT unions are handing out to teachers. They’re apparently ‘protecting teachers, defending education’ – click to enlarge:
Tags: Andrew Adonis, King's School, Michael Andrew, UK politics