Bridget Phillipson MP: Education ministers must deliver more than gimmicks and empty promises

Last week saw the release of this year’s secondary school league tables, showing the results of pupils across the country who sat the newly reformed GCSE exams in 2018.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 08:12 am
Children in the North East should not be held back from achieving potential.

They make worrying reading for anyone who cares about our giving our children a world class education. The league tables show that overall, poorer pupils rank worse than their better-off counterparts.

They also reveal that the highest proportion of under-performing secondary schools are located in the North East.

Although primary schools in our area are performing well, it’s clear many local young people are not reaching their potential in secondary education – but the government is doing little to change this.

I have long been calling on ministers to address the crisis facing our education system, by understanding the reasons so many schools are struggling to improve outcomes.

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The Tory Education Secretary recently revealed plans for ‘Opportunity North East,’ a government programme designed to help young people achieve their potential through secondary education.

As is so often the case, this looks set to be nothing more than a political gimmick. Much of the money is set to come from the existing education budget – which will simply increase pressures elsewhere.

It’s not enough to make empty promises of ‘encouragement’ and ‘improvement’ without understanding the real challenges facing our schools, and tackling them head-on.

On my regular visits to schools in our community, I am always impressed by the dedication of staff and the enthusiasm of our young people. But I also witness first-hand the challenges they face.

I see headteachers worried about balancing budgets, classrooms starved of vital resources, and young people failing to reach their potential.

Teachers want to do the best for our children. But year-on-year, they are faced with extra financial pressures, growing class sizes, and an ever-bigger workload. It’s no wonder that we face a teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

All this means local schools are struggling to make the improvements needed to give our children and young people the best possible education.

The government talks about boosting social mobility and improving outcomes. If ministers mean what they say, they must deliver more than gimmicks, empty promises, and quick fix cash injections designed to paper over real-term cuts.

Our children only get one start in life, and being born in the North East shouldn’t mean they are held back from achieving their full potential.