I spent a fantastic afternoon at the West Blatchington Nursery School. It was National School Milk Day so I had the job of handing out the milk and fruit and then spending time in the play area with the bright and wonderful children.
All went well until the kids got me to have a go on the slide…
Investment in fantastic services like this was a priority for the last Labour government. The billions we spent on SureStart, children’s centres, and nursery provision has transformed the opportunities available to young people as they move into adulthood.
SureStart was founded in 2000 which means the generation of young people who benefited from it have not yet been entered the world of work so the impact of that smart and long-term investment is not yet fully felt by our country. That is why this government have cut it so savagely, because the impact of the cuts won’t be noticed for a long time just as it’s taken a long time to notice the benefits.
Half of all SureStart and children’s centres have been closed since this government took office. It’s so short sighted and frustrating.
The other thing I couldn’t help think about while I was spending time with such fantastic youngsters was about the future they will face if Teresa May is allowed to open up new grammar schools.
In a few years time these lovely kids, who are thriving in such a rich and diverse environment, will be tested and split up. The academically able ones will be send to one school, the rest to another.
I cannot tell you how much I hate this. I hate it for two reasons: Firstly it’s wrong, and secondly it doesn’t work.
For the last five years I’ve been chair of governors of a school in Brighton. 60% of our students benefit from Pupil Premium investment and this year GCSE results increased by a whopping 21%. Compare that to grammar schools in Kent where a derisory 2.8% of their students come from deprived backgrounds and results were up by less than the national average this year.
And finally it flies in the face of what is needed. Employers from all sectors, from charities to the public sector to business, are totally clear that broad and adaptable social skills are as important as academic attainment. Yet the government seems hellbent on delivering the opposite.
What we need is massive investment into teaching and learning. If I had my way there would be a nationwide drive inline with the scale of our investment into schools in the late 1990’s to support in teachers and to get the very best into the schools who need them the most.
I will continue to throw my passion into this. Amidst the photos of me hanging out with great local nursery kids is a clip of me challenging the education secretary about grammar schools. I ask her a simple question…can you name a grammar school with over half of its students from deprived communities that got its results up by more than 20% this year? Please let me know what you think of her answer. All the best, Peter