Vote Labour on May 7th

right to voteThere’s been quite a lot of mud-slinging, negative campaigning, in the lead up to May 7th, from all political parties I must add, but polling day has finally arrived so it’s decision day for you and I will positively lay out the case for voting Labour referring to two key policy areas.

The first decision you need to make is whether to go out and vote or not. For me it’s simple, we have a moral duty to vote and it is one of the few opportunities for you to have your say on the direction of travel for your country. Politics matters and it is election outcomes that led to the creation of the NHS and the introduction of a national minimum wage.

All political parties lay out a manifesto and Labour’s sets out a clear vision to take the whole of society with us and support the next generation to succeed and deliver a NHS that is fit for the 21st Century.

You have between 7am and 10pm to vote.

Supporting the next generation and the NHS and caring for our elderly is a key issue raised on the doorstep by residents so I have picked out key promises from the Labour manifesto on these areas.

We will:

  • invest £2.5 billion more than the Conservatives to recruit 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more midwives

  • guarantee GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week join up services from home to hospital, with a single point of contact for all

  • who need it give mental health the same priority as physical health, with a new right to access talking therapies repeal the Government’s privatisation plans, cap profits and put the right values back at the heart of the NHS end time-limited 15 minute social care visits and recruit 5,000 new home-care workers to support people in their home

  • introduce a new gold-standard Technical Baccalaureate for 16 to-18-year olds protect the entire education budget from early years through to post-16 education guarantee all teachers in state schools will be qualified appoint Directors of School Standards to drive up standards in every area

  • cap class sizes for five, six and seven-year-olds ensure all young people study English and Maths to age 18

  • Extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four-year-olds, and ensure all primary schools guarantee access to wraparound childcare from 8am to 6pm

  • Double paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase paternity pay by more than £100 a week

The full manifesto is here

http://www.labour.org.uk/manifesto2015

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What Planet is Gove Living On?

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove is receiving widespread criticism for having a bit of “things used to be a lot better in my day” syndrome, with his plans to overhaul the Education system.

Silent in all of this so far, surprise surprise is Education Minister Sarah Teather.

In other news, the International Olympic Committee are considering changing the format of the 100 metre race on the basis that people are running it faster. I mean Usain Bolt running it it 9.78 seconds…. It took me 10 seconds just to watch it!

The Spanish Football Association are also considering using smaller goals and footballs made from cast iron metal on the basis that Cristiano Ronaldo and Leonel Messi are scoring 50 plus goals a season.

Just another day in Tory Liberal Britain.

University applications down

An article on the BBC website has revealed that initial figures show that “University applications for 2012 are running at 9% below last year’s level.”

Even more concerning, is that “when overseas applications are taken out, the figures show a 12% drop in applications from UK students.”

I sincerely hope that it is being monitored what our young people are doing instead of going to University, given the huge intake drop. If people are not going to University because of choice, we cannot fail the next generation by not providing quality further education and training opportunities and support to make sure they are well equipped and have the skills necessary to enter the labour market.

Meanwhile, the One Show on BBC1, broadcasted on Monday 24th October (video only available for a limited time) revealed that when interest payments are taken into account, people who take out the maximum loan amount could find themselves paying £75,000 in debt.

Another survey has revealed that 10% will be put off going to University because of the new fees system that will start from next year onwards.

Apply now for a Brent primary school places

I’d like to remind parents of children who are due to start at primary or junior school in September 2011 are being reminded that they are running out of time to get their applications in.

The deadline for applications for the thousands of children expected to start at a Brent primary next year is 15 January 2011.

Parents who are unsure about the process can put the dates of two public meetings in their diaries.

Council admissions officers will be able to answer questions and help families fill in application forms on:

  • 6 January 2011, between 5 and 7pm, at Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Road, London, NW10 2SF
  • 7 January 2011, between 5 and 7pm.  Brent Town Hall, Forty Lane, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 9HD.

All Brent families have to apply to Brent Council regardless of whether the school is in Brent or outside. Parents can apply quickly and easily online at www.brent.gov.uk/admissions

Councillor Mary Arnold, Brent Council’s lead member for Children and Families, said: “If you are parent of a child who is due to go to start at one of Brent’s excellent primary schools next year, I strongly advise you to complete an application within the next month, before the deadline.

“If you miss the deadline, your application will be considered after all the others so you will be at a disadvantage and are less likely to get the school you want.

“Families with children due to go to a primary school really need to act fast if they haven’t applied as there is only a month left. Our schools are very successful and very popular and you don’t want your child to miss out.”

Sarah Teather has taken so many U-turns that she’s tied herself in a knot

I am really confused about what our MP believes in anymore. Before the election, she expressed concerns about taking power away from local authorities with regards to school education.

She told the BBC, “Unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money available… it’s just a gimmick.”

However, today I’m reading in the Guardian that her Partner in crime, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove is proposing direct management of state schools funding.

National Union of Teachers ConDemn Sarah Teather’s stance on ‘Free Schools’

Following the Lib Dems’ rebuttal of Sarah Teather’s Education policy yesterday (LINK), the National Union of Teachers has issued a comment on the ePolitix website saying:

“This debate has shown up the conflict between Liberal Democrat and Tory values. The fault line in the coalition government will clearly be on education policies and the importance of a fair education for all.

Academies and Free Schools are Tory policies and stand in direct opposition to previous Liberal Democrat thinking. Before the election we had Sarah Teather, triumphantly saying that the Liberal Democrats provided the only opposition to the academies project; and of the Free Schools programs that it was a shambles;, but where is her opposition now?”

National Union of Teachers

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.

Con Dem government signals shift from ‘Free Schools’ policy, back to BSF-esque programme.

Sarah Teather has in the Willesden and Brent Times pledged that schools will be able to reapply for a new school building with an announcement expected towards the end of the year.

Source: Guardian

The announcement signals a logical realisation that the Labour Party’s Building Schools for the Future programme was the correct route to follow with regards to Education policy. After a poor take up of schools going down the Teather and Gove ‘Free Schools’ route, the money that was there for the BSF scheme, as shown in this letter from Sarah Teather’s permanent secretary at the Education Department (LINK), which hasn’t been taken up by ‘free schools’, is available again for new school buildings.

In the meantime, the embarrassing U-turn dithering and realisation of this, will affect children in Brent now and in the immediate future.

Cllr Mary Arnold – Lib Dem / Tory Coalition Deprives Brent’s Schools of £380 million

The Coalition Government’s recent announcements cancelling Building Schools for the Future capital programmes has deprived Brent schools of  £80m funding allocated last January to rebuild, remodel and expand four secondary schools initially and a further £300m for the remaining secondaries.

This is an enormous setback for the children, teachers and indeed communities who have invested in the plans, been inspired and had their expectations raised by the promise of a 21st century learning environment. And judging by the stories emerging at the recent rally of parents, schoolchildren and unions to lobby MPs at Westminster, this is the tip of the iceberg across the country. It means that children will be taught in buildings not fit for purpose and in larger classes as there will not be enough school places for Brent’s children, as a result.

Over the last 13 years, Labour invested in Brent’s schools, year-on-year, producing higher standards with results above the national average and narrowing the achievement gap. Fewer schools have been in special measures and more children have stayed in education or training including apprenticeships. But instead of building on success, the Lib Dem/Tory government has put all this is at stake with no alternatives for capital investment as it rushes through the Academies Bill inviting schools to opt out of local authority control.

This coalition government option is initially for ‘outstanding’ schools in contrast to the original model, meaning that schools already doing well could opt to attract additional funds from local authority central services leaving less to support Brent’s family of schools. These new ‘academies’ would not be accountable to the local authority (and taxpayer) and there is concern whether their admissions criteria would be subject to its approval. As the school year ends in a policy vacuum, it is important to thank teachers in recognition of their enormous contribution and to collaborate in the interests of all Brent’s children in the future.

Cllr Mary Arnold

Labour Councillor for Kilburn Ward and

Lead Member for Children and Families

Why David Cameron is wrong on teacher recruitment

David Cameron has recently stressed that making teaching a profession that attracts the academically elite is the way forward for our education system –  LINK

Firstly, under what the Tory leader is proposing, we would see an influx of individuals who join the profession as a short term measure to pay off a student loan and to reap the financial benefits, not people who have a desired career in the teaching profession.

I don’t believe that making teaching ‘brazingly elitist’ is the way forward. Where David Cameron is right is when he says that “the quality of a teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s educational progress.” However, where we disagree will be on the type of quality; academic or the ability to interact with children effectively.

An individual who has earned a first class degree at Oxford or Cambridge may not necessarily be equipped to control a classroom of over 20 children. Maybe the more qualified have picked up a stronger depth of knowledge. However, what use is this knowledge in a classroom if they are unable to impart this knowledge to a classroom effectively?

Instead teachers should be recruited from a broad range of criteria depending on multiple attributes and not just the grades that they acquired at University.