Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, has found himself an unlikely ally in Chris Philp, the leading donor to the Conservative party who has been chosen as the Tories’ next MP for Croydon South.
According to Reed, inadequate investment means “thousands of local children face being taught in overcrowded schools, Portakabins, or forced to travel miles across London to find a school place”.
And today, Philp added his voice to that theme, telling the Croydon Guardian: “We must work to make sure that all Croydon parents can get their children into Croydon schools if they want to.
“We must remain vigilant and make sure that schools funding from the Government keeps pace with the population growth, and that there is enough school capacity to meet demand.”
It is an unusual departure for Philp to criticise his own party’s coalition government barely a month after he was selected by the Croydon South Conservative members, and contains implicit criticism of the Tory-run council, too.
It is certainly not the sort of thing which constituents would have expected of the expert expenses claimer, Tricky Dicky Ottaway, whom Philp will replace. It is the sort of intervention which might have helped to force developers, such as Barratt Homes, to deliver a new school together with their 600-plus homes on public land at Cane Hill.
Something needs to be done. Through a Freedom of Information request, the Croydon Guardian reports that 54 Croydon primary school children have been forced to attend a school outside the borough since September, while 171 others did not receive a place at any of the schools they listed.
Yet in the spite of these facts, Tim Pollard, the council’s cabinet member for children, families and learning, managed to tell the newspaper: “This year every parent who applied on time for a place for their child received an offer of a suitable school.” At best, this is smug and complacent. At worse, it appears deliberately misleading.
Pollard’s public comments ought to be regarded as doubly duplicitous when considering a report which he submitted to the council cabinet just last month which predicted a short-fall of 2,475 places in the borough by September 2016. Read Pollard’s report on the school places crisis by clicking here.
For school starters in 2013, nine schools in Croydon received more than 400 applications for sometimes as little as 30 places, with Elmwood Infants receiving 580 applications.
Croydon is the only London borough which is unable to accommodate 99 per cent of its children in its own schools or those of a neighbouring borough, according to figures from the Greater London Authority.
The council is providing 5,220 new primary school places by September 2015, with £110million funding from the same ConDem government which slashed school build grants when they came to power in 2010.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday during the Autumn Statement debate, Reed asked the Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, why his government has failed to act.
“Parents across Croydon North are angry that the government is failing to provide a place in a good local school for every child,” Reed said.
“If we fail to educate our children properly we are storing up trouble for the future. It’s time for the government to put dogma aside and provide the places that children and parents need right here in Croydon.”
Coming to Croydon
- Strange Air book talk, Upper Norwood Joint Library: Dec 14
- Surrey Street Christmas market, Dec 15 and 22
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- Why white men jump higher (theguardian.com)