Cllr Ed Davie is the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and a councillor in Thornton ward.
After 11 years of government cuts and falling pupil numbers due to Brexit and Covid, Lambeth’s excellent schools are facing major challenges.
This has been made much worse by the government encouraging free schools and academies to open in areas where we already have plenty of high-quality schools.
By creating more school places than we need in Lambeth the Conservative and Lib Dem governments have put existing schools at risk.
The government’s two child benefit limit, benefit cap and failure to invest in enough genuinely affordable housing has also made inner London boroughs like Lambeth too expensive for some families. While Lambeth Council is working hard to build genuinely affordable homes ourselves and to support families on low incomes, government policies combined with their disastrous Brexit and mishandling of Covid, have led many families to leave inner London, pupil numbers are falling fast as a result.
Now Labour-led Lambeth Council is setting out how we want government, schools and those who manage them respond to the challenges of falling pupil numbers, and how we will support our family of schools through these challenges:
Resist academisation – we want to keep maintained schools, those directly funded and managed by the council, in the local authority family and not become academies. We believe having local democratic accountability and sharing resources is better for local children, families and schools and we have written to maintained schools telling them we want them to stay
Keep schools open – we do not want the government to shut any existing schools and therefore they should provide more funding and not allow any new schools to open where they are not needed
Use unneeded school space for community use – if school buildings are no longer needed for children’s education then we want them to be used for community use like youth clubs, adult learning and flexible workspace
Schools should stay local – we want to maintain high-quality primary and secondary schools in all communities so that quality schools are in walking distance of all Lambeth children
Respect workers – we want all schools to work with unions to ensure that all education workers are paid and treated well and that efforts are made to minimise redundancies and find suitable alternative roles if schools have to reduce in size
Support families living in deprivation – the government should scrap the planned £20 a week reduction to Universal Credit, the two-child limit on child benefits and the benefit cap which unfairly affects inner-London where housing is more expensive. We also want them to invest more in creating genuinely affordable housing and childcare and increase the minimum wage to the Living Wage Trust rate
Through the Lambeth Schools Partnership the council and nearly all schools in Lambeth have worked well together to manage changes, improve education and reduce problems like exclusions.
Despite Conservative and Lib Dem government mismanagement and neglect, Labour-led Lambeth Council has worked hard to support families and schools by:
- Supporting 95% of Lambeth schools get rated Outstanding or Good by Ofsted inspectors
- Investing tens of millions of pounds in improving school buildings and facilities
- Leading work to halve permanent exclusions
- Starting special programmes to close the educational gap between Black Caribbean, Portuguese-speaking and other children
- Distributing 5,000 laptops and increasing School Streets from two to 23 during the pandemic
- Supporting the building of over 1,000 social rent homes, the creation of thousands of London Living Wage jobs, investing millions in better advice, holiday hunger and activity schemes for low-income families
Lambeth Labour will continue working with schools, families and unions to get the best deal for our children, communities and workers and campaigning against government cuts and mismanagement.