The Mennear-Bryant bean bag room

IMG_0197WHEN the UCL Academy officially opened last week, it was interesting to see which local politicians were there in the front rows of the celebratory assembly… and which weren’t. As you can see above – a picture of UCL vice-provost Michael Worton giving a speech, the one where he claimed to have been vilified as an ‘elitist’ for working on the project – the Mayor Heather sat next to council leader Sarah Hayward near the front. You can see Labour cabinet councillor Nash Ali, one row back, listening intently too.

But there was no Andrew Mennear, the leader of the borough’s Conservatives who was Camden’s head of education way back when the idea was first approved at the Town Hall. And there was no John Bryant, the Liberal Democrat who worked with Cllr Mennear during those tense negotiations. During the haggling, the pair were accused by Labour of being ‘starstruck’ by the offer from UCL Academy to run a new school as they pushed ahead with the scheme, ignoring calls for an open competition to determine how the school would be organised. It is forgotten that UCL really did play hardball, telling the council that they would only accept being the preferred bidder and would not enter their plans into an open competition where they would be compared to the idea of a Church of England secondary school or even, shock horror, a traditional secondary school answering to a locally-elected local authority.

For a moment, the issue of the school was the main political story at the Town Hall and there were long debates where it was not clear whether people in the same party agreed with each other. Labour members certainly quarrelled about the wisdom of academy sponsorship, even in the guise of a world famous universities. One of Cllr Mennear’s Tory colleagues – Mike Greene – told a council meeting: “I am certainly not convinced that we have been playing on a level playing field. The discussions have been going on for some time with UCL. There can be the appearance of a back room deal.”

He and Cllr Bryant took a lot of flack and had to be stubborn to get what they wanted. When Mr Worton claimed he was vilified, maybe the pair feel they suffered something similar. Yet when the doors opened last week, they were nowhere to be seen. Maybe they should honour them in some way, perhaps they could name one of the philosophy bean bag rooms after them. The Mennear-Bryant superstudio…

UPDATED: Worth reading John Bryant’s comments below.

8 Comments on The Mennear-Bryant bean bag room

  1. The fact is that I was not invited to attend. I find it more than disappointing that I was overlooked on the invitation list. I not only had to deal with Andrew Adonis in a private meeting in the House of Lords to secure the deal (without Council officers or civil servants present), I then had to put my personal reputation on the line when I had to produce an affidavit to defend the Council’s decision in a Judicial Review. So while I am pleased the institution is now open, I will not be darkening its doors until a full apology is offered by UCL. It appears they have forgotten who they need to thank for getting this project off the ground.

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  2. On the hill // March 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm //

    Is Sarah tweting again?

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  3. And no I do NOT want anything named after me in the building.

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  4. If it is the case then it is pretty shabby of the Labour administration to apparently not have had the courtesy to ensure invites for their opposition Councillor colleagues – on whom they heaped such opprobrium in 2007/8 for signing up to Labour’s Academy programme. I would like to think that at least Cllrs Mennear, Bryant plus Moffit and Marshall would have received invites to the opening ceremony. But judging by John Bryant’s comment above, this does not seem to have been the case.

    Remember the days when we had a rotating from each political party Mayor……?

    Droit de siegneur.

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  5. Chris Knight // March 25, 2013 at 2:12 pm //

    “Back in the knife draw Miss Sharp”
    Say what you like the Academy is open and full, Messrs Mennear & Bryant set the ball rolling and our Labour colleagues have run with.
    In my view its a great success all round which is a great asset to parents and thats what matters.
    How about bigging that up and cutting the mischief?

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  6. Richard Osley // March 25, 2013 at 2:29 pm //

    Ah Cllr Knighty. By ‘bigging up’, do you mean two pages in a well-read local newspaper with articles that includes lines like…
    ‘Few have left tours of the building, which has popped up at the top end of Adelaide Road in Swiss Cottage, feeling underwhelmed’
    and
    ‘He took us to the “senators”, the pupils on the school council. This was a pre-planned press tour so it’s always hard to gauge, but there was no scent of dissent. Moreover, when Mr Street was looking the other way, pupils gossiped about the jealousy felt by friends who are at other schools. ‘

    You can read online
    http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2013/mar/after-delayed-opening-vice-provost-new-academy-insists-%E2%80%98our-pupils-aren%E2%80%99t-guinea-pigs-
    or I can send you extra copies if you like.

    Despite your irritation, I think we make the same point, that Andrew and John put a lot of hours in and, whatever you think about the academies debate, deserved at the very least an invite to the opening ceremony. I’m not surprised John seems so disappointed.

    Keep on reading!
    Richard

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  7. Chris Knight is of course right but it was all a bit of a political mess – shades of the Coalition government squabbles now – as reported by the CNJ in 2008 http://www.thecnj.com/camden/2008/111308/education111308_01.html

    Re: no invites, I’m sure it was an honest mistake but such is life… (I remember sobbing into my low sugar muesli when I didnt get an invite to some of the King’s Cross + St. Pancras station stuff the Lib Dems and Tories had nothing to do with but nonetheless opened).

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  8. Chris Knight // March 25, 2013 at 10:40 pm //

    Just think how this sort of conversation looks to the outside world!
    Education is all that matters and it has been delivered.

    Irritate me Osser never your a fun monkey ” but I do like you” ever thought of taking up a career as a Piccador?

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