Gavin Barwell may have been unable to come up with answers to the questions on education of local teachers and parents, but Labour candidate in Croydon Central Sarah Jones did. GENE BRODIE reports
Yesterday, Croydon NUT’s secretary, Dave Harvey, emailed his group’s 2,000 members ahead of this Thursday’s General Election.
Harvey wrote: “Following the cancellation of our Education Question Time event last month, we contacted the two invited election candidates to allow them to answer a representative sample of your questions.
“Unfortunately despite a week-long window to reply, Conservative candidate Gavin Barwell chose not to respond. Labour candidate Sarah Jones did reply.”
Here’s the answers offered by Jones.
Will you pledge not to cut real terms school funding?
I oppose the Tories’ funding cut to our schools. They plan to cut £20million from schools here in Croydon. This will mean that schools will have to make a choice between cutting the number of teachers, cutting the curriculum and offering fewer opportunities for their pupils.
I believe the next Government should stop the cuts to school budgets. If I am elected I will support investment in our schools, so that they are properly resourced and they are able to offer the education our children are entitled to.
Do you think Croydon should have grammar schools?
Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that opening new grammar schools is a distraction and does not improve results or reduce inequality in the education system as a whole. Instead I would support measures that help to deliver an excellent education for every child in every community.
What will you do to address the issue of so many teachers leaving the profession?
Much more effort needs to be put into retaining, as well as recruiting, teachers. Under the Conservative Government, teachers are leaving the profession in droves and recruitment targets have been missed for five consecutive years. It is subjects such as maths and science, which are vital to our country’s future prosperity, that are being affected most by the recruitment crisis.
We currently have too many teachers who are falling out of love with the profession because they have been put off by the Conservatives’ obsession with education structures, reorganisation and implementing divisive policies.
I believe the best way to stop teachers leaving the profession is to leave them to teach, free from unnecessary government interference.
Croydon schools are engaged in establishing a cohesive community in the borough. How can Government support this work?
I welcome the fact that Croydon’s schools are engaged in establishing a cohesive community. It is something that should be actively encouraged.
Schools have a central role in helping to bring about a sense of belonging for all our communities, where the diversity of people’s different backgrounds are positively valued; and where those from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities. However, schools cannot achieve this in isolation.
Government should support their work by implementing a comprehensive strategy for equality. This strategy should be about challenging the socio-economic disadvantages that many of our communities experience, particularly those from a minority ethnic background .
I do not believe such a strategy can be successful while the Prevent strategy is in place in its current form. It does nothing to promote community cohesion and has the potential to drive a wedge between the authorities and entire communities. I support the NUT in its calls for a major review of Prevent and am pleased that the Labour Party is committed to conducting such a review.
If I am elected I will work for a fairer society, where every young person is enabled to get on in life, regardless of their race, faith, ethnicity or background.
How would you sort out the mess of primary assessment?
The primary assessment system is in absolute chaos, with the pass rate in last year’s standard assessment tests falling from more than 80 per cent to just 53 per cent. This was a direct result of the Conservative Government’s piecemeal approach to assessment, which lacks any coherent strategy.
Ongoing assessment and consistent testing in schools is extremely important. It helps teachers to identify and close any gaps in knowledge, so all pupils can do well. As a parent I find it useful to support my children’s education.However, if the primary assessment system is going to be robust, there must be consistency and it must be understood by all. With the huge number of changes that the Tories have brought in, they have utterly failed to deliver this.
A few weeks before the general election was called the Department for Education announced a review of primary assessments. I know that the NUT, along with other teaching unions, individual teachers and parents, have contributed to the public consultation. I hope as many people do so before it closes in a few weeks’ time. Whoever becomes Education Secretary after the general election should carefully consider all the responses.
They should use them to create a system that teachers and parents can have confidence in, and one that ultimately supports children to achieve their full potential.
Anything less will be a wasted opportunity.
- To check out how your local schools are affected by Barwell and the Tories’ education “funding formula”, click here.
- This Friday, June 9, Inside Croydon is staging a free talk about the election from American politics professor Bob Beatty. Click here for more details and to book your place
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