We recently had a call in by a number of Liberal Democrat Councillors about a decision to support the Governing bodies of Longsands and St Neots Community College who chose to look at a Federation to merge the two schools to help deal with St Neots being in special measures.
In proper English. The Liberal Democrats questioned the Cabinet decision to support proposals for the schools to work closer together and thought we should have paid more attention to the Government's preferred solution.
Part of what they said had a point. The Cabinet paper didn't pay enough attention to the other option. That doesn't mean it wasn't considered, it was; there is a huge amount of work done before papers go to Cabinet and discussions and consideration of options took place then. Rather than manufacture a political furore and create uncertainty amongst the Governing bodies, it would have been far more appropriate for them to have a private meeting with officers at the Council, which would have allayed their concerns - but their was no political mileage in that so they chose to go for the most expensive, most time-consuming and the one that caused most undertainty for the schools and the community. That's the Liberal Democrats for you.
It was very clear through the meeting that the options had been well considered, that both schools were absolute behind the proposal to federate and that the reasons for not going with the Government's agenda were very clear. The only thing the Liberal Democrats have to hang a hat on is that this is an untried solution (but so is the Government solution of a National Challenge Trust - and that did not have the support for the schools).
At one point in the debate, one of the Head Teachers at the meeting made this point - that the reasons were very well thought out and were sound, but that it was a "leap of faith" because it hadn't been tried before. Councillor Peter Downes, the Lib Dem spokesperson for schools then chose to take that remark totally out of context in order to exaggerate the risk. That may have been unintentional, but that's the way it looked - so I took him to task over the way he had taken those words out of context. "Sorted", I thought. Except shortly afterwards a leaflet has been distributed by the Lib Dems doing exactly the same thing - taking the phrase "leap of faith" totally out of context.
Peter Downes is a retired ex-Head Teacher, something he chooses to point out at appropriate times, yet when it comes to a serious education debate he could not use that experience to find anything wrong with the decision so, instead, chooses to take a Head Teacher's words out of context to make political capital.
This is a fairly typical example of Lib Dem behaviour. People will get leaflets from them making what seems perfectly reasonable statements, but beneath them is often a maze of maipulation. We have a number of elections coming up soon - just remember this when you come to vote.