Tuesday 5 July 2011

The Irony: H&F Conservatives Congratulate Schools Whilst Undermining Future Results With Cuts

Cllr. Mercy Umeh
At last week's Full Council Meeting Conservative councillors put down a motion about the successful local school results. There was an irony here because their administration has cut budgets, ended the early years programme and cut schools funding. Cllr. Mercy Umeh explained that to them in this speech:

"I have been on the Education and Children’s Services Select Committee for six years. I have sat through many presentations by head teachers and I’ve listened to school governors and seen how OFSTED judge a school’s successes.

As a parent of children who were educated locally in our nurseries, primary and secondary schools, I know how important it is that we have schools that continually achieve and have a reputation for doing so.

So I welcome the motion put down by the administration and confirm that the Opposition will support it. But let’s be clear. Results like these do not happen over night. Indeed, as I know from all my experience, it can be a long hard battle to improve a school and even harder battle to improve a school’s reputation. There are several reasons why the results mentioned in the Administration’s motion have happened:
  • Governors, sometimes with the support of this education authority, have employed effective head teachers who have demonstrated strong leadership.
  • The quality of teaching and the level of teaching skills has improved and continues to do so.
  • And parents, carers and the students themselves work hard to reach ever higher education standards
But there is more…
  • The Sure Start, early years children's centers provided early years help that has ensured children are better able to be educated. This has had an amazing effect on the results of both primary and secondary schools.
  • Record levels of investment saw children provided with new books, computers and buildings.
  • Class sizes were cut and the children’s accomplishment grew. 
  • We got better as a society at spotting issues like dyslexia and other learning difficulties and support was often provided.
  • Homework clubs gave extra teaching
  • Breakfast clubs ensured kids that often didn’t get a breakfast got one…. And do you know what? That had a positive effect on results too.
All these were Labour initiatives. Many of these have been cut by this Conservative Council or cut by the Conservative led government:
  • Building Schools for the Future – STOPPED!
  • Sure Start – ENDED, here in Hammersmith and Fulham in all but name.
  • And two years ago I was sickened to sit on the Select Committee and hear this Borough’s Director of Education boast that his department had made the biggest cuts out of all the Council’s departments. Do you know what? The Conservative members applauded.
Now we have debated these issues before. So I want to make two points. The first is about Great Britain’s competitiveness in an ever-increasing globalised economy. To compete we need educated, skilled citizens who can win wealth for our society and ensure our long term success. I would hope that even the Conservatives would agree that this is a good thing.

But there are moral reasons too… We on this side believe that, at the very least, it is important to give everyone an equal chance in life. Education is critical for that to happen.

So whilst I support the motion and congratulate everyone involved, I also warn the Conservatives, at all levels, that these successes are the consequence of a wide range of causes that have had ever improving effects over many, many years. Your cuts to Sure Start and BSF; your proposals to increase class sizes and the obvious cuts in investment, so applauded by your party, all will all have a cost. They will damage future education results in this Borough and damage our country’s long term economic success."

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