We asked candidates standing in North West Cambridgeshire at the General Election: The performance of some Peterborough schools and the city’s performance in national league tables has been a long-running concern... what do you think is needed to remedy this and how would you support it?
Shailesh Vara (Conservative)
There are wonderful schools in Peterborough, dedicated teachers and many students eager to learn, but we cannot ignore the fact that the city continues to sit near the bottom of the national league tables.
A Conservative Government will intervene in schools where there is entrenched underperformance and support local schools to provide the very best for their students.
With £14 billion of school funding announced in Boris Johnson’s first few months in office, including at least £5,000 per secondary school pupil and £4,000 per primary school child by 2021/22, educators, governors and local leaders must now work together to seize this opportunity and facilitate real improvement in local outcomes.
Over the past nine years we have seen real improvement in the standard of education across the country, the percentage of children passing their primary reading check increasing from 58 per cent to 82 per cent is just one example.
A Conservative Government will continue to build on these improvements to provide our children with the very best education. We will raise teachers starting salaries to £30,000, build on our record of raising standards and improving behaviour, deliver more places for children with complex Special Educational Needs and invest in arts, music and sport providing a well rounded curriculum for all.
Cathy Cordiner-Achenbach (Labour)
As an experienced teacher, parent and school governor I recognise the challenges faced by schools due to systematic and ongoing failure to invest properly in education by the current Conservative Government.
I have fought against the closure of Sure Start centres and am proud that a Labour Government will reform Early Years Education, including opening more Sure Start centres to provide vital early education which supports all children’s development and provides earlier identification of, and therefore support for, children with additional needs.
We need to ensure we are meeting children’s needs in order that they can learn. By providing support staff, teaching assistants and mental health workers for children, free school meals and access to affordable uniforms, children will have a stronger more resilient foundation from which to learn.
Our children deserve a broad curriculum which prepares them for the world of today and tomorrow. They have a right to expect qualified teachers, well-resourced classrooms and appropriate class sizes, all of which they would receive under a Labour Government.
Bridget Smith (Liberal Democrat)
I am well aware of the concerns of teachers, children and parents about the huge and increasing challenges facing Peterborough’s schools. The sad fact is that funding has actually decreased by 10 per cent in recent years whilst numbers of pupil have increased and recruiting and retaining skilled teachers has become ever more difficult.
Something major needs to happen to make Peterborough a really attractive place for teachers to work, a place that cares about their health and wellbeing and values their professionalism and most importantly rewards them for doing a really good job.
One way of doing this would be the provision of ‘landing strip housing’ for teachers which would allow them to move to the area, into a good quality home at a rent that is affordable.
As an ex teacher I know that we have to invest up front, in our primary schools and pre schools, and the more we do in the early years the better the outcomes we will see.
The loss of universal family support delivered through children’s centres means that children are arriving at school very ill equipped to cope.
My priority will be to ensure that all children have equal opportunities regardless of their needs or the schools they attend and this can only be achieved by giving schools the high quality teachers they deserve and by giving the teachers the tools and support they need to give the calibre of education that I know they want to give.
Nicola Day (Green Party)
Education should unlock creativity and enable self-expression. As a GCSE-level English teacher I’m aware our school system can feel like a production line, manufacturing children rather than nurturing them. The freedom to let children play, flourish and grow is stifled by endless testing and measuring by exhausted, demoralised teachers.
A £5.4bn cut from school budgets since 2015, affecting 91 per cent of schools in England, has had a devastating impact on teachers’ ability to get the best from our students. Add to this a £1.2bn shortfall in special educational needs and disability (SEND) funding. These cuts have put intense pressure on headteachers.
The Green Party will relieve the financial pressure on schools by increasing funding by at least £4 billion per year. We will reduce class sizes to help teachers focus on individual pupils and end academisation. We will end centrally-imposed testing regimes, Ofsted inspections, the rigid national curriculum and league tables. We will introduce an English Climate Emergency Act to support schools to teach children about the climate emergency, and introduce a nature GCSE, with more outdoor lessons where children will learn about nature, animals and the environment.
As your MP, I will campaign for our schools to receive the funding they urgently need and lobby for a return to teaching that puts the child at the heart of the school experience.