Waltham Forest Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin has explained his decision not to attend a high profile Government event in Waltham Forest, claiming the visit was “completely inappropriate”.
Government schools minister Ed Balls’ visit to Kelmscott School in Walthamstow came just a week after he caused anger by placing two other local schools — George Mitchell in Leyton and the new Walthamstow Academy — on a ‘hit list’ of “underperforming” schools that could face closure. The move has been greeted with anger from both head teachers and parents.
Cllr Macklin, the Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council, chose not to attend the event, which he called “enormously ill-timed.”
Cllr Macklin, who is also a senior university lecturer in education, continued:
“Whilst it is welcome that the excellent progress being made at Kelsmcott is being recognised, it almost defies belief that the Minister feels it is appropriate to put the boot into local schools one week and then, days later, turn up in Waltham Forest to use the borough for a government press launch.
“His hit list has caused a lot of anger locally and has apparently been based on completely arbitrary targets that take no account of any of the highly individual circumstances that schools such as George Mitchell work under.
“When the Lib Dem education spokesman David Laws MP visited Walthamstow Academy earlier this year he was hugely impressed by the hard work being put in by the head, Fiona Cordeaux, and her staff.
“How on earth can threatening these schools with closure under such apparently random criteria help in their future development?
“Ed Balls’ announcement has unsettled teachers, staff and pupils who I’m sure will see the Minister’s decision to go ahead with this visit in the wake of such an announcement as entirely lacking in tact.”
The Ministerial visit came on the same day that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg set out plans to give schools greater freedoms, promising to strip Ministers of their power to “meddle and micro-manage”.