Status anxiety

Status Anxiety: A lesson in satire

Toby Young suffers from Status Anxiety

26 February 2011

You have to take your hat off to Michael Gove. In spite of the Herculean task he has saddled himself with — saving the state education system of this country — he has managed to find time to produce a brilliant piece of satire. I’m referring to a blog on the Local Schools Network entitled ‘Celebrating diversity at Stoke Newington School’.

The Local Schools Network is a website that exists primarily to disseminate smears and lies about free schools. It boasts the patronage of Fiona Millar and Melissa Benn, but by far its most energetic contributor is Francis Gilbert, a media studies teacher in Bethnal Green. Gilbert has devoted himself, body and soul, to frustrating the efforts of parents and teachers to set up schools.

Last week, a post appeared on the site that purported to be by someone called ‘Henry Stewart’, but I’m almost certain this is a pseudonym. The real author, I’m convinced, is none other than the Secretary of State for Education. His aim, clearly, is to point up the extent to which state education has been hijacked by the loony left.

‘It is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) week at Stoke Newington School,’ it begins. ‘The whole of Year 8 has spent the day creating banners and other materials and this afternoon the whole year, over 200 students, walked round the local park displaying their messages.’

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Now, I know what some of you are thinking. The very idea that a group of 12-year-old schoolchildren would be dragooned into ‘creating banners and other materials’ to promote LGBT week is preposterous. How many ‘transgendered’ pupils could there possibly be at a comprehensive in Stoke Newington? It stretches credulity to breaking point. Satire is supposed to cut like a scalpel, not a butcher’s knife. This is too over the top to be effective. All I can say, dear reader, is that you are clearly unfamiliar with the crazy excesses of contemporary state education. Believe me, it is all too plausible.

The Secretary of State, masquerading as ‘Henry Stewart’, goes on to describe the school’s ‘annual LGBT celebratory concert’. ‘Now concerts at Stoke Newington School are always great events, with the students enthusiastically cheering each other on and showing huge support even when their colleagues get things wrong,’ he writes. ‘But tonight was especially inspiring and moving.’

You have to admire Gove’s ability to capture the ghastly jargon of the state system. Note the use of the words ‘students’ and ‘colleagues’ as if to acknowledge the fact that we’re talking about children would be to disrespect them in some peculiar way. And, of course, the Secretary of State can’t resist a little dig at the all-must-win-prizes philosophy that has made any recognition of excellence absolutely taboo in our state schools, with the ‘students’ ‘enthusiastically cheering’ and ‘showing huge support’ regardless of how feeble the efforts of their ‘colleagues’ are.

The ‘celebratory concert’ concludes with the appearance of some female rugby players: ‘The Head of PE presented six members of the girls’ rugby team, some of whom play for Middlesex, and talked about how the school’s first LGBT week had led him to challenge stereotypes in sport.’

You can just picture the wretched PE teacher, forced to stand up in front of the whole school and thank the Leadership Team and Governing Body for ‘enlightening’ him about the needs of the school’s lesbian population. It’s reminiscent of the ‘confessions’ that Chinese intellectuals were forced to make during the Cultural Revolution to avoid being carted off to ‘re-education’ camps. Clearly, if Michael Gove ever retires from politics he has a career ahead of him as the writer of a sitcom about an inner-London comprehensive: Citizen Smith meets Grange Hill.

He concludes this wonderful send-up with a eulogy to his imaginary school. ‘This was a local community school at its absolute best,’ he writes. ‘It was a celebration of diversity and a call to support all our students for who they are, and for all of us to be proud of who we are. Banners round the hall, made by the students, carried messages like “No matter who we are, we are all human” and “Some people are gay. Get over it”.’

Well done, Michael. Your journalistic talents clearly haven’t deserted you. It is you, isn’t it? This ‘Henry Stewart’ fellow, he’s not actually real, is he? No. It’s unimaginable. Even in Stoke Newington, the left-wing nutters can’t have penetrated the state education system to quite this extent.

Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.

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Show comments
  • Anxiously Stable

    For those of you who are getting a little tired of Toby’s relentless plundering of the Local Schools Network website without providing links to the original text, here you go

    And for anyone who can’t be bothered to take a look, here’s some quotes from the same piece that Toby chose not to include in his ‘satirical’ column.

    A Year 7 student explained how they had been working in ICT on Alan Turing, a key part of the codebreaking team at Bletchley Park and held by many to be the father of modern computing. He was arrested for being gay in 1952, forced to take hormone tablets and committed suicide in 1954.

    There was a special guest appearance from paralympics athlete Clare Harvey, who captained Scotland at Rugby before a horrific bicycle athlete confined her to a wheelchair. Now she is part of UK’s floor volleyball team, getting up at 4.30 each morning for intensive training. She talked about the decision about whether to keep her sexual orientation hidden and live a lie in public or be open about being a Lesbian.

  • Sns colleagues

    Has the writer not heard of Google? Henry Stewart is the Head of Governors for Stoke Newington School…literally would have taken 2 seconds to find that out.

  • Hate Baldness

    “You can just picture the wretched PE teacher, forced to stand up in front of the whole school and thank the Leadership Team and Governing Body for ‘enlightening’ him”…Does the writer not think that some PE teachers could also be female? Or gay for that matter?

  • PM

    Haven’t you got anything better to write about? LGBT has a massive following at universities and rightly so. Most gay people come out in their late teens – would you rather they went through the whole experience repressing their homosexuality as much as you do?

  • Lizzie Sarchet

    There are many things that are ignorant, ill informed and just plain wrong about this article, but I’ll start with this one:
    ‘…to promote LGBT week is preposterous. How many ‘transgendered’ pupils could there possibly be at a comprehensive in Stoke Newington?’
    1. LGBT = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. Why is Toby Young ignoring the lesbian, gay and bisexual part? How many lesbian, gay and bisexual students are there likely to be at a comprehensive in Stoke Newington? Quite a few I’d imagine. (And Toby, you might not like it, but there’ll probably be some at your school too. Shock. Horror.)
    2. Even if there are no transgender students (which there could well be anyway, but disregarding that for the purposes of this point) does that mean Toby Young thinks we shouldn’t educate children about people or experiences they may not have actually encountered or gone through yet themselves? This suggests to me that the education children will receive at Toby Young’s school will be fairly narrow (not to mention dull and uninspired. One of the best things about teaching, is teaching students about things they don’t encounter in their everyday life.)
    3. Stoke Newington provides an education for children that teaches them to be open-minded, tolerant and well-informed. All things that Toby Young quite clearly is not.

  • Anxiously Stable

    By the way, Toby. Will sex education form part of the curriculum at the West London Free School?

  • Alun Gordon

    My son took part in the concert, singing with the choir. He is young and not particularly bothered about sexuality yet, but I find it extremely positive that he is learning not to be a bigot and is that the world is full of all sorts of people. Shame Toby didn’t learn the same sort of lesson when he was at school, or he might be a nicer person and a better journalist for it.

  • Normandolf

    His sparks is not very bright is it?

  • Anxiously Stable

    C’mon Toby – what’s the Latin for hand-job?

  • Vicky Park

    Clearly the purpose of this article is to offend and antagonise, and in that respect Toby Young is a successful writer.
    In every other respect, he’s a embarrassment to journalism.
    God help the kids at his brave new world school…

  • Maria

    What about the government’s emphasis on inclusion, does that not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people?

    Stoke Newington School is educating their pupils to be open-minded young people, it is a shame this doesn’t happen across the board in all schools. I wish it had happened when I was at school.

  • James

    Badly written, attention-seeking hate.

  • Philip Dundas

    I wanted my full name to be published so that anyone (especially Toby Young) can get back to me in person. As a young man growing up in the 70s when being gay was still illegal and certainly a certain misery at school, it’s refreshing that kids today are being sufficiently well taught about acceptance and diversity. Just as important as Holocaust Remembrance, LGBT celebration may not save lives but it may well give those facing a life of rejection and the misery of denial a positive feeling about themselves.
    If someone had cared a bit more about who I was as a person and what made me tick instead of stuffing latin declensions into my head, I might have had the chance of a much happier adolescence and young adulthood. ad nil desperandum.

  • Jeff Hebert

    Want to understand just how hateful this argument is? Then just play the tried and tested game of replacing all mentions of LGBT people with ones about ‘blacks’, ‘women’, ‘jews’ or any other minority you care to think of. Not quite so funny now, is it?

    As a teacher at the school you’ve decided to denigrate for chuckles, Mr Young, I’d like to ask what’s so ‘loony’ about teaching children tolerance, kindness, respect and understanding? You’re setting up a school – are these values not expected to be deeply ingrained in your ‘mission statement’ (or whatever jargon you choose to use)?

    Your local train station can take you to Stoke newington School in about 40 minutes – why don’t you arrange to come and see us and the work we do? You never know, you might learn something…

  • Louisa P

    Epic Fail. As opposed to praising Stoke Newington School and their STUDENTS for making a conscious effort to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgenender people you have shown pure bigotry and prejudice. I suppose you also object to STUDENTS learning about Black History, Inclusion and Women having the vote. Obviously this Neanderthal has yet to evolve. I seriously hope he has no children of his own to influence with his narrow-minded, pig-headed, xenophobic attitudes… events such as LGBT promote tolerance and respect which is lacking enough in today’s society without a GLORIFIED TYPIST(with the money to edit a local paper)getting on his high horse about it.

  • Louisa

    Epic Fail. Rather than praising the School and their STUDENTS for making a conscious effort to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgenender people you have shown pure bigotry and prejudice. I suppose you also object to STUDENTS learning about Black History, Inclusion and Women having the vote.Obviously this Neanderthal has yet to evolve. I seriously hope he has no children of his own to influence with his narrow-minded, pig-headed, xenophobic attitudes… Events such as LGBT promote tolerance and respect which is lacking enough in today’s society without a glorified typist (with the money to edit a local paper)getting on his high horse about it!

  • Tilda

    Toby Young, you should be ashamed of yourself. The world has moved on since the 1950s. Shame you haven’t. You aren’t fit to run a school.

  • David Medway

    Of course this is written for effect. I hope it is anyway, otherwise the lack of rationale and journalistic integrity would be an embarrassment.

    I think of it as a conservative self-publicist choosing to write a lightweight and inflammatory rant. His topic is the sincere effort to discourage irrational prejudice toward other people on the basis of arbitrary and superficial categorisation. He does this for money, stirs in an implicit, blanket, contempt for state education and on the assumption that it will confirm the existing prejudice within the probable readership.

    In the process he provides a damning indictment of how his own education perhaps failed to challenge his bigotry or at least instil him with any dignity.

    A pretty big compliment to all involved at Stoke Newington School I’d say.

  • Annie Gammon

    I am proud that the students and staff and governors at Stoke Newington School are standing up for diversity. Their stance is entirely backed up by legislation and, indeed, by the Education section of this Conservative-Liberal government’s manifesto – which commits to tackling homophobic bullying in schools. You have only to remember the reasons why David Laws had to resign from his ministerial position, as well as reading comments from other writers above, to realise how wrong, how very wrong, Toby Young is in mocking equalities education.

    Morally we all have a responsibility to tackle unfair discrimination: the students at Stoke Newington are learning to do exactly that. I do wonder what sort of morals children might learn at any school which Toby Young influences.

  • Vanessa Napolitano

    what a thoroughly boring, insidious, uninformed article.

  • Joellybaby

    It sounds to me like exactly the type of school I’d want to send my kids to: teaching them to value diversity, feel confident to be themselves and consider the feelings of those different from themselves.

    If you don’t think homophobic prejudice is a problem in primary schools, you’re deluded. It is more so in secondaries, and surely tackling it early is worthwhile?

    Perhaps if 15 year old Jonathan Reynolds school in Bridgend had done more to teach it’s pupils to value diversity, he would not have committed suicide after prolonged homophobic bullying?

    Besides, the school’s LGBT activities sound pretty fun to me.

  • Eleanor Murch

    I have been debating for some time whether or not to comment on this article as I am reluctant to give Mr Young any more of my time than he deserves (which is precisely none!) nor the attention he so clearly craves in writing this article.

    However I feel compelled to respond.

    In 10 years of working with young people, I have never come across such a diverse and tolerant range of young people as I have had the pleasure to teach in the 5 months since I joined Stoke Newington, and this is no accident. The direct teaching of tolerance and community, about LGBT or any other issue, is just as important as the teaching of academic subjects (if not more) if we are to have a functional and successful society.

    I am proud to have been associated with LGBT day, and the other inclusive initiatives the school runs, and am proud to be a teacher at Stoke Newington.

    If the only way Toby Young can gain attention as a journalist is to produce such distasteful and sensationalist poison, perhaps he is not such a good journalist and should consider a different career…though please God not in education!

  • Caroline Millar

    For goodness sake Toby. It seems to me if anyone is Gove’s poodle it it you. Now you have stopped making money out of being a failure in New York, how long do you plan to make a living out of your complete ignorance about what happens in London state schools? You really should be ashamed of yourself pandering to people’s worst fears and prejudices just to get yourself noticed and earn a quick buck.

  • Duncan Evans

    There are so many things wrong with this article that I don’t know where to begin.

    I don’t think this person is fit to set up a school. I wouldn’t let him near my children.

  • Grace Brown

    I am a year ten student at Stoke Newington school. I took part in the concert as one of the female middlesex rugby players. I am horrified and appalled that Toby Young insinuated that our PE teacher and rugby coach was forced to support us in breaking down gender stereotypes, I and my team mates have done our best to avoid this kind of prejudice, it’s ridiculous that it should be published in an article when our school makes so much effort to get rid of it in the playground. The presentation was about sexism not about us being “lesbians”. We also did not “conclude the show” so you have that wrong among other things.

  • Rugby Captain

    As captain of the girls rugby team I am deeply offended by the whole article. we face prejudice that we are lesbians all the time, and if we were why would that be such an awful thing. Our p.e teacher has supported us from the beginning and to suggest that he was forced to is awful and has no foundation in fact. Our school aim is to make all students feel accepted that means students who are LGBT. I would to like to mention that the students at our are not forced to do anything, all of the students at the event where there because they wanted to be there, to support their fellow students and school. I can also assure you we were all genuinely ‘enthusiastic’.

  • very tired

    Entirely idle speculation. I really hope that Toby won’t run his school the same way. I believe that within journalism it is customary to actually do some research. Shame on you, Spectator.

  • Newsbreaker

    Anxiously Stable – who was the “horrific bicycle athlete” who “confined” Clare to a wheelchair? Sounds like a brute.

  • Anxiously Stable

    Ha, well spotted Newsbreaker!!

    God knows how that typo appeared – you wouldn’t have thought I get paid to do check that kind of stuff.

  • Allan Beavis

    I suppose Toby Young’s career in the media has allowed him to publicise both his free school and himself but it is

  • Wilf Wild

    The school’s latest Ofsted report notes that truancy is a problem. Not surprised they stay away if that’s the kind of stuff they’re forced to do.

  • Pangloss

    Excellent article Toby- if this many trolls are gunning for you it is clear you’re doing something right!

    For those willing to put aside their blinkers, it is clear that the point of the piece was the query the academic worth of “banner producing and marching” as opposed to say maths (note our falling international ranking.)

    Keep up the good work Toby and every possible success with the new school.

  • Concerned Parent

    I don’t really know where to begin. Presumably this tribe of Guardianistas commenting on Toby’s article have pretty miserable lives. At least a couple of you need to procure yourselves a dictionary and look up “satire” and to those that think it shameful that the Spectator should publish this article, you clearly do not read this publication regularly. This is a magazine to entertain as well as inform. Please go back to reading Polly Toynbee or get yourselves a sense of humour. Equating this with racism or anti-Semitism (or indeed homophobia) really is beyond the pale – it is you who should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • Allan Beavis

    I suppose Toby Young’s career in the media has allowed him to publicise both his free school and himself but this rant – which is neither satirical nor informed – only serves to strike fear into the heart of anyone who believes that education should be run by professional educators and not by self-serving, meddling parents. He glibly evokes the torture of intellectuals during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in his attack on Stoke Newington School’s LGBT celebrations but I wonder what form of torment his free school will inflict on their students if they refuse to conform to his restrictive and mocking view of the world? At least in Stoke Newington School, we know that our children will not be excluded because of their class, race, sexuality and ability. Conjecture in journalism is never a good idea, so had he been present at Stoke Newington School during LGBT week, he will have seen no evidence of authoritarian arm-bending but plenty of fun, energy, talent and the community coming together with the school as the focus. Education has to be more than just GCSE grades. My experience of the state education system is that, by opening up children’s minds to the possibilities and diversities of life outside the confines of their parents’ or carers examples and expectations, state schools are helping to raise a generation of kids to become broadminded and less accepting of any type of prejudice. If there is any argument against free schools, then Mr Young has, in his gauche and childish way, provided us with the answers.

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Concerned Parent – perhaps you need to procure a definition of satire yourself. You will find that an element of wit is fundamental. There is no wit in Mr. Young’s article, just mockery which, in your snide comment about “Guardianistas” is something you seem to understand

  • Anxiously Stable

    Ignoring for a second Toby’s use of ‘satire’, he does have a point when he castigates the Local Schools Network for their approach to raising standards in public-sector schools.

    Note, for example, how the issue we’ve been discussing here has has been commented on on their website.


    And for all the Tory trolls who define anyone who doesn’t agree with their views as ‘Guardianistas’, I certainly don’t have a problem with Toby’s wish to start his own school. It’s the fact he’s turned into Alf Garnett that I find so distressing.

  • Shorelark

    Ah yes, Allan Beavis – those pesky, self-serving, meddling parents.
    If only they’d leave the lefties alone to force-feed political correctness down the throats of those kids unfortunate enough to have drawn Stoke Newington in the great schools lottery.

  • Grace Brown

    Toby Young, your clearly superior education when compared with my feeble state school one has left you without one thing, understanding. As a student at Stoke Newington chool that is something that I have that you never will.

    I’m slightly concerned for any child under your influence, inevitably they will be small minded and bigoted like yourself.

    I think perhaps you should, like me, come to see one of our many concerts, maybe then you will see the enthusiasm of the students yourself. No-one is forced to take part, not the “the wretched PE teacher” (who is my rugby coach, yes I am on the girls’ rugby team, and yes I play for Middlesex, did I mention, I’m not lesbian as you implied, although it seems that this would only matter to you because at Stoke Newington there would be nothing wrong with being LGBT) or the children, it’s a celebration of our diversity.It seems the only sector of society we are missing at our school are the chauvanistic, intolerant people like you.

  • Jeff Hebert

    @Shorelark – drawn in a lottery? We’re an over-subscribed school. In an area with an ever-increasing number of academies, we’re still having to turn pupils away. Maybe those pesky parents can see the school for what it is, rather than the blinkered view portrayed in this article…

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Shorelark – My children have never been force-fed any political correctness at school by “lefties”. They have been encouraged by their parents and their school towards independent, informed thought. There are conservatives as well as radicals in a school society – both have their space, which is the point of liberal thought. Perhaps a good dose of “leftie-ism” is a sweet pill to counteract rabid ignorance and prejudice, qualities I’m sure you would not tolerate

  • Shorelark

    Blimey, Grace Brown – if you’re going to go off on one about education in a public forum you might at least get a grown-up to check your spelling and grammar.
    Do you have anyone who can do that at your school or are they all out marching about “chauvanism” or something?

  • Concerned Parent

    I am not a Tory thank you very much! I just happen to think that one can find something amusing, even if it isn’t 100% factually correct, even if you don’t believe in it. Calm down people. I chuckled when I read this because it was funny but that doesn’t mean I would want my children to think that LGBTs are any ‘less’ than non-LGBTs are.

    More importantly, unlike the majority of people posting on this site, I wouldn’t want my children thinking that those who disagreed with them are ‘less’ than they are. A peculiar (and tiresome) disorder of the Left.

  • Cathy Saiz

    Shame on you Toby!

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Shorelark. I presume you are an adult? Grace Brown is a Year 10 student – a child -so I don’t think she needs to be subjected to any snide abuse from you on a public forum. Grace has the excuse of youth to pardon minor grammatical errors commonly made by adults and – heaven forbid – professional journalists before their sub-editors have a read of it. What is your excuse for being a bully?

  • bigot spotter


    As opposed to force feeding your bigotry down their throats. And before you start bleating that you are not homophobic anyone who can dismiss the teaching of tolerance as ‘political correctness being forced down their throats’ shows at the very least an extremely relaxed view towards homophobic bullying.

    Obviously the vast amount of parents at Stoke Newington school (Outstanding, I believe, at its last Ofsted) are supportive and their views welcomed. However, ill informed, ranting bigoted views from people like yourself are not so welcome.
    Internet trolls are people who try do derail a particular topic with their own political agenda. a) this article is obviously about the teaching of LGBT issues so all the comments are germaine to the discussion and b) Most of the comments seem to come from teachers, students and parents of Stoke Newington.
    Also if you spent a little time thinking about it, or having it explained to you, all the activities you mentioned have numerous educational possibilities.

  • Shorelark

    Hey, Al – if you’re old enough to put your head above the parapet you’re old enough to get shot out. Grace seems quite content to go around labelling people as bigots on websites. She’s got to learn to take it, too. Call it a free life lesson from me.

  • Shorelark

    Bigot Spotter – great name.
    Bet it won’t be long before that’s an elected NUT official post.
    Given this is ostensibly an exchange of rants about education is it too childish to say it takes one to know one?

  • Concerned Parent

    Lovely typo from @bigotspotter “germaine” as in “Greer” presumably.

    I love that you’re not allowed to talk about Palestine without being labelled a Zionist. You’re not allowed to talk about society without being labelled a racist and, Heaven forbid you should try to say that school should be about maths, english, science etc and perhaps parents should take responsibility for teaching their children how to treat people who look or act differently than they do with respect and tolerance. Goodness, what a Homophobic bigot I am.

  • Anxiously Stable

    Instead of defending himself over here, poor Toby has instead sought solace with the readers of his Telegraph blog.

    What a pussy…

  • John Patrick

    It’s pretty obvious that all these posts attacking Toby are written by the same person or a small clique of gays. What Toby describes in the school, if it really did happen, is truly horrendous. Why are young children being exposed to this very dubious form of sexual behaviour at such a young age? Surely, they should be enjoying the innocence of their childhood without this indoctrination into sexual liberalism?

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Shorelark – Not only old enough but brave enough to use her real name and identity to argue her point so I think “Shorelark” we can rest assured she will make her own commments if she deems your comments worthy of her continued attention. I should think the last thing she needs is a life lesson from someone hiding behind a sobriquet

  • SNS Student

    @John Patrick,
    Personally I think children’s innocence is more likely to be lost when 50%* of the LGBT students at their school attempt self harm or suicide because of homophobic bullying that they, in your clearly ideal world, wouldn’t have been taught was wrong. Having recently spoken to a friend about LGBT week in my school I discovered that hers does not celebrate it, when explaining the many ways in which we approach the subject she sighed and said ‘God I wish I was at your school’
    And with reference to your comment on the origins of these posts I can confirm, as a student of SNS, that they do indeed exist and personally I find your implication that a ‘clique of gays’ opinion would be worth less than anyone else’s somewhat offensive.
    It saddens me to see that outside the bubble of diversity that I live in (yes I admit existing in a bubble is not necessarily a positive thing but when everyone is treated so fairly + equally within it, why would I not want to?), people really have had so little experience of cultural diversity.
    *50% being the figure suggested by the Lesbian & Gay Foundation

  • Gail Bristow

    Dear Mr Young
    How sorry I feel that you obviously didn’t have the enlightened education that my children enjoy.
    I have two teenagers, one who has left Stoke Newington Secondary School and another currently studying GCSE’s and as their parent feel privileged that my children are not angst-ridden about their sexuality, or that of their peers. They accept diversity as the norm, not only in matters of sexuality, but also of race, creed, family economies and the larger world around them.
    Hackney has one of the most diverse populations in terms of culture, economy, sexuality and ethnicity in the country and it is no mistake that more young 20/30 somethings choose to move INTO Hackney than any other borough in England: put simply it’s a good place to live because of the tolerance engendered by the larger community.
    At Stoke Newington School my children have not only been well informed about subjects such as sex, but also other sensitive issues as eating disorders, bullying, racism, violence, drugs, international politics – where does it end?
    I celebrate that they are two young people with ‘two feet on the ground’. Not only capable of expressing themselves and feeling clear about who they are, but also so, so capable of staunchly supporting their peers through deaths in the family, illness, divorce and other tragedies that can be so difficult to handle at any age.
    As for year eights – when is a better time to start to discussing sexuality and all it’s permutations than at puberty?
    Think you’re a bit blinkered here Mr Young and you’ve insulted many of our young people, not to mention the older ones that educate them.
    Time to eat humble pie and print and apology.

  • common perception

    dear john patrick, the common perception from reading these comments is that ‘toby’ seems to have over stepped the mark, and i personally think this is true but from what i have read of your comment I seem to be able to percive that you seem to be a person who takes homophobia as a good idea and if you ran a school you would encourage homophobia not discourage it like stoke newington has. You seem to be an idiot, you seem to think opening eyes like the fantastic people wo are working at stoke newington is a “horrendous” thing. I personnaly think it is a fantastic thing that Stoke Newington is making students rrealise that being gay is ok,and by the way they were making banners not “being exposed to this very dubious form of sexual behavior”

  • Shorelark

    Oh Allan have you taught them nothing about Internet security and the importance of children not revealing too much about themselves online? Too busy blathering on about transgender equality? Perhaps you should regard this as a wake-up call.

  • Gus Maude

    @John Patrick.
    Since you clearly have no understanding of the real issue being discussed and so have no real reason to comment in this forum, I would like to ask, why do you spend your time trawling through pages of random conversation until you find a topic in which you can post your narrow minded and bigoted opinion about issues involving people you have never even met? It saddens me to think that there are such sad and lonely people out there. So please John leave your dark, damp, cave of a room and go and search the streets for somewhere that would be willing to give a job to someone with such a one sided outlook on life.

  • Elinor

    Some of the things are really quite bizarre, in the article and the comments, in my opinion.

    Personally, I don’t find that having an LGBT week is a bad thing. As a 16 year old bisexual girl, I think it’s a good thing. I was subjected to horrendous bullying when I first told people. Girls would run away from me in the changing rooms, and start rumours about me because they decided that liking girls as well as guys made me a freak. It wasn’t until my school actually made them aware of the way they were treating me, and the things that happened to people because of homophobic bullying that they actually stopped, and came to accept me. I’ve got a girlfriend now, I’ve stopped self harming, I’m doing well at school, and I’ve never been happier.

    What I do find amazing is that some people are on here, happy to criticise a young girl over her grammar, when she’s just been insulted by the writer of this article and is trying to make a point. He’s taken a gender stereotype and dumped it on the girls rugby team, without a second thought. It’s not funny, it’s not satirical, it’s just quite offensive. Naturally she’s angry, and the fact you’re all picking holes at her comments is really quite pathetic. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it is easy enough to understand.

    And @John Patrick – saying that LGBT is a ‘dubious form of sexual behaviour’ is just plain rude. Who cares whether you love a man or a woman? Love is love, no matter what. In my eyes, the only real difference between a homosexual relationship and a heterosexual relationship is that a het. relationship can produce children.

    I think it’s wonderful to teach children not to be bigoted and prejudiced. I wouldn’t want a child of mine growing up in a world of hate.

  • Sallie Fellowes

    As a parent of children at SNS I feel very proud of Grace and Gus (I know both of them) and the way they stand up to ignorant bullies like ‘Shorelark’ (fancy yourself as a spy do you?). They are informed, articulate and a credit to their school. This is what is great about SNS. It produces children who feel free to act and speak out at any level. The future’s looking bright. I look forward to seeing Toby’s graduates take on the SNS graduates.

  • John Patrick

    These self-pitying and whingeing comments are really pathetic. Anyone who objects to the gay agenda is immediately labelled a bigot, homophobe etc. But Britain is on a really dangerous slope towards a dictatorship of thought where holding and expressing negative opinions about homosexuality is now punishable by job loss or arrest. Homosexuals are approximately 1% of the male population and even less of the female population, yet they have managed to ram their insane view of sexuality down the nation’s throats their their abuse of human rights and equality legislation. What a sad spectacle Britain has become….

  • John Patrick

    Dear “common perception”, I would suggest you to go a proper school and learn how to spell correctly before giving lessons about a pile of nonsense such as is taught in the school Toby is making fun of.

  • Anxiously Stable

    Gus Maude

    That dark, damp cave to which you refer can be found over at The Telegraph.

    Jeez, you should read some of the pondlife that post over there.

  • Bluebell.

    @ Concerned Parent.. you may be able to read this and laugh, but when an article is written about the school you attend, teach at, or send you child to, that quite frankly lies and mocks the school, it is not something you can easily laugh at…
    And really, correcting children’s misuse of spelling and grammar? Pathetic. If you wish to leave comments, please ensure they contain decent points.

  • Linda Harriet

    toby, yes i do agree that the girls rugby
    team do act slighty manish, but there is no reason for you to call them lesbians. you have no right to call the p.e teachers wretched when you have never met them. if i was you, if you were so bloody concerned..go to the school and complain to ms gammons face.

  • Toby Young

    The most depressing thing about this thread is that no teachers or pupils at SNS have weighed in on my side. Surely, there must be some teachers and pupils at the school who think, like me, that the time spent celebrating LGBT Week would be better spent studying History or English Literature or French? Why is tolerance of sexual diversity virtually mandatory, while tolerance of any dissent from the leftwing orthodoxies of the Governing Body and SLT verboten? Is there not a single Tory in the school? If not, that speaks volumes about the atmosphere of intellectual oppression that policies such as “celebrating” LGBT Week have engendered.

    I think there is a real and important disagreement here lurking beneath all the defensive comments. It comes down to what you think schools are for. I believe that priority should be given to teaching children the best that has been thought and written, whereas the staff at SNS – the ones posting here, anyway – appear to believe that priority should be given to instilling certain values in children. The issue isn’t the the nature of the values in question – in SNS’s case, the standard diet of politically correct gobbledegook – but the fact that they’re being prioritised above subject knowledge. I would still object if the Year 8s were being dragooned into celebrating Empire History Week. The purpose of a good school should not be to enable a group of adults to transmit their values to a group of children, but to transmit a core body of knowledge.

    It is surely wrong for teachers to regard their first responsibility as disseminating values, however sincere they are in their belief that society as a whole will benefit from the dissemination of those values. Their first responsibility should be to the children in their care, not to “the community”, and by having them waste their time on creating placards and posters to promote LGBT Week, rather than acquiring knowledge, they are doing them a disservice. At present, only 49% of pupils at SNS get five GCSEs at grade C or above including Maths and English, well below the London average. Compare that with the results at Mossbourne Community Academy where 82% get five good GCSEs. And it manages that with a much more challenging intake. 41% of children on free school meals as opposed to SNS’s 27%, which is below the borough average.

    The tragedy is that teachers like Allan Beavis believe they’re acting in the best interests of the most vulnerable, when it is precisely his approach to education that makes it so much harder for children at progressive, inner-city community schools like SNS to compete with those who’ve been to more traditional secondary schools, whether faith schools, grammar schools, fee-paying schools or academies like Mossbourne. It helps explain why Oxford and Cambridge took more applicants last year from a single school – Westminster – than from the entire population of children eligible for free school meals. In the end, this sort of progressive approach to education entrenches poverty and protects privilege.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that children don’t waste their time “celebrating” LGBT Week at the schools that serve the ruling class. If you want the children at SNS to have a hope of competing with them, you shouldn’t waste their time on it, either.

  • Amy Mayes

    Schools cannot be run by number crunching alone: this does not make a ‘outstanding’ education, even in the eyes of Ofsted.

    I think that the statistics that you were actually looking for regarding the number of A*-C including English and Maths for 2010 were actually 51% for Stoke Newington and 83% for Mossbourne.

    These two schools could not be more different in their ethos and pedagogy. I would welcome Toby Young to come to SNS and see the students achievements, both inside and outside of the classroom. I cannot speak for Mossbourne.

    In fact, Mr Young’s insults and poor journalism have actually sparked off a great and emotive debate about the purpose of schools and how we should teach the generation of the future.

    However, before you make schools all about politics, may I suggest that you first learn about what what makes good learning.

  • Anxiously Stable

    That’s some research facility you’ve set up in that shed of yours, Tobes – brilliant rebuttal!

    However, when you state that the purpose of a good school is not “to enable a group of adults to transmit their values to children” but rather “transmit a core body of knowledge”, is one really sufficient without the other?

    Surely a well-rounded education needs a bit of both, with the values of society as a whole introduced along with the core curriculum.

    Life isn’t, and never has been, just a book.

  • Elinor

    True enough Toby, you make a good point. School is for learning, and perhaps the time should be better spent, though surely a day spent making banners and placards isn’t going to impact that much on their education. If the children are bothered about the lessons they missed, they’ll do what everyone at my school does and revise in their own time. If they aren’t bothered, then it’s likely that they wouldn’t have bothered in the lessons either.

    But would you like some of the children possibly spending their school career like I did? Spending their breaks and lunchtimes hiding from their peers, recieving abusive messages and emails, having disgusting rumours spread round about them and being physically attacked by a group of boys and girls from their class saying they were going to ‘beat the freakiness’ out of them? Those things didn’t exactly have a good impact on my education, and it lasted a lot longer than a week.

    Those are just some of the things I was subjected to, simply because my classmates didn’t understand. Because we never got taught about accepting LGBT. We got taught about accepting other faiths, and other races, but never LGBT. I wish my school had been like SNS, and actually talked about the issues. Education doesn’t just have to be about lessons. Surely it’s right to educate children in good moral values? Some parents won’t instill that in their children, and school will be one of the only potential places to learn that. And if they don’t learn it from school, they could well enter the ‘adult’ world with warped and twisted views on people.

  • David Medway

    Please forgive the overuse of ‘assumption’ and ‘implication’ (or variants thereof) in the following, it is just that what Toby Young has written in the comment above it riddled with them. Also, I am aware that this is a comment of excessive length by comparison to his own. I will not need him to point this out for me as if it is a legitimate criticism of the things I write. I would love to see his reaction to a student in a classroom suggesting that the writings of an author are not relevant for consideration because they are too long.

    The first problem in what Mr. Young says is that he assumes that the learning done bore no relation to History, English Literature or French. In reality, the day was spent informing children of experiences, personalities and ideas directly relevant to the understanding of those subjects. Learning such things and learning such subjects are not two mutually exclusive experiences.

    The second problem is the assumption that the comments on his article are totally representative of the attitudes of the staff, parents and students at the school. This is an article so potentially inflammatory and a forum so potentially base (see comments made above which personally attack people) that to make that suggestion is to work in lazy generalisations. That does, however, seem to be his style.

    The third problem is that (assuming the unproven conclusion of the second problem) the author invents an environment of intellectual ‘oppression’ (where having a conservative opinion is ‘verboten’, a lazy implied reference to Nazism) without any evidence whatsoever. That people did not agree with him in comments made on an inflammatory internet article can really only be easily used as evidence in any discussion of what sort of comments are made on inflammatory internet articles. If it were to be used as evidence of ‘intellectual oppression’ in the school then it could only be done so as an illustrative example, a symptom. That could only be done after a thorough case is made based on actual research. Any such case (had he bothered to make it) should be based on reality, not rhetorical assumption.

    The fourth problem (or logical fallacy) here is that Mr Young has strongly implied that his invented result of his invented problem has been caused by ‘…policies such as celebrating LGBT week…’ Again, no evidence of real causation is given, only an assumption made and no research done.

    For the fifth problem, note that Mr. Young uses the caveat ‘appear to believe’ before saying that staff who have posted think prioritising the instilling of values is more important than ‘teaching children the best that has been thought and written’. This is because not one single person has actually posted anything which says this. Most such posts accuse him of being misrepresentative or prejudiced, others of devaluing the experience students had. They do not say anywhere that LGBT education is more important than getting students grades.

    He then continues, again, on a (sixth) self serving assumption, to conclude that at Stoke Newington School values are prioritised over subject knowledge and understanding. That conclusion relies entirely on the fantastical version of reality he has created through the assumptions he has made.

    Mr. Young goes on to decide that this his version of events has occurred not only because the staff are prioritising values, but that they are doing so out of a desire to benefit “the community”. This is at least his seventh assumption and ignores many of the posts, if not all of them, which make the point that it is actually motivated by a desire to benefit the children themselves.

    So far his comment is layer upon layer of assumption. In order to now bring some concrete information, he quotes the raw scores of Stoke Newington against that of Mossbourne (statistics it is possible to find in under thirty seconds). Only after at least seven rhetorical twists has the author introduced any facts. Unfortunately he has done so (intentionally or not I do not know) in order to shore up little more than an overly simplistic sentiment. Again for emphasis: that sentiment is based on a series of assumptions.

    Ordinarily I would be happy to see someone use evidence, relieved even in this case, but he again (as was previously the case with the comment about the tone of the respondents above) misappropriates or misunderstands what something can be used to conclusively show. The Mossbourne comparison is somewhat legitimate given the geographical proximity, but he implies that the difference in GCSE results is as a result of the one school not spending any curriculum time on matters such as LGBT. Differences in results never have one simple cause. To suggest that this is enough to explain the difference is facile and shows a completely lightweight understanding of the issues involved in education. There is no magic bullet which makes a school better or worse than another. It would be interesting to ask the headteacher of Mossbourne Academy, Sir Michael Wilshaw, whether he would be happy to have the success of his school reduced to something so simplistic. It might also be worth asking him whether he is happy to have someone (I hope accidentally) imply that Mossbourne do not give two hoots about the short-term welfare of the LGBT students who attend.

    The same causation fallacy is then above used to ascribe the number of children coming from Westminster going to Oxbridge to its more ‘traditional’ approach. This totally ignores all of the other reasons why children from Westminster school are likely to be academically successful. He also finishes with his coup de grace: the suggestion that the purpose of education is to complete with the ‘ruling class.’ This is not even a conclusion that naturally follows on from anything he has said. It is just a judgement value. That judgement value can be used by the intelligent reader to explain everything else he has written should they choose.

    The author has said nothing whatsoever to indicate that he sees a need to care about the welfare of the students. An excellent school provides children with both an education in a core body of knowledge AND gives them an education in personal issues, social issues and how to look after themselves. It should also make them feel personally safe. As far as I am aware, any school is as legally obliged to do any of those as to do another.

    Surely Toby Young is just doing this in order to keep the comment thread going? He has failed to address any of the criticisms made of his ideas above and instead reiterates them poorly with a passage which amounts to little more than rhetorical house of cards. He cannot actually be this lazy and simplistic in this thinking?

  • Henry Stewart

    Toby, you are right: teachers,students and parents are united on this one. As Chair of Governors I get plenty of feedback and soon know when parents are unhappy but on this subject, LGBT week, I’ve only had appreciations.

    Yes we have some Tories. Not many, but they did get some votes in the mock election last May. But they probably agree with David Cameron, that LGBT activities in schools are a good thing.

    You’ve slightly bizarrely concluded that this school unity shows intolerance. The alternative intepretation would be that all those actually involved in the school’s LGBT activities found it hugely positive and something to be proud of.

    By the way, it doesn’t mean all other teaching is suspended for a week. The work is integrated into lessons. Indeed I will pass on your suggestion of studying homosexulity in English literature, in case they aren’t doing this already.

  • Maria

    @ Toby Young
    “And it manages that with a much more challenging intake. 41% of children on free school meals as opposed to SNS’s 27%, which is below the borough average”

    So children on free school meals are immediately “more challenging”? In regards in what, pupils who pay for their lunch themselves being less challenging?

  • Ellena

    Toby, there are some contradictions in your most recent response to the above comments. I completely agree with you that this debate really has little to do with LGBT month and the celebration of similar events. Focusing on the merits of delivering this as part of the curriculum is missing the real point and perhaps the weakest area of your argument. You have very little educational and pedagogical knowledge to support what are essentially your preferences and offer nothing in the way of credible thinking to prove your points about teaching and learning and the successes of schools such as Mossbourne.
    Firstly, you commented that ‘I believe that priority should be given to teaching children the best that has been thought and written, whereas the staff at SNS – the ones posting here, anyway – appear to believe that priority should be given to instilling certain values in children.’ Do you have an intimate working knowledge of the curriculum at SNS and how it is delivered? Have you looked at how much curriculum time is given over to the teaching of PSHCE topics, such as LGBT month, compared to teaching time of more traditional subjects at the school? As someone who is planning the setting up their own school I assume that you are familiar with the curriculum requirements that schools must meet in ensuring they deliver a rounded and varied education- which, whether you like it or not, does include PSHCE topics such as LGBT awareness. I think you will find that a very small proportion of teaching time was given over to this and that the school is obliged to teach less traditional areas.
    You have also failed to understand the way that Mossbourne Academy works and how it manages to achieve such good exam results with what you describe as ‘much more challenging intake’. This does not bode well for the raising of attainment and achievement of students in your school. Having worked at Stoke Newington some time ago I now work at one of the Academies in Hackney (that is very similar to Mossbourne) and can say that your comments demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of how the schools in Hackney operate. Have you ever visited Mossbourne, or indeed spoken to any of the students, staff or governors there? If you had you would find that there is much more time given over to the transmission of values to the students that there is a Stoke Newington. Mossbourne operates a rigorous and strict discipline policy and there is much focus and time given over to instilling a core set of values in the students that attend the school. Have you looked at the Mossbourne website? Children are required to commit and subscribe to a mantra that they repeat at the start of lessons- this is to encourage students to share in a vision for themselves and the school that is underpinned by the values that the teacher are modelling and demanding of them. On the one hand you comment that ‘the purpose of a good school should not be to enable a group of adults to transmit their values to a group of children’ whilst on the other offering an example of a school (that you are holding up as an exemplar of good education) which does just that. Mossbourne relies heavily on the transmission of a set of values to the students and it is through this transmission that they manage to achieve their results. It is not because they focus entirely on traditional subject areas at the expense of everything else.
    I would strongly suggest that for the sake of the prospective students at your school you do a little more research into the merits of different styles of education and how some of these schools you reference actually operate. I am not criticising the model that Mossbourne, or my own current Academy, follow and I am not suggesting that Stoke Newington should spend less time on LBGT issues but I would reiterate that you need a deeper knowledge of pedagogy before you can attempt to analyse why schools such as Mossbourne are more academically successful that Stoke Newington. It has little to do with a ‘progressive approach’ versus ‘traditional secondary’ education and to suggest that is the reason why more students from Westminster where successful in gaining entry to Oxbridge colleges is far too simplistic. I would hope that you spend a significant amount of time observing firsthand the merits of a range of different schools in London before you go on to set up your own. Otherwise, I fear you will realise what those of us who are actually educational professionals already know- approaches to teaching and learning are complex and it is very easy to criticise the way schools operate from the outside. It is a different matter when it comes to improving them or doing a better job yourself. I would be fascinated to see how successful your school is. I would have thought that it would essential for the staff to instil some kind of shared set of values in the children that attend- how will you determine what these are and how will you reconcile them with that you have said in your response?
    Oh and by the way, Mossbourne did celebrate LBGT month, as did the Academy that I work in.

  • common perception

    And also “John patrcik” how was my writing to you in any shape or mind nonsense, i can spell perfectly well and my writing is much more intellectual then anything you seem to be able to spout, i am not spouting nonsense if anyone is it is you, you are spouting right wing lunacy.

  • Gail Bristow

    Education isn’t just about ticking political boxes and reaching certain academic levels and subjects – anyone can do that! Neither is it a straight choice between learning about Latin or life!
    ‘It takes a village to rear a child’ and education is a contract between school, child and parent to help not only to teach the curricula, but also values, respect, integrity and tolerance.
    SNS and the community around it is producing stable, valuable citizens, not just intelligent individuals who have crammed as many qualifications as possible, without the benefit of understanding the world around them.
    Come and talk to some of these youngsters and see for yourself.

  • Roisin

    A man wrote a, fairly short, article that I suspect is meant to be taken with a pinch of salt and suddenly everyone is in utter outrage.

    It’s one opinion guys, the whole world will not crumble under the force of homophobia (which by the way I don’t think this article is intended to be promoting at all!) if one person points out that sometimes, only sometimes, people can go a bit too far in trying to be diverse and inclusive. In actual fact, as a lesbian myself, I tend to find things like the events described as being embarrassing, especially during my school days when it would inevitably lead to all the attention being piled upon your personal life.

    I think the sheer fact that scanning through your responses I have found AT LEAST three suggestions that Young is covering up his own sexuality – oh? So you want to PROMOTE this mythical diversity but you’ll still use ‘You’re gay’ as an insult for somebody – and one incredibly erroneous fact – Philip Dundas (as you were so keen to have your name there for all to see), homosexuality was LEGAL in the 1970s. It was decriminalised in 1967 – if you still suffered the backlash from this in your youth then I sympathise, but if you’re going to make a point at least make a correct one.

  • allan beavis

    @ Toby Young.

    The most depressing thing is not that no one at SNS has supported you but because the assumptions you make (“the standard diet of politically correct gobbldebook”, LGBT being prioritized over the academic curriculum, atmosphere of intellectual oppression ad nauseum) in your original article demand a robust rebuttal, if indeed the views you expound are worthy of rational debate to begin with.

    What is questionable is that you randomly pluck SNS from the Local Schools Network website and then smear it, deliberately and falsely, with the brush of loony left wing policy when you have never visited the school and have no knowledge or understanding of its principles. You did not come to the LGBT evening yet nevertheless penned an article about the school’s commitment to diversity in order to poke fun at people around the country who do not subscribe to your narrow and divisive view of education and society.

    I can assure you that there is no atmosphere of oppression – intellectual or otherwise – at SNS and that is because it encourages its students to question and to co-exist in harmony. What is oppressive is instilling children with your own narrow values and, in so doing, marginalizing people who do not conform. SNS teaches the curriculum, “subject knowledge” – in your words, the best that has been thought and written – but it also educates its students in the value of self-respect and respecting others. To do otherwise, would be a dereliction of duty to the students in their care, who in reality do not exist in a school bubble but in a community in which their school life plays a large but not exclusive part.

    The assumption that SNS teachers use their position to disseminate their own values at the expense of teaching the curriculum is unfounded. You also make the assumption that I am teacher (I am not, I am parent) and that teachers who do not subscribe to your “traditional” teaching principles are acting in the best interests of the “vulnerable”. Not everyone who is gay, working class, non-white, non-Christian – shall I go on and fall into your politically correct trap? – is vulnerable. The whole point about promoting diversity is to eradicate the kind of prejudices that you appear to support as you denigrate those who will not conform to your playground clique.

    You push GCSE statistics in an attempt to prove your point that placard painting results in academic mediocrity but the assumptions you make here are both illogical and irrelevant as the extra-curricular activity of preparing for LGBT did not impede curricular learning in any way.

    What is worrying (“tragic” – surely a term applicable to natural disasters, Shakespearean anti-heroes and the deluded?) is your assertion that a little time spent teaching children that there are alternative lifestyles and beliefs will adversely affect their academic results. I don’t think it makes a blind bit of difference but what I am certain it will do is to help raise a generation of people for whom sexual orientation, creed, class and colour bear no relevance to their value in society. Luckily for you, one day there will be no need to celebrate LGBT because schools like SNS have played their part in eradicating phobia.

    As a media personality, perhaps you crave acceptance by the Establishment (the “ruling classes”) but many people do not and you have the tools at your disposal to have your scorn published for financial gain in a magazine. Unfortunately, the vast majority of hard working and dedicated teachers have no such outlet to challenge the stereotypical, personal and offensive way in which you depict them.

    I wish you every success with your free school and hope that people will not follow your example and make assumptions and judgements about either your integrity or your suitability in heading up a new school based on any prejudices they might form from reading your memoirs and articles of your younger self. If you were of school age, SNS would accept you.

  • Gus Maude

    Another thing Toby, my sister is in year 8 at SNS at at no point did I ever hear her or any of her friends say that they felt they were “dragooned” into spending time celebrating LGBT. Also im sure the PE department feel insulted by you describing a member of the staff as “wretched”. Also I at this concert and I don’t think I saw you there,so please before you imagine wretched PE teachers,don’t make assumptions on the words of someone else.

  • Jeff Hebert

    Before we all get our collective knickers in a twist, I think it’s worth our while to study that second “Toby Young” post for a minute and unpick it for what it so clearly is – a (beautifully constructed) hoax. It’s staring us in the face if we look at the clues.

    Firstly we have a gorgeous reflection of the “Henry Stewart / pseudonym” part of the article. Just as (the real!) Mr Young implies that our chair of governors is a fictional construct, so our cheeky author hides behind the name “Toby Young”! If this were the real Toby Young posting on the message board, he would lose the argument that his article was satire! If the second posting represented the true feelings of Mr Young, it would expose the article as a blatant attack on another school, rather than an attack on narrow-minded political correctness! It’s obvious when it’s pointed out, isn’t it?

    But the real clincher is the twist of the article’s thrust that schools need to focus on “learning the basics” and less about things that might help serve them in the community around them. The posting by our “Toby Young” is a glorious satire of that “facts and knowledge and nothing else” mentality (as David Medway has pointed out, the arguments presented within the post are based on assumptions rather than facts). But our naughty “Toby Young” then ups the ante by adding libel to the mix! Surely someone so keen to stress the benefits of his version of education couldn’t be so naive, could they?

    “I believe that priority should be given to teaching children the best that has been thought and written, whereas the staff at SNS – the ones posting here, anyway – appear to believe that priority should be given to instilling certain values in children”

    Well, hey, I’VE posted here and I’M a member of staff at Stoke Newington School, so I’m pretty sure that the sentence above tars me with the ‘fact’ that I don’t want “the best” education for the students in my classes! The real Toby Young would never make such a basic journalistic error. Would he?

    Okay, sarcasm mode off. In my first post, I offered Toby Young the chance of visiting the school and it’s still on the table. Seriously, Toby – it’s easy to get here. I live around the corner from you and make the journey every day. I’m not sure if you writer-types can cope with a 7am start, but give it a go. Before that, you might want to think about apologising to the hard-working staff at my school who don’t really deserve the (implied) abuse that your article and post throw at them.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the 7.16 to Stratford…

  • Peter J

    I wonder whether the horrific murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square would have taken place if those thuggish teenage girls had attended Stoke Newington School, or at least one which was equally enlightened.
    Toby Young should take note that well over 90% of comments here are opposed to his views on this issue.

  • Anxioiusly Stable


    Pandering to prejudice has dangerous consequences. I started off this thread by commenting on how Toby had carefully selected which parts of the LGBT celebration would most raise the hackles of his new right-wing constituency. So rugby playing Lesbians were in, and the achievements of Alan Turing were excluded.

    When Toby then retreated to his Telegraph blog last night in order to rally support for his cause, it’s hardly surprising that comments expressed in his favour ranged across the whole spectrum of bile and hate, including cries of “sodomites” to “those teachers are worse than paedophiles”.

    Turing would have immediately recognised those voices, and what they can lead to, and so should we.

  • Anxiously Stable

    Roisin, apologies for misspelling your name. As you may have noticed, I did the same for my own!

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Anxiously Stable.

    Having enetered the dark, damp cave of the Telegraph blog, I wonder whether Toby Young’s rallying cry of support for his original ill-judged, un-researched and vindictive article to the Phobic Fraternity was not a deliberate attempt to incite hatred, especially as he himself here rails at the lack of support for the misappropriations and fallacies he wrote?

    That he should continue to gladly dig himself further into this pit of paranoia and bile, when I assume he is aware of education legislation and codes of conduct with regard to schools, child protection and inclusion, calls into question his suitability to found a new school. Is the Secretary of State for Education aware of what he has been doing and saying?

  • Piers

    It’s worth noting that schools have a statutory duty, not just to challenge discrimination but to promote diversity. Your school’s curriculum will need to address this, Toby, not just because it’s morally the right thing to do, but because it’s the law.

  • Anxiously Stable


    Knowing Toby as I do (I used to help out a magazine he used to edit) I doubt very much if he was deliberately inciting hatred.

    Instead, I believe that he’s feeling beleaguered in his attempts to take on the educational establishment, as he views his opponents.

    My problems with Toby aren’t personal. I like the guy and wish him well with his proposal for a free school. As a parent of two young children, it’s important for me to see how these new centres of learning develop over time.

    Politically, however, he’s become, in Kirstie Wark’s words, “a poster boy” for the Tories, and as such should expect the odd brickbat or two.

  • Pickle

    Don’t worry Toby about the comments above, most come from lefty nutter teachers who probably cannot read your entire article; it contains too many big words for them. It’s pretty obvious you have struck a nerve with the mediocre section of society with some refer to as ‘the left’ I prefer the word ‘failed’.

    I think you are the most interesting person in Education today. Let’s face it no one wants teachers who cannot even teach children to read and write properly to be educating them in morals.

    60-70% of the teaching ‘profession’ (Can one be a professional with the summer off?) in Britain today need to lose their jobs.

  • Fiona Hook

    “And really, correcting children’s misuse of spelling and grammar? Pathetic.”
    That’s the teachers’ job. They get paid quite well for it. If the spelling and punctuation of those old enough to be playing in the girls’ rugby team is anything to go by, they’re not doing it properly. An inability to handle their native language at a fairly basic level affects children’s life chances rather more radically than a lack of empathy with the transgendered,

  • Allan Beavis

    Yes, Anxiously Stable, I accept your point but Toby Young’s poor judgement in his own careless conduct here calls into question his suitability for leading the foundation of a new school.

    The fact remains that Toby Young judged it appropriate to use his column in the Spectator to attack his critics and, in doing so, used the example of Stoke Newington School to ridicule the state education comprehensive system. As far as I am aware, no one at School Newington School has publicly attacked Mr. Young for his mission in setting up the West London Free School so why he chose to criticize this school is a mystery.

    He made assumptions and judgments about the preparation and purpose of LGBT day, about the integrity of the school’s policy and staff and he infers that the school is in the grip of a totalitarian or fascistic regime (The Chinese Cultural Revolution, “verboten”, re-education camps).

    He deliberately chose to write his article without having visited the school, experienced the curricular and extra-curricular activities of LGBT, spoken to governors, staff or students. He has not, to date, made a direct and coherent response to those correspondents on this site or other sites who have questioned the crass and dangerous assumptions he has made and the prejudices he appears to hold.

    None of this would be particularly important if he were just a media personage or a poster boy for the Tory Party but he is someone who is leading the mission to set up a school and, as such, will have moral and legal responsibilities towards children.

    This founder of West London Free School ridiculed – in print – the purpose of LGBT at Stoke Newington School, seemingly unaware that, by law, schools (including his own) must ensure that they deliver a rounded and varied education including not just the academic curriculum but the PSHCE topics such as LGBT awareness.

    Will he therefore flagrantly encourage his school to disregard those areas of education, enshrined in statue law and policy, which he deems unnecessary ? Will he encourage his students to follow his example here to bully and ridicule an institution or people who do not conform to their values?

    I am not suggesting that Toby Young sought to incite hatred by blogging about his lack of support on this site on his Daily Telegraph blog but I am saying that he is not disingenuous, so he must have known that by raising the topic of teaching LGBT on the Telegraph blog, he would encourage the type of ignorant and violent bile which he, as the founder of a new school, has an obligation to ensure that his school educates its students to eradicate. By, er, including subjects such as LGBT awareness.

    In my view, Toby Young has been very energetic and public in his mission to pre-judge, misappropriate, ridicule and divide. His conduct and his judgement have been seriously flawed and therefore his suitability to be involved at the highest level in the education of children has to be called into question.

  • Peter J

    @ Pickle
    If you really want to go down the road of personal insults, us ‘lefty’s’ can do quite well at that. Especially where Toby is concerned.

  • Gail Bristow

    I note that Toby Young is author of ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’ published in 2001.

  • pickle

    Really Peter? Insults? Given the left wing dross flying around the internet about Toby and his wish to improve education in this country I doubt anything I have said is that insulting.

    LGBT week needs to be ridiculed, the fact that Toby has done is much to his credit.

  • David Medway

    I forgot to mention it explicitly in my previous post but the following might be illustrative regarding Mr. Young’s claim smear of ‘intellectual oppression’. I work in the school and I don’t disagree with some of Mr. Young’s ideas about what should be the focus of a curriculum. I am a History teacher after all, went to a very traditional comprehensive with high GCSE averages and attended a Russell Group university. My sentiments will always pull me toward helping children to understand much of what is clearly valued in the way the West London Free School’s curriculum is due to be set up. Those same sentiments are behind why I became a teacher in the first place. A teacher of another subject might feel very differently because of their experiences. That does not make either one of us correct.

    I remain unconvinced as yet that Free Schools or Academies are a workable model for improving the education of Britain’s children or that increased competition between schools will actually improve the level of education on aggregate. I have no idea if he has read it, but I can thoroughly recommend ‘The Death and Life of the Great American School System’ by Diane Ravitch to Mr. Young. Large parts of it are very interesting on the topic of the effects of similar approaches on the real quality of students’ education.

    All of my previous comments do however, still apply. The article and his comment are still based on lazy, prejudiced assumptions.

  • Caroline Millar

    I propose we all just wait and see. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there will be much to satirise in the new West London Free School once it is actually a real school, with real pupils, real teachers and a real curriculum.

  • Anxiously Stable

    I suspect Toby’s colleagues at the WLFS have woken up to the fact that his gift for generating publicity cuts both ways.

    Whether they can persuade him to stay in the background for the next six months is anyone’s guess.

  • Anxiously Stable
  • Belgo Handel

    Is Toby Young going to explain why he wrote all those falsehoods and if he thinks he has compromised himself?

    The point isn’t that Toby is homophobic – not one of the people criticising his Specator article accused him of being homophobic and he isn’t – but that he made fun of a school, its teachers, it’s pupils and about the statutory requirement of all schools to teach LGBT and other social awareness subjects as part of the curriculum. He distorted what happened at the school and why. If he is now to become the Chair of Governors of a new school, how can can justify in front of his students, his staff and the Department of Education the ignorant, mocking and deliberately dishonest remarks he made here and his Telegraph blog onabout the activities of a school going about its statutory business? How are the students in school supposed to take this sort of thing seriously, even though the Education Department requires schools to adhere to policy when The Chair of Governors of their school has basically written articles that encourage them to take the piss?

    His position has to be called into question. Write to Michael Gove at the Education Department and the Labour MP of Hammersmith and voice your concerns

  • Belgo Handel

    Anxiously Stable – how can he appear at the Spectator Conference now on the future of new schools??

  • Labour Teachers

    A response to this fairly vile article as gone up here: – pointing out amongst other things that Stoke Newington School is rated by OFSTED as “outstanding” and gets great GCSE results. Maybe if Toby wants his pet project to succeed, he should try going to the school and seeing what they are doing right there …

  • Mallia

    Toby. Just No. Your views are narrow minded.

  • Drew

    Great GSCE results? 49% gaining A*-C in five subjects, including Maths and English. I’m sure they could be put in a more sympathetic context, but as stand-alone figures they are hardly great. The Labour Teachers article doesn’t offer a breakdown of their results. It merely links to a self-congratulatory and rather thin piece on the the school’s website emphasising the positives of their results. With regard to GCSEs, it mentions how the number of students gaining A*-C in five subjects (including Maths and English) “have increased significantly”. It conveniently doesn’t mention what it has increased from or to.

    Regarding the teaching of LGBT issues being compulsory, what exactly is the minimum demanded by the National Curriculum? I’m guessing LGBT issues would forum part of the Citizenship curriculum for secondary schools (which is statutory), but how do the minimum demands of this translate into practice? For example, what is the minimum amount of class time schools have to devote to that part of the curriculum? I ask this question earnestly, not rhetorically. I am genuinely interested to know because my assumption is that Stoke-Newington’s approach far exceeds that minimum. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it at least allows room for counter arguments – for example, the argument that less time needs to be spent on that and more on the traditional curriculum. If what Stoke-Newington do is in fact the minimum required then, fair enough, all criticisms of it are unfair.

  • Anxiously Stable

    Curiously, the blog at the West London Free School’s website hasn’t been updated since Toby wrote the following on 1 March…

    ‘There’s also the sense of responsibility that comes from having the hopes of so many parents resting on your shoulders. For every email I get from someone offering to help, I get 10 from parents wanting to send their children to the school. As of today, over 3,000 parents have registered with us, some with children as young as two. That’s a lot of people to let down.

    ‘Above all, I think it’s the sheer unpleasantness of the opposition. Whenever I feel my resolve slipping I picture the sneer on Fiona Millar’s face when, sitting opposite me on Newsnight, she said she wasn’t concerned about free schools because groups like mine didn’t have the wherewithal to set them up. I think about all the lies that have been told by Andrew Slaughter, our local Labour MP, including the claim that we’re trying to “oust severely disabled children” from a site in Hammersmith. I recall Roy Hattersley becoming puce with rage on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House at the very idea that children from ordinary backgrounds should be offered the same academically rigorous education he had.

    ‘This is just the end of the beginning. The next step will be to deliver a classical liberal education that’s every bit as good as that provided by Britain’s best independent schools but which is accessible to all, regardless of income, ability or faith. We call it a “comprehensive grammar” and if we can make it work it could change the face of education in this country. Ludicrously ambitious, I know, but they said we’d never get this far. As Max Weber wrote, it’s only by reaching for the impossible that you discover what’s possible.’.

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Drew.

    I think you make some valid and interesting point. Perhaps one of the professional educators on this strand can inform us on the minimum demanded by the National Curriculum?

    We have had clarification here that teaching LGBT awareness at the school is integrated into the academic curriculum subjects. In other words, “precious curriculum time” has not been “wasted” on “browbeating it’s Year 8 into celebrating LGBT Week”.

    It is worth recording here that LGBT awareness forms only part of the school’s mission to question and tackle unfair discrimination – towards women, black, disabled, Turkish and other groups. Again, as you will see from the school’s website, this is also integrated into the “traditional” curriculum.

    Do please scroll up and you will find that a few people have answered your question at the beginning of your entry with reagrd to GCSE grades. I hope that the conclusions drawn – that education is a complex mix of many factors that cannot be reduced to simplistic formulas and raw statistics – are as enlightening for you as they were for me.

    It is extremely unfortunate for the staff and students of the school to have been placed under the spotlight by the original article here and derided for their efforts and commitment to their mission to educate and be educated. Innocently going about their business, they have been forced in recent days into having to defend themselves as a result of an article which has encouraged the expression of some very extreme emotions and unpleasant attitudes on both sides of the social and political spectrum. I dread to imagine what condemnation would befall a writer if he penned a similar article mocking the celebration of, to use just three examples,

    i) the achievement of women,
    ii) the disabled (I won’t say “differently abled” for fear of being branded a “left-wing nutter” or “politically correct”) and
    iii) ethnic culture

    So, are the LGBT minority a soft and less defendable target for intolerance?

    And therein lies the problem with what is at the heart of this “satirical” and ultimately humourless piece. By loading it with a combustible mix of party and sexual politics, personal point scoring, deliberate misrepresentation, the suspicion of phobia, pedagogy, the aspiration of secondary school children and the integrity of teachers, the author has blown open up a pandora’s box of the type of ugly name calling, bullying, divisiveness and blinkered vision from all sides that its educating of social awareness seeks to eradicate in the first place.

  • Allan Beavis

    @ Drew.

    Apologies – before I get criticised for my grammar, the last few lines should of course read:-

    “the school’s educating of social awareness seeks to eradicate in the first place.”

  • I’d rather no mention

    This article depicts the hate and unreasearched arrogance we are trying to irradicate against people who in your eyes ‘Toby’ are seen to be different. How can you question and comment on a situation and event you would of never expirenced in your life? You should be ashamed of the petty comments you get paid for when infact a five year old could produce a more important comment. And for your information i would correct your mistake: ”right wing nutters” would be more accurate.
    I would of thought this childish attack on a celebration from a small inner city school was below even you, i guess i was wrong. I say take your ideas and judgements somewhere needed, allow people who need the money to get it instead of you being paid for one of your insufferable rants.
    In your oppinion if celebrating diversity is wrong then do not teach it to your children, but allow this choice to be made by teachers and allow them to teach children to be open minded and follow the path they wish to follow.

    Get over yourself.

  • Anxiously Stable

    Before this thread disappears into the ether, it’s worth reminding ourselves of Toby’s unerring ability to shoot himself in the proverbial.

    Asked by The Evening Standard to respond to the concerns of the head of Latymer Upper School (no doubt a “lefty”) to the increased traffic that may arise after the WLFS takes up residence in Hammersmith, Toby was quoted as saying, “it’s safer for children to cross busy roads if there are more of them”.

    As someone may once have written, you couldn’t really have made it up.

  • Drew

    @ Mr. Beavis.

    Forgive the lateness of my reply.

    I did read the thread thoroughly before commenting. I read Toby’s point about the GCSE results, and I read with interest the various responses. The responses do not so much explain the poor results. Rather, they argue Toby is wrong to assume those results can be attributed to excessive time spent on the PSHC curriculum. Their arguments were cogent, and I think it’s telling that Toby hasn’t contested them.

    With regard to focusing exclusively on results, I suspect we both agree and disagree. I’m sympathetic to the argument that education should be about more than passing exams. I’m also sympathetic to arguments that the league tables are worryingly devoid of context. From my admittedly limited vantage point, it seems OFSTED assess a school’s academic achievements by weighing results relative to expectations, factoring in variables like pupils’ ability, social deprivation, quality and quantity of resources, etc. There are many sound reasons for taking that approach. The problem – and I suspect Toby is among those who’d agree with this – is that pupils WILL be judged on their results, and the bottom line is that their opportunities for self-improvement and and self-fulfilment in an academic/professional sense will be largely determined by how they perform in secondary education.

    I do not wish to debate why Stoke-Newington’s results are what they are. I am always mindful to avoid discussion on subjects on which I have very little knowledge or understanding. All I will say is that a school in which less than half its pupils get 5 GSCEs (including Maths and English) at the lowest passing grade does have room for improvement. I’m sure those at Stoke-Newington would accept that as axiomatic and occupy themselves more with the question of how to make the improvement. That question is infinitely complex, and it almost goes without saying that Toby’s views expressed here are crude, poorly researched and not very helpful. I do wonder whether there is a thread of truth in his views, not so much with regard to Stoke-Newington specifically, but in a more general sense concerning the increased emphasis now put on PSHC education and whether it has a detrimental effect on pupils’ achievements in more traditional academic subjects. It’s an interesting question that obviously requires a much more in-depth approach.

  • :)

    At least now we know where Toby got his inspiration to write “How to Loose Friends and Alienate people”

  • Belgo Handel

    Actually a very good book, in which he also boasted for laughs of his cocaine and alcohol abuse. But then I suppose the “right-wing nutters”, to paraphrase Toby himself, would think that is absolutely fine in the Chairperson of the government’s flagship new free school. But if you allow your school to teach and celebrate anti-discrimination then heaven help you (check out Toby’s Telegraph blog). You get named and shamed in the Spectator as well. Cocaine awareness and celebration at the West London Free School kids? He he he – just being satirical, Toby

  • Belgo Handel

    Forgot to post you the link folks:

  • gkgguuuug


  • Sugartits

    I’d just like to voice my opinion before this thread disappears. I, like my friends Grace and Gus who commented earlier, am a year 10 student at Stoke Newington School. However I am not going to react violently on or ‘Flame’ as we say here on the internet this thread anymore; people have already written pages and pages in response to this article. To coin another internet phrase Mr. Young, ‘Successful troll is successful’; you have succeeded in angering a whole community into reaction. I myself am not a ‘left-wing nutter’. I don’t just blindly follow the crowds; I prefer to form my own opinions. For this reason, I feel it would be wrong to demonise you, just as (as my History teacher Mr. Medway, who also commented previously, taught us last week) it is wrong to demonise Hitler. Don’t get me wrong, I am not insinuating that you share any similarities whatsoever with Hitler or his regime, although I find it rather funny that you implied that our school bore any relation to a dictatorship. Isn’t it a bit of an oxymoron to refer to the embracing of cultural diversity that we hold key at Stoke Newington as effectively a ‘repression of repression’ so to speak?

    However, so that you stop whining about no one seeing from your point of view and generally playing the victim, I’ll step into your shoes and try to empathise, although if I am honest, I feel as though I am obliging a small child having a tantrum. I can see why you would worry about curriculum time being used up to teach children about LGBT, and I can also see why you would choose Stoke Newington School as a target upon which to vent your anxiety. We are after all I am sure, the school that most actively participates in LGBT month in London, if not the whole UK, and we are well known for the work that staff members such as Elly Barnes and students alike have done to help promote the month. Also I do see how the fact that our school faculty transfers values and core knowledge in equal measure could concern you, as we go to school ultimately to learn, and in the end that comes down to passing exams, although not exclusively. And our school doesn’t get the best exam results, so it is arguable that maybe we should enforce more academic learning instead of organising such events as LGBT month. Our school is by no means perfect, and why this could lead you to believe that you could do better with your own school is clear.

    However, whilst I can see your reasoning, as other people pointed out above, I have no idea why you decided to suddenly attack our school. As far as I know no one from Stoke-Newington has ever attacked your plans as someone else said above, and yet you decided to poke fun at us as a boy might ridicule a little girl and cause her to go crying to her mum. Wah wah wah. Also I loved reading about your belief that the priority should be to teach children ‘only the best of what has been thought and written’, but if you are saying that this should be the priority over teaching children about LGBT and LGBT people then surely you are implying that none of ‘the best of what is thought and written’ was written or thought by LGBT people and that the subjects are unrelated? I’m sure you have heard the recent theories that Shakespeare, truly the father of modern English, and a man whose life and work you surely intend to and are required to study at your school, addressed many of his sonnets to men? That Leonardo Da Vinci, a great scientist, artist and inventor who will have some input, however small, into your curriculum, was almost definitely a homosexual? I am not trying to imply that you are homophobic as others have, but I think that you have generalised and ignored quite a few facts that you should certainly have taken into consideration before insulting our celebrations. Also LGBT month really doesn’t take up much school time, and it is never completely separated from our learning; the placards and banners made for the concert were painted by students in art, the songs for the concert learnt and practised in music. LGBT month is more of a theme for our lessons during February than a separate off timetable festival, although how were you supposed to know that without visiting our school? I think you should, it may give you some ideas as to how to run your own school.

  • G

    As an ex-student who stumbled upon this page, I just want to congratulate the author of this article.

    Excellent troll, sir.

  • Sean Moore

    Dear Mr Young,

    come and visit Stoke Newington School, perhaps if Pickle is still reading this thread he can accompany you.

    Hand in hand.


  • Darcy Dixon

    Dear Toby Young,

    Aswell as being a year nine student at SNS, I am also on the girl’s rugby team. Personally, I think it was very brave of us to stand up in front of an auidence and try to break a very decided stereotype of female rugby players. I am not a lesbian, and after being accused of representing ‘the lesbian communnity’ I was almost amused at the irony of what you were saying. The whole point of the presentation was to BREAK THE STEROTYPE, and you completely, lets say, ‘misunderstood’ that.

    After saying that there wasn’t such thing as Henry Stewart, and then asking who on earth was going to be transgender at SNS, I knew that you are a very small minded, rude, arrogant and silly little man who has the cheek of calling us a ‘loony left wing’ school.

    I speak for all of the girl’s rugby team, and alot of people at SNS, when I say, that you have offended and mis-judged our school, which after three years of attending, I feel is a very diverse and understanding place to be.

    Why don’t you come to the school and see for yourself?

    Darcy Dixon.

  • Philip Jones

    Fascinating thread. I live in Stoke Newington and will be proud to send my children to SNS. Unlike Toby I know a little about the school, and its pupils and it is a credit to the area. The sad fact is Toby Young has not bothered to visit the school. He’s written a satirical column in which he’s sullied the reputation of a school and those who are part of it. Fair enough, that’s his job. But now he should think about doing some first-hand research and challenging his own clear prejudices. I’d expect he’d ask the same if his new school was featured in such an unfavourable light – albeit satirically.

  • Elly

    Here is more information about how we ‘Educate and Celebrate’ at Stoke Newington school:

  • Allan Beavis

    If you don’t know it, check out Harry’s Place. Great website with great links

  • Sahirah

    Lizzie Sarchet

    Stoke Newington provides an education for children that teaches them to be open-minded, tolerant and well-informed. All things that Toby Young quite clearly is not.

    If this statement is true then why is it some Muslim children were forced to celebrate and promote LGBT and when refused were given detention and some put in the referral unit. Is this being tolerant and open minded?

  • Salcombe

    Culture-clash or what. Toby Young in a pugilist, parody of a stubbornly average, inner-London schools celebratory concert and parade for LBGT month (purleeez this is taking the PHSE curriculum to an absurd nearly self-mocking level), and the open-goal of his hypocritical comment that schools are not expected to instil some values. This thread is priceless. Both perspectives are outliers and both know it; hence the desperate need for self-justification,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • Jenna

    How do you know the PE teachers a man?

  • Jenna Jenna

    How do you know the PE teacher is a man?

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