Cllr Ed Davie is the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and a councillor in Thornton ward.
As a difficult school term and a tumultuous year comes to an end, it’s appropriate to take stock and reflect on the course of a challenging 12 months.
Most importantly of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our education staff in Lambeth. They have done an incredible job in tough circumstances for which I, as a father of two Lambeth-schooled children, and we as a community should all be incredibly grateful for.
The professional and hardworking manner in which education staff have coped with a number of new ways of working, introduced in such a short space of time, all whilst ensuring our children and young people are educated and cared for amidst the biggest public health crisis in a century, is nothing short of remarkable.
However, our diligent education staff have not been aided by a Tory government and a sloppy Secretary of State that has repeatedly let them down. The charge sheet, as long as Santa’s list, includes:
- Being slow off the mark in supplying appropriate technology to ensure remote learning is possible for all, regardless of socio-economic background.
- Late in the day with issuing guidance and supporting our schools to change the way they deliver education both within and outside school buildings.
- An uncoordinated and uncooperative approach to pupils and staff returning to schools in the summer.
- A very public U-turn on continuing free school meals over the course of the summer and then a tone-deaf, steadfast refusal to do so over the autumn.
- The downgrading by algorithm of pupils’ GCSEs and A-levels results, causing millions of young people unnecessary distress, before finally seeing sense and trusting in our teachers.
- Playing politics with Transport for London and planning for the abolishing of free travel for under 18s in London.
Rather than the ill-conceived and unilateral approach taken by the Tory government throughout the pandemic, in Lambeth, we have taken a localised, collaborative approach between council, schools, and unions to step up locally and lead in a co-operative manner.
As a council, we have stepped in and done all we can to assist our schools in delivering the best education possible for our children within current social constraints whilst keeping school staff safe:
- Distributing hundreds of laptops to our most disadvantaged pupils.
- Paying for art materials for vulnerable children being home schooled.
- Helping schools carry out risk assessments for all education staff at our borough’s schools.
- Working closely with parents, teachers, and trade unions to ensure a safe return to school for all.
- Creating more than 20 ‘School Streets’ to aid social distancing and providing a safer, cleaner and greener environment for our families on their way to school.
- Funding the feeding over 10,000 of our most disadvantaged children over half term.
Now this Tory government is yet again calling on our schools and their staff to deliver mass Covid-19 testing within schools next year, with no notice, on the eve of school holidays. Lambeth Council will do everything we can to assist our schools and their staff in introducing yet another challenging demand and yet another way of working at incredibly short notice.
We will continue to do all that we can locally, as we know how important a good education and time spent in the classroom can be for some of our most disadvantaged children. But the time has long come for successive Tory-led governments to stop treating some of our most precious assets, our children and their educators, as an afterthought.
Cllr Ed Davie