12:44PM, Monday 05 December 2016
On November 16 I made a statement to the RBWM children's services overview and scrutiny panel meeting on behalf of Excellent Education for Everyone, a group formed by residents to promote positive discussion about ways to deliver a fair, inclusive education to all children within the borough.
We don’t believe selection is the is the best way to achieve that aim. I was treated with courtesy by the chair, councillors and RBWM officers who all listened to what I had to say. At a break in the meeting I had a brief, polite and constructive exchange with Cllr Natasha Airey, lead member for children's services who, whilst making the case for her paper, was quite prepared to meet and discuss this matter further outside of the meeting.
This is how democracy should work – residents are free to voice their concerns to councillors and councillors listen. That's not to say they will agree with or change their policy.
By November 22 the tone of the debate had become very nasty, due to a 'tweet' by the RBWM leader Cllr Simon Dudley saying: 'Enemies of free schools and grammar schools are one and the same. Now 3 free schools in RBWM .Time to bring our hundreds of grammar pupils home'.
What does Cllr Dudley think using such an emotive term as 'enemies' will do for open debate?
Does he believe he has the right to denigrate any opposition to his view? Does he believe this will encourage residents to express their opinion?
I think not – it is designed for the exact opposite – to ensure anyone who has a view different from his, will think twice. This is the antithesis of democracy. Shame on you Cllr Dudley for trying to stifle debate and democracy.
This is worrying, do we really want to be led by someone who sees the very residents who he should be serving, as his enemies? Remember this is a leader who publicly states he wants a Maidenhead for ALL residents. Surely residents who wish to debate with the council on any topic should never be described as enemies. Councillors, and particularly the leader, should remember they are not there to insult those who hold views that differ from their own. Cllr Dudley lumps grammar and free school opposition into one corner, when he knows full well this does not apply to me, as I've told him on numerous occasions I'm not against all free schools.
Cllr Dudley's language is not the way to build an all-inclusive Maidenhead and his choice of language should make all our councillors and residents take stock and consider where this will lead…
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