I would like to begin this column by stating something that may seem like an anomaly. I am a Labour politician: I therefore believe in policies which support the many, not the few, writs cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour Party on Peterborough City Council.
The Conservatives have neglected our schools; they are rock-bottom in the league tables. I was therefore forced to make a difficult decision: I decided to send my children to a private school.
I wish that this was not necessary. I should not have to rely on the escape valve of money to ensure that my children get the life chances they deserve. I was fortunate to attend a state school whose headmaster was former councillor John Shearman. He and his team made certain that I received the education I needed; schools back then also had greater access to the means they required.
When I read stories such as the one in last week’s Peterborough Telegraph which said schools are using Lego pieces to patch broken laptop keyboards, I worry greatly about what is happening to the education system.
I have been able to protect my children; my burning desire is to ensure that all children in the city of Peterborough receive a top-class education like mine.
We need to begin by acknowledging a simple truth: sometimes saving money today means we cost ourselves tomorrow. For all the cuts and supposed efficiency savings that the council has undertaken, it didn’t escape my attention that there is a £5.4 million overspend on the current budget. Much of it is due to a failure of shared or outsourced services to save money. This is indicative that the council not only has been unable to save money, it doesn’t know how. That’s why it’s now paying Grant Thornton hundreds of thousands of pounds to find the savings they have been unable to discern.
The current administration also does not seem to be able to lobby Westminster effectively to protect the services we need, including education. A more poorly educated population is going to lead to a workforce that has less earning potential, and thus, will pay less in taxes. And then what?
This myopia on the part of the Conservative council is costing us dearly.
The Labour Group has the aspiration that every child in this city should be given the opportunity to carry themselves as far and as high as their talents and efforts take them. This means we will work with our hard-pressed schools to get the resources they need and be their staunchest advocates.
We believe that further academisation is of little value, so we will resist this as well.
We will support activities for young people such as after school clubs, delivered by third sector bodies, to enhance education.
It is simply unacceptable is to stick with the status quo. As I say, I am fortunate: I have extended that to my children. It should not be so restricted; the key to good education should not be made of gold.