Concerned by the polarisation of the great Fortismere debate

IN November I wrote to you voicing concern about the increasing polarisation and ferocity of debate surrounding the future of Fortismere School. I was, and remain, convinced that this approach to addressing what are complex and many layered issues, which

IN November I wrote to you voicing concern about the increasing polarisation and ferocity of debate surrounding the future of Fortismere School.

I was, and remain, convinced that this approach to addressing what are complex and many layered issues, which go way beyond Foundation status alone, was harmful and misleading and excluded those who find it difficult to speak out in an environment which is becoming increasingly intimidating. I am particularly thinking about parents, govenors and teachers at the school.

Your recent coverage of events is lazy, one-sided and divisive in the extreme. You covered the KFC meeting which took place last week as though it represents the views of all parents and teachers at the school. I can assure you that this group does not. I was present at that meeting and did not dare speak out.

Other parents could not face even attending because they felt they would be shouted down if they tried to air a broader range of opinion. This group does not have a monopoly on caring about comprehensive education or inclusion (though let's be honest, most of them, like the rest of Muswell Hill parents, have worked hard to ensure that they don't live in an area as inclusive as Tottenham).


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I am being a little flippant here, but the point I am making is that we have all worked hard to give our children as much advantage as we can in life... KFC included.

I sincerely believe parents and teachers have more in common than divides them when it comes to a wish to develop an excellent learning environment for all.

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However, this is always complicated when it comes to matters of resource distribution, which seems to be at the bottom of some of the current animosity.

Many parents I have spoken to seem to be of the view that change is needed. There are some awful, growing conduct and safety problems; some of the systems and infrastructure for supporting a learning environment are robust whilst others are clearly very weak; some departments are excellent, others are not; boys are consistently under performing compared to girls and are to some extent being failed.

Fortismere should support academic high-flyers and special needs children alike (on occasion they can be one and the same) and should not forget the vast majority of 'average' children who seem to have no place at all in the current argument. (Yes, of course I am aware that all children are individuals and don't fit neatly into any of these categories).

There are rumours that KFC is trying to drive out the Chair of Govenors and the Head; rumours that for every reponse to consultation, each KFC household is completing a response per individual to bolster their numbers; rumours that lies and distortion abound.

KFC is clearly impressively resourced in terms of intellect and communications and also well-networked to the media. It is my view that it would be appalling to see the Chair or Head hounded out and I want to give them my support.

The school has been without strong direction for a long time and it would take a very long time to find a new head prepared to step into such an awful environment.

The current Head is introducing class sizes of 24; making links with schools in developing countries; putting in effective measures for a safer school environment, challenging poor behaviour and committing to improving the performance of boys. These are all things that need to happen and I want him to stay and deliver these improvements and more.

A destructive and intimidating environment has been created around the Fortismere debate. For this to end, can we please assume that nearly all of the teachers and parents and govenors are concerned to see a constructive outcome achieved (including, I know, many KFC parents); want the polarisation of debate to cease; want the use of underhand tactics to stop and want external interests and biased lazy reporting of the situation to end.

Claire Murdoch

(A Muswell Hill parent who doesn't belong to any faction)

Editor's Note: our report and comment column both clearly stated that the meeting was organised by KFC and attended by about 100 people. Nowhere did our report or editorial comment suggest that the meeting represented the views of all parents and teachers.

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