Shadow education minister joins Sunderland dads back in the classroom

Shadow Cabinet Minister Andy Burnham is surrounded by a group of Roman Soldiers and a centurian during his visit to grange Park Primary School in Sunderland.
Shadow Cabinet Minister Andy Burnham is surrounded by a group of Roman Soldiers and a centurian during his visit to grange Park Primary School in Sunderland.
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HE may have lost the Labour leadership election, but Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burhnam still found time to get a lesson in how to command the troops.

The senior MP visited Grange Park Primary School in Southwick where dads and their children were taking part in a project aimed at getting family men more involved in their children’s schooling.

The dads and kids were working with re-enactors to get a taste of life in the Roman army, before taking part in games and activities.

Mr Burham said: “As a dad myself, I know schools can often look to the mum a bit, and the dads can sometimes not feel as involved.

“Things like this getting dads into schools does make a real difference to the kids. It gets dads more involved in their children’s education, and I think it’s a positive thing.”

The former Health Secretary was visiting with Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, a Junior Shadow Minister in his team.

He also met Schools North East, which represents the region’s primary, secondary and special schools, to discuss their concerns.

“I wanted to find out what they thought Labour had done wrong and what it had done right when we were in Government, but also what they think about the actions of the current incumbents,” he said.

Mr Burnham said delegates had a number of concerns about the Coalition Government’s policies and proposals for education.

“I think they’re feeling they’re being thrown to the wolves,” he said.

Mr Burnham said Education Secretary Michael Gove was creating a “market” in education which would see a gap growing between schools, rather than establishments working together.

Three primary schools in Sunderland have become academies, making them independent of Sunderland City Council.

“I’m worried about a situation where all schools are ceded to the (Education) Department in London, and local authorities are out of the picture,” he said. “I believe in more autonomy for schools, but I think they need to work with other schools and the local authority.”

The dads and children “Fathers Plus” activities day came after a similar event at the school last year.

The event, and Mr Burham’s visit, was organised by education charity Children North East.

David van der Velde manages the Fathers Plus service and sits on the Labour party Education Policy Review Group at Westminster.

He said: “This is all about breaking down those barriers so both parents are more involved.”

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