One of the most enjoyable aspects of being an MP is the opportunity to visit our local schools. I always leave feeling uplifted after witnessing the fantastic work that teachers, teaching assistants, volunteers and parents do to ensure our young people have the best possible start in life.
Recently I visited St Lukes, to present them with a Crystal Award in recognition of their quality provision in extended study support.
St Lukes has an extensive and valuable after-school provision, which is designed further to enrich the children’s education and offers to help them catch the learning bug. The school’s SATs results are a testament to the success of the programme and to the overall ethos of achievement of the school.
It was great to talk to the children and hear firsthand about the numerous clubs they have to choose from and just how much fun they have. But, it was also clear that these activities provided real and additional educational support for these young people. The clubs might be great fun, but there is a very serious side to them.
Last Saturday, I turned on the news to discover the Government announcing that schools’ budgets were being protected.
This is, on the face of it, exceptionally good news, but it needs closer examination.
The announcement was made to the press and not to Parliament which means that the “headline” proclaiming protection of schools’ budgets was heard, almost unchallenged over the weekend.
The message will be out - “education budgets are protected” It will reassure anxious parents, but it is not the whole truth.
The Con Dems want to introduce a flagship policy called the “Pupil Premium.” The money for this new policy will be squeezed out of the current schools’ budget.
The Con Dems have form in this. Do you remember the announcement about cutting our schools’ building programme to fund their new Academies?
This new idea, like others, is being sold to the electorate as a package of money and support to the most deprived areas of the country. So, Newham, being in the poorest 10 areas, should be ok – but that is sadly not the case.
The Institute of Fiscal studies has analysed the proposals. What they found is that areas like ours, which received a higher level of funding to tackle educational disadvantage, will actually receive less money to pay more affluent areas, like Wokingham in Berkshire, the third most affluent Council in the UK
St. Lukes, along with all other primary and secondary schools in the Borough, are having to cut the services they offer their pupils, including budgets for the award winning after school clubs. The cuts are happening now. Budgets and initiatives for schools like ours have been withdrawn.
Headlines are being manipulated. A deceit is being perpetrated, to make us think the most deprived areas are being protected by a Government that believes in fairness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Areas like ours are being robbed to put more money into much wealthier ones.
The Con-Dems are looking after their own. They hope the contrived headlines and sound bites will convince enough people of their fairness and compassion. This may work in the short term, but I believe, the electorate will find them out.