In the summer Lambeth Labour along with other councils ensured the government u-turned on plans to slash education funding in our borough and force all schools to become academies without the consent of local parents.
But while this year will not see these disastrous polices take effect, we should be under no illusions: the Tories have not abandoned polices that could set back the life chances of every child in our borough.
And as if to emphasise this point, today has seen the government announce new grammar school plans that will effectively reintroduce selection by stealth into our local schools.
Labour believes that every one of our young children deserves an excellent education, not just those who can afford to pay for it. Under the last Labour government education spend went up every single year from £56bn to £92bn. Locally, Lambeth Labour has ensured all children at our primary schools have access to a free breakfast, we have won lottery funding aimed at investing millions in early age services in some of our most deprived areas and Lambeth schools have risen into the top ten percent in the country.
But the Tories are jeopardising Labour’s legacy with plans that could see a 20% cut to Lambeth schools. That could mean fewer school assistants, a reduction in tailored support – not just for those who are struggling or who have English as an additional language - but for high achievers who need to be stretched. This will see London schools struggling to retain good teachers and attract the best and brightest into London due to the cost of living.
Moreover, it jeopardises the great progress our schools have made, 100% of our secondary schools are good or outstanding. We’ve improved outcomes for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. 58% of pupils in Lambeth get five or more A* to C grades. In 2014 this figure was 57% compared to the national of 53%. Amongst our BAME population, attainment at GCSE level amongst BME pupils has improved by 45% between 2000 and 2011. The performance of BME pupils is now above both the national and Lambeth average.
It is also not acceptable to take choice out of the hands of parents and force schools to become academies. This model of education may deliver benefits in some circumstances, but the choice on the future direction of local education needs to involve parents at its heart – we cannot and should not strip this away from them.
On grammar schools, the Tories are now pledging to turn back the clock to a time where schools admitted children based on selection criteria that often benefited those from more affluent backgrounds. Inevitably, this approach is one that would entrench inequality and lead to a two tier education system which would leave thousands of children behind. Combined with planned cuts and forced acamdemisation – which could well return next year – these changes would be a complete disaster for Lambeth’s schools.
This is why we are continuing our education campaign aimed at protecting the achievements of Lambeth’s schools . Already hundreds have signed our petition and Lambeth Labour councillors will in the next month be delivering hundreds of leaflets highlighting the dangers facing our education system. I would urge everyone in Lambeth to sign our petition and get behind our campaign. We cannot let the achievements of parents, teachers, pupils and our community be lost because of ill-thought-out policies dreamed up by a government out of touch with the needs of Lambeth’s children.