Sunday, 10 March 2013

What do your County Council candidates have to say about education?

'Education, Education, Education' - Tony Blair

'Education is the Silver Bullet. Education is Everything.' - Aaron Sorkin

Education IS everything.

Not just education for the well off, but for children from every walk of life.

Not just education for the bright, but for every ability.

Education has never been more important.

It is education that drives our hospitals, drives our innovation and drives our economy.

Without a world class education system Britain WILL regress against comparable countries and WILL be overtaken by the education systems of emerging nations.

Never has there been a time when education is more important to our country.

Education is in a period of transition. The last Labour government introduced greater autonomy for schools through the introduction of the Academies programme.

This government has taken a step further forward, both in ideological and practical terms, with free schools, studio schools and the growth of the 'publicly independent' model.

A much greater emphasis is being given to parent power and professional deliverables.

Some counties, including our own Leicestershire, have been relentless in urging schools to follow the path of academisation, many would argue - whether they want to or not.

A county wide Local Education Authority, both leading educational standards and delivering high quality services, has rapidly become a thing of the past – and in all likelihood will never return.

The fact is that in Counties such as our own some schools will strive to carry on under the LEA banner, others will thrive as academies and sadly a significant proportion may well struggle (until they get taken over by one of the national chains acting in their own way as a market driven LEA).

The role of the County Council in education has changed irreversibly.

That, however, does not mean that the County Council role is less important.

There are many areas where Leicestershire County Council should AND must continue to lead in education. There are many areas where different political approaches make a real difference.

I believe that Leicestershire County Council AND individual councillors must act as CHAMPIONS for parents and children in our county.

Now, more than ever before, we must be going to Whitehall and demanding the best funding settlements for LEA schools and Academies for our pupils.

Just because the County Council, in many cases, is not responsible for schools anymore does not mean we should ever stop being advocates for them.

As a County Council we must work in partnership with schools. We need to plan well in advance where additional places are likely to be needed in the same way as we need to work with schools, on behalf of parents and children, wishing to change the age range of their provision.

Although the framework of education is changing there are many things that the LEA must still deliver.

We need to make sure that affordable home to school transport is appropriate and available.

We need to lead all schools in ensuring that they engage with their communities and, in particular in the case of academies, that they are of a size and purpose that fit properly in the towns and villages they are located in.

Most of all we need to ensure that the County Council continue to provide the highest standards of care and support to vulnerable children.

We cannot let budgetary pressures be seen as just cause for failing those children most in need of support.

If I am elected one of my top priorities will be to call for urgent reviews of both the special educational needs service and the children's social care service, both of whom many professionals would argue are creaking under the pressure of financial constraints.

The County Council elections are coming in less than 2 months.

Candidates will be knocking on your door.

If you have children or grandchildren I would strongly urge you to ask those candidates what Leicestershire County Council's (and their own) role in education is.

If you are told that the LEA doesn't have a role these days or 'it's all Academies now' think carefully before you vote.

County Councillors STILL have a vital role in the way our children are educated. If candidates don't appreciate that do they deserve your vote?

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