You all know that education and creating great opportunities for young people after secondary school is a big thing for me. This week presented me with some opportunities to get stuck in and also a wake-up call as to how far off we are from making that a reality.
On Monday I made a speech in the Commons on Education, there’s a link to it at the bottom of this page if you’re interested. The government brought its Education Bill in and I wanted to put my thoughts on record. I’m chair of governors of a local academy that has hugely improved the opportunities for its students. But just because it is working in this case does’t mean I want every school to be an academy. I believe that each community should have the school best suited to the needs, challenges, and ambitions of that area. Sometimes it will be an academy, and sometimes not. Parents and local experts must be listened to and the best way for continued improvement arrived at as a community.
But the Bill this government is trying to pass would allow ministers to impose academy status on schools without the need to consult parents. This, I believe, would damage a school’s relationship to its local community and be a setback to improvement. Disempowering a community is not the way to improve it. Also, astonishingly, the Bill gives these extraordinary powers to ministers if a school is deemed to be ‘coasting’ but the government refused to give a legal definition of what that actually means.
I feel really, really strongly about educational improvement so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out today that I’ve been appointed to the Education Bill Committee. This means that I get to scrutinise the Education Bill line-by-line, argue for amendments, call witnesses to give evidence, and challenge ministers on every sentence of the Bill for the next three weeks. After that the Bill returns to the Commons for another debate, then goes to the House of Lords, and then becomes law. It will be a massive amount of work for me in the coming weeks but I’m really so pleased to have the chance to roll my sleeves up and do my best to shape some legislation that I fear could damage community schooling if it goes ahead unchanged.
Also this week you may have read that Ofsted released the results of an inspection on our local education authority and deemed it ‘requires improvement’. There were some rays of light, particularly around the way children in care are looked after, but some really depressing analysis of the way our local authority supports local schools. Now that we have a new administration we have a window of opportunity to turn this around and believe me I will do everything I can to support them to achieve that. There is no time to waste when it comes to improving educational outcomes.
I’m back in Hove and Portslade now for the rest of the week and weekend which is great. I escaped from parliament mid-afternoon today and came to the office in Hove to work for the evening. But I just realised that I left my bag containing a week’s worth of clothes on the train! Whether or not I have clean shirts next week is now in the hands of Southern Rail lost property!
I’m out and about a lot in the next few days, including a Street Play Initiative in Stanley Rd tomorrow and the Mile Oak Summer Fair on Saturday - I really hope to see lots of you there! All the best, Peter
PS I spent the whole PMQ's bobbing up and down again this week and still didn't get called. I'll get there, one day!