Calling on Gove to not make Gladstone Park Primary School a sponsored academy

Earlier this week, I met with a parents with children at Gladstone Park Primary School who are concerned with the approach that the Department for Education are taking in forcing it to become an academy.

I have written to the Secretary of State Rt Hon Michael Gove MP on the issue. My letter can be found here – LINK1of2 LINK 2of2

 

More ‘surprise’ cuts to schools

The Department for Education has cancelled the April payment of the School Standards fund weeks after London boroughs have already signed off their budgets for 2011/12. This money cuts from our schools is likely to have already been spent.

The School Standards Fund provides core funding to London schools to help pay for things such as school dinners and one-to-one tuition.

The cut means that school funding per pupil is not being maintained at ‘flat cash’ as the Government promised in the Spending Review. Because some of the funding is targeted towards deprived pupils the cut is likely to have a greater impact on more deprived local authorities like Brent.

The Department for Education has suggested local authorities deal with the issue by funding it from school funding allocations in future years.

Coalition Cuts to Brent Council: Children and Families

I previously mentioned here, that I would provide greater detail to reduction in Central Government Grants allocated to Brent Council for Children and Families. In Summer 2010 the Government cut £1,882,000 to Brent Council’s Children and Families Grant.

The detail of Sarah Teather’s Government cuts stemming from the reduction in ‘hidden grants’ to Brent’s Children are impossible to justify or defend.

They include:

  • £68,000 reduction to care at home packages.
  • £101,000 reduction in grant to fund Connexions. This will lead to non-renewal of four staff contracts and reduce contracts with the voluntary sector. Connexions provide information and advice to people to help make the decisions and choices in their lives.
  • £26,000 grant to help tackle young people’s substance misuse. This could lead to a reduction in outreach work and targeted support.
  • £162,000 reduction in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
  • £211,000 reduction in the Children’s Fund grant which could lead o a reduction of contracts for ESOL classes, parental support for vulnerable families, targeted sexual advice and support and an e-safety programme.
  • £27,000 reduction in Teenage Pregnancy Grant which could lead to reduced services provided to children in Brent at risk of becoming parents.
  • £45,000 reduction in the Youth Opportunities Fund which will lead to schemes being reduced or re-prioritised.
  • A whopping £326,000 reduction in the Think Family grant, which will lead to a reduction in support to parents which is available at universal as well as targeted levels as well as a reduction in the Family Intervention Programme.
  • £75,000 reduction in the Playbuilders grant which will lead to ceasing or scaling back of schemes that were already agreed to extend children’s play facilities.
  • £30,000 cut to the Brent Community Friends grant, which will lead to some loss in services that are provided directly to looked after children.

As the Government Minister in the Department for Education, it is atrocious that MP for Brent Central Sarah Teather is inflicting so much damage to Brent’s children. Especially to those who are most vulnerable as the outlined cuts mentioned above suggest.

Sarah Teather’s Education proposals Con-Demned by her own Lib Dem Party members

The Liberal Democrats today gave their overwhelming backing to a campaign against the expansion of Sarah Teather’s Education policy on school academies and have called for a boycott of free schools in the strongest public show of concern by rank and file activists over the party’s role in Coalition Government. They called on all Lib Dems to actively “urge people not to take up the option” of creating the “free” schools championed by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove and Brent Central MP and Education Minister Sarah Teather.

Teather branded it an “illiberal boycott” and according to the BBC, Teather pleaded to delegates “Don’t vote for a boycott, don’t tie councils’ hands.” However, Former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris argued that it was not illiberal for Lib Dems to be allowed to campaign on issues they felt strongly about.”We must be free to fight the Tories at a local level up and down the country,” he said.

While Sarah Teather pleaded with members of her party to vote against the motion, her Department’s policy was ConDemned for treating pupils like tins of beans.

According to the Guardian, Lib Dem Councillor Peter Downes, who moved the motion said, “Just as the supermarket drives the corner shop out of business, so it will be with schools. When Sainsbury’s provides some new products to lure people away from their competitors, the unsold items in the failing shops can be returned to the wholesaler or sold off in a sale. But not so in schools. Pupils are human beings, not tins of beans.”

What the motion said:

F23. Free Schools and Academies

In relation to ‘free schools’, conference calls on all Liberal Democrats to urge people not to take up this option because it risks:

1.       Creating surplus places which is prejudicial to the efficient use of resources in an age of austerity.

2.       Increasing social divisiveness and inequity into a system which is already unfair because of the multiple tiers and types of schools created by successive Conservative and Labour governments and thus abandoning our key goal of a high quality education system for all learners.

3.       Depressing educational outcomes for pupils in general.

4.       Increasing the existing complexity of school admissions and exclusions.

5.       Putting at risk advances made in making appropriate provision for children with special needs.

6.       Putting in jeopardy the programme of improving school buildings.

7.       Wasting precious resources, both human and material, at a time when all efforts should be focused on improving educational outcomes by enabling effective teaching and learning to take place in good local schools accessible to all.

Point 6 is particularly interesting as it indicates that Lib Dem members want to ditch the ‘Free Schools’ policy and revert back to a scheme similar to Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

However, Sarah Teather responded “I will take into account what they say but it is not going to change government policy, because Government policy is formed by Government ministers,” Potentially rendering the whole episode entirely useless in terms of delivering change.

Meanwhile, out on the doorstep, resentment was strife among residents who had voted for Sarah Teather in May 2010. A former Labour supporter who voted for Teather said “I’m quite distraught because what I voted for was totally the opposite to what I got. I didn’t vote for a Tory Government basically and I will definitely be voting Labour next time.”

I imagine many who voted for a Lib Dem MP across the country will be doing the same.

Building Schools for the Future cut is a triple whammy for Brent

The scrapping of the revolutionary Building Schools for the Future programme serves as a triple whammy to the people of Brent and represents a false economy from Sarah Teather’s Education Department.

First and foremost, it is a cut aimed at the group in society who had no say in the election; children. Instead, the Lib Dem / Tory Coalition has rushed through the Academies Bill, advocating a ‘Free Schools’ policy aimed at schools already doing well and ignoring the issue of there being a shortage in school places in Brent, and fails to address the need to improve our failing schools. Every child should have the right and access to a decent standard of education in a respectable environment and the cuts will mean that children will continue to be educated in dilapidated buildings, unfit for the twenty-first century and that there will not be enough school places to meet the shortages.

Secondly, the building works programme provided an opportunity for stimulus in the building and construction trade. Many are still feeling the effects of the recession and the forthcoming VAT rise will increase the price of building materials, affecting profit margins and thereby adding greater financial pressure in the sector.

Thirdly, schools serve as community hubs. The scrappage deprives young people of decent standard activity centres. Schools buildings can be utilised by Local Authorities to provide after hour services for young people. Better standard building and halls also boost the commercial potential of the schools. Many local people use school halls for weddings and hire them out for private functions and parties.

The Education Department’s Permanent Secretary admitted in a letter to former Secretary of State Ed Balls, that the programme had Treasury approval and had not received any objections. We know there is money for our schools, after all, where will the money for the free schools policy come from?

Link to Article on LabourList

EXCLUSIVE: Sarah Teather WRONG that local schools in Brent were “deliberately led up the garden path by Labour”

After her Department stopped the rebuilding programme from the Building Schools for the Future programme, which as part of its roll out included several of our schools in Brent, Sarah Teather was very quick to place the blame on Labour Party and said that we made promises that we could not afford – LINK

This is WRONG! In a letter from the Permanent Secretary in Sarah Teather’s own department, David Bell, written to Labour leadership candidate Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, shows that all spending decisions for when Ed Balls was Secretary of State in the Department for Education Skills and Families were appropriately covered. The letter says that if any actions on this, or any matter were in breach of the requirements of propriety or regularity, the Permanent Secretary would have sought Ministerial Direction and it is confirmed that no such requests were made.

LINK TO ACTUAL LETTER – David-Bell-letter-to-Ed-Balls (courtesy of Left Foot Forward).

Labour Party’s Yvette Cooper claimed that it was women that would bear the brunt of the cuts that we will experience. I think she’s wrong. These cuts are targeted at children who can’t vote and therefore do not have a say or voice in being the victim of Sarah Teather’s Government’s cuts.