Friday, 20 February 2015

Education must be a priority

When I speak to local parents, one of the most pressing concerns I hear is whether their child is getting the best education possible. To do this we have to ensure that our children are receiving the high-quality teaching they deserve in a stable environment.

Yesterday, the three Medway constituencies welcomed our Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who met with concerned parents, teachers and young people from across the three seats

The common message heard throughout is that our Medway Tory Council has failed our young people. 

The Tories have now held office now for over a decade and looking over that period we have slipped to close to the bottom of the OFSTED league-table for KS2 and almost 50% of schools are rated 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement'. 2/3rds of our GCSE pupils attending non-Grammar schools are also being let down with results on average 12-14% below the national average. If an administration is to be judged on its ambitions for Education then surely after a decade-and-more of rule this must be seen as a poor score. 

When compared with other Authorities including those that saw through the 'London Challenge' in the early 2000s or Coventry today; we have a major challenge locally on how we deal with this challenge. This challenge simply can not be met by those we have in charge at the moment and will require tough short and medium term solutions. 

That’s why I’m backing Labour’s plan for an education system that equips young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the future. Our Portfolio Holder, Adam Price, has also set down our positive plan at the Full Medway Council in January. We want better leadership; qualified teachers in our classroom; and an Education Department in Gun Wharf - staffed permanently -that has the resources and single-minded determination to prepare schools for OFSTED. 

Labour’s vision for education in this country is very different from that of the Tories who will cut the education budget as part of their risky plans to take our public service back to the 1930s, when children left school at 14 and before the NHS existed. 

When Medway Primary Schools are already 150/150th can we afford cuts to our schools?

Unlike the Tories, Labour will not only protect the education budget but actually increase it so it rises with inflation, ensuring that we invest in our young people who will drive our future economic success.

Parents are clear that they want smaller classes for their children and teachers are clear that smaller classes are better for learning. Yet this government’s education record is one of failure.

They scrapped Labour’s policy to cap infant class sizes at 30 pupils, resulting in a 400% increase in Medway of those in infant classes over 30. In part this is because of incompetence but also because of a lack of planning over the last five years; the government has belatedly given the Council resources but at what cost, and after how long?

That’s why Labour will end the wasteful Tory policy of opening Free Schools in areas where there is no need for them. Instead we will use that money to fund more school places so we can cap class sizes for five, six and seven year-olds so they are no bigger than 30 pupils.

Labour will take tough action on the scandal of 1.6 million children educated in under-performing schools. It’s time to put an end to this chronic under-achievement and make sure that every child, regardless of where they live, is able to enjoy a high-quality education.

So Labour will issue a new Standards Challenge setting a tough target to raise performances with every school accountable to new Director of Standards.  We’ll also ensure all children in state schools are taught by qualified teachers so local parents will know that their children are getting a high-quality education.

People in Medway and across the country will be presented with two very different visions for Britain at the election. The Tory vision focuses on helping a few at the top through tax cuts for the wealthiest, paid for by reducing public spending to levels not seen since the 1930s.

But a Labour government will invest in our education system so our children and young people can build the long-term economic success our country needs. 

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