Fearing Peterborough schools’ day closures

Before I get into the substance of this column, I’d like to congratulate the England cricket team on their victory in the World Cup. It could not have been a more electrifying match, nor a more inspiring victory, writes Cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council, in his weekly column.

Sunday, 21st July 2019, 6:55 am
Education news

I wish our politics fared as well: I was angered but not surprised when it was reported that some Peterborough schools may have to close “for some days” due to their current funding crisis.

Since 2010, our schools have been subjected to experiments like “Free Schools”, increasing academisation, and a mismatch between resources and demand.

The signals have all been flashing red for some time; teachers have been ignored. Some might say that a crisis was inevitable.

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We raised these warnings; we were told that we were being alarmist. We said, more or less, that two plus two doesn’t equal five. We were informed that with the right structures that it could.

Theory has run into hard fact, and it was not fact that has given way.

The costs of these closures could be enormous: first, vital education days will be lost, which implies poorer test results and a truncated curriculum. Additionally, there’s the meals which schools dispense to disadvantaged children: what provision will there be to replace them?

Furthermore, I can only imagine demand and costs for day care will skyrocket as a result: I am not at all certain that enough places exist. In other words, parents and children alike will have to pay for the short-sightedness of the Conservative government at both local and national levels.

One of my main criticisms of how the Conservatives have handled the issue of Brexit is that their focus on that one problem has meant they are unable to look at anything else.

I read in the Financial Times that Councillor Fitzgerald was delighted that Boris Johnson came to our city, comparing the reception he received to a Papal visit. All well and good, however, I don’t believe any of us are any clearer as to how Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt are going to prevent our schools from having to endure a partial shutdown.

You would think the Conservatives would be wary of shutdowns: three-day weeks and power outages in the 1970s signalled the impending end of Edward Heath’s term as Prime Minister. When he finally called a snap election in February 1974 on the issue of “Who governs Britain”, the voters 
made it clear that the answer definitely wasn’t the Conservatives.

It says much that the Conservatives would rather try to promote the idea that “two plus two equals five” about their Brexit calculations rather than deal with the logical conclusion of their fuzzy maths insofar as education and health care are concerned.

Brexit is an important issue; however, it is by no means the only one. We need an administration here which is going to address the immediate needs of the people of Peterborough.

That means being persistent and vocal with central government about the issues of funding for our schools. That means re-examining how education policy has been carried out here in Peterborough. That means beginning on a basis of fact, rather than wishful thinking. The Conservatives cannot; the Labour group will.