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Cllr Ben Kind says Tory education reforms risk undoing years of progress for Lambeth schools

Lambeth's schools have made huge strides in recent years, with major improvements meaning that now over 96% of our secondary schools, and 90% of our primary schools, rated good or outstanding. This puts us in the top 10% of all boroughs nationally and is testament to strong local leadership, the dedication of teachers and the involvement of parents, together with significant investment from the last Labour government. However, the Conservative Government’s education policies in recent years have sought to undermine schools that are linked to the local council and rooted in their local communities.

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Just over two years ago the Conservative Government was forced to drop its plans to make 17,000 schools in England become academies, after huge opposition from parents, teachers, school leaders and councils of all political makeups across the country. Trade unions and school professionals warned of the lack of evidence that academisation alone brought about the improvements in school standards the Tories were suggesting would occur – whilst parents were rightly sceptical that a top-down reorganisation of the school system would deliver additional funding to provide more teachers and better school facilities for their children.

Determined to force schools into a corner where turning to the big academy chains for help was their only option, the Government subsequently decided to continue with cuts to the schools budget – including a massive £24 million funding cut suggested for Lambeth’s schools. The parent-led ‘Fair Funding for Schools’ campaign against these cuts brought together parents, teachers, politicians and local residents to fight the Government - including thousands of us here in Lambeth. Last year the Government was again forced to backtrack and they reduced the size of the proposed cuts – but this was a temporary reprieve done by shifting money from other parts of the national education budget and Lambeth’s schools still face a cut of around £14 million by 2019/20.

Lambeth Labour stands with local parents, teachers and trade unions - we oppose Tory plans for ‘free schools’, new grammar schools and the forced academisation of local community schools against the wishes of parents and teachers – including via the backdoor by using funding cuts to put schools in a financially precarious position. Labour is proud of our schools and their role in community and we established the Lambeth Schools Partnership in response to the fragmentation of community education from the Conservative academy agenda.

The way the academy system is set up means academies are publicly funded, but all too often they have little accountability to the community from where their pupils come and while the Government plays games on school funding, they can divert limited financial resources away from community schools. Some academies have undoubtedly done well – with support from local parents and pupils getting a good education and opportunity in life. However, this isn’t always the case and the academisation process often puts at risk best practice such as guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) developed in negotiation between teachers and trade unions; means schools spend large amounts of money on external consultants to manage the transfer of land and buildings; and sees decisions on things such as maternity entitlements or teacher pay taken out of national or local agreements and handed to unaccountable academy boards. This has resulted, for example, in well publicised cases of excessive academy head teacher/chief executive pay that some have sought to use to divide communities for political gain - blaming local councils for the decision despite the autonomy given to academies by the Government.

Like when we opposed Tory funding cuts – Lambeth Labour will oppose the Government changing the rules to require local schools to become academies. We will also continue working together with schools and parents through the Lambeth Schools Partnership and look at what more we can do to keep local schools part of the local community rather than remote academy chains. If the Government is determined to punish local schools and push them into becoming part of big academy chains, making them more remote from the local community in the process, then until we get a Labour government, then we have to look at using those same rules to set up our own parent and teacher-led local model. This is the best way to keep our schools at the heart of the local community, to maintain a Lambeth where young people thrive and to support teaching staff in giving our young people the education they deserve.

Cllr Ben Kind, Deputy Cabinet Member leading on Schools

Why we'll oppose Tory plans to force local schools to become academies

Cllr Ben Kind says Tory education reforms risk undoing years of progress for Lambeth schools Lambeth's schools have made huge strides in recent years, with major improvements meaning that now...

Cllrs Ed Davie and Jacqui Dyer, Joint Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, blog about how Lambeth Labour is celebrating NHS 70...

 

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There are not many countries where people would celebrate the birthday of a health system with cards, tea parties and religious services, but the NHS is unique.

Founded by the Labour Government in 1948 the National Health Service delivers the principle that everyone should get the healthcare they need regardless of their income.

In the 1980s and 90s the Conservatives ran the service into the ground but the Labour Governments of 1997-2010 doubled investment leading the Commonwealth Fund to rank the NHS number one in the world for fairness and efficiency with record levels of patient satisfaction.

That investment, the hard work of health professionals and the determination of ordinary people to protect this national asset means the NHS has survived seven decades

To celebrate this achievement Lambeth Labour is delivering cards to all of the major NHS trusts that serve the borough and the Clinical Commissioning Group which includes GP services. We will also be lighting the Town Hall in NHS blue and taking a Motion to the next Full Council meeting where we will hear from people who’s lives have been saved by the health services.

Lambeth is blessed with brilliant doctors, nurses and other health professionals working in some of the best regarded institutions in the world. The NHS is also one of our biggest employers and thousands of our residents work in local hospitals and in the community. We are grateful to all of them for the hard work they do in often difficult circumstances.

In recent years those circumstances have often got even more difficult as demand has risen and money has got tighter. 

Because funding does match demand for services two of our biggest hospital trusts, King’s College and St George’s, are now spending £200 million more a year than they get from government. This is not sustainable.

The NHS does not exist in a vacuum, its patients and workers come from the community it serves and so when that community gets poorer because of welfare cuts, its social and public health services reduced by government, more people get ill and die and demand rises.

Lambeth Council has been working hard with our health partners to do our bit by joining up services, working to prevent illness in the first place and treating it early when it does occur. Recently ITN made a film about our efforts in mental health you can watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ooYa1DgwYA&t=156s 

Whilst we welcome the additional £20 billion the Prime Minister has promised the NHS over the next few years we worry that no source of funding, other than a mythical ‘Brexit dividend’,  has been identified. We also worry that without proper investment in the support that keeps people well in the community like public health and social care but also poverty reduction, youth activities and housing, the money, wherever it comes from, will fail to make a real difference. 

So Lambeth Labour will be increasing our efforts, as promised in our manifesto, to campaign to protect and invest in the NHS but also the wider support that helps keep people well. As a first next step we will be writing to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care calling for change, taking our motion to council and working with our residents and partners.

Lambeth Labour celebrates NHS 70 with cards and campaigning

Cllrs Ed Davie and Jacqui Dyer, Joint Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, blog about how Lambeth Labour is celebrating NHS 70...  

Cllr Philip Normal says that PrEP should be available for everyone on the NHS

When I read the words ‘sexual’ and ‘health’ in a sentence, the first thing that springs to my mind is the word ‘stigma’. This is dangerous because there should be no stigma around looking after yourself. It is a cliché that the British don’t like talking about sex. It’s certainly true that we face a huge challenge in society by not being open about getting a sexual health screening. Which is why, as Frankie said, we just need to relax and do it. That is, get tested. This is why, starting with sex education in schools, we should start by recognising the reality that people do actually have sex - it’s not going to just stop happening. 

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The Tory government passed on the responsibility of dealing with sexual health to local authorities, while pulling the funding. In Lambeth the largest chunk of our public health grant spend goes on sexual health. We have one of the most diverse societies in the country and the highest percentage LGBT population of any borough. Of course not only LGBT use sexual health services - it’s around 15%. HIV does have an impact here and I hazard a guess that we have the highest population of people living with HIV. 

Care for people living with HIV has changed dramatically over the years. I was first diagnosed with the virus in 2005. Back then NHS policy was to wait until your body was tired of fighting, and only then you were put on medication, combination therapy. Now we we know this is not the best way to approach eradicating this awful disease. We now know that even if you are positive, if the virus is contained, you’re undetectable and on treatment you cannot pass the virus on. If you are negative and on a simple daily pill called PrEP (pre exposure prophylaxis) then you cannot contract it either. These two approaches should it be properly funded and with community partners playing their part then we can eradicate HIV from London. It sounds ambitious but when we have this opportunity we should throw everything at it. In the long term, it’s obviously going to lead to an improved quality of life, as well as being more cost effective to prevent rather than medicate. PrEP should be available for everyone on the NHS, but The Tory government have so far refused to fund PrEP for even vulnerable, at risk groups, even though the cost of medicating people living with HIV is greater than protecting people from it. 

Sexual health goes a lot further than dealing with HIV, and in a diverse community, we need a diverse range of services and an open approach. One thing I am proud of has been the rollout of an  online testing service. SH:24 in 2015 created a service tailored for highly populated areas such as Lambeth where you can order a test online, it is sent to you and you send it back, easy, you then get the results and can be referred to a clinic if you need to. Since this initiative was launched sexual health testing has doubled. It is more cost effective, it costs 58% less for a sexual health screening than a physical clinic. Combined, Lambeth and Southwark using online testing have saved £500,000 since 2015, and in the face of such brutal cuts to local government we need every penny we can get for core services such as adult and child social care.  On the 1st July 2018 PreventX will take on this contract. I do hope that the 8% less sexual health diagnoses over the course of a year in Lambeth will become an ongoing trend.

The Do It London campaign originated in Lambeth and was so successful it won awards. We are entering the second phase of this campaign which has encouraged people to get a sexual health screening. Using great design, social media and the availability of online testing kits the campaign made a huge impact on this city, and I’m extremely proud that this originated in Lambeth. I am also proud that our Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has signed up our great city to become a Fast Track City. This is a pledge to make HIV a thing of the past, and it can be done. Brighton and Hove was the first Labour administration to sign up to it and HIV diagnoses have fallen dramatically. 

The message is. Let’s keep this going. Let’s make people test. Let’s also just enjoy ourselves and look after each other. 

We can eradicate HIV from London

Cllr Philip Normal says that PrEP should be available for everyone on the NHS When I read the words ‘sexual’ and ‘health’ in a sentence, the first thing that springs to...

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