Voyager cannot just be left to drift

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
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There are times when as a local MP you have to put your head above the parapet when others choose to run for cover. Yes, you’ll ruffle feathers but as often as not - for a good cause in the long run and in the best interests of your constituents. Last week’s report on the failing Voyager Academy in the Peterborough Telegraph was just such an example. Having said that, people who have supported my stance have far outweighed the critical – many of whom are critical of everything I do or say (but that’s politics!)

This week, as promised, I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP, asking that she invokes her legal powers to sack the current Academy sponsors, Comberton Academy Trust and bring in a sponsor more up to the challenge of turning this school around.

What choice do I have? Despite their best efforts, the city council and the Regional Schools Commissioner Tim Coulson, have not been able to help deliver improvements, despite offering much time and advice to the Senior Management Team at Voyager.

The school’s GCSE results are amongst the worst ever seen in Peterborough and because the school is the third biggest in the city, it is dragging down the local education authority as a whole and overshadowing good progress in schools like Thomas Deacon Academy and Jack Hunt. Just 19% of pupils getting A*-C including maths and English against a national average of 55% is simply unacceptable, especially as the inspectors have been into the school 5 times in barely 2 years and the endemic problems of poor teaching, discipline and behaviour as well as inadequate child safety and welfare remain. Because Voyager is the least popular choice for parents in the city, it is a matter of time before the school’s falling roll means it becomes financially and educationally non-viable.

I don’t blame the teachers. The ones left are doing the very best they can in the main but it’s a hell of a tough job. Let’s face it – Voyager has been allowed to became a sink school, for low achieving White British kids and (often) itinerant Eastern European pupils, many of whom come from Roma communities. Large numbers of non-English speaking pupils is of course a massive problem. Yet another by product of Labour’s open door immigration policy.

Parents, governors and pupils all have a vital role to play – especially parents.

I believe we need the very best people in the UK in secondary education to turn Voyager around – with a zero tolerance policy on attendance, violence, ill-discipline, punctuality and a huge focus on education standards and attainment.

Three principals have failed. The time for excuses is long gone. Comberton aren’t up to the job.

It’s not impossible to deliver high quality education in a challenging local neighbourhood. It’s happened at the City of Peterborough Academy, which goes from strength to strength.

We can’t let Voyager sink into failure and drift for another academic year. It’s time for action. Local children have been let down too often since 2007 and we surely have a duty to them to turn things around?