Saturday, 26 May 2012

Cllr Graham Walker and education in Cornwall

Prominent Cornwall Councillor Graham Walker (St Austell) has resigned from the Liberal Democrats. He told reporters that he could no longer stomach Lib Dem MPs supporting Conservative policies in areas such as health and the economy.

I have a great deal of respect for Graham. We have both been members of the scrutiny committee at County Hall which deals with issues relevant to children, families and education.

I know he is a strong advocate for local schools, and a supporter of measures to improve the standard of education for one and all in our local communities.

I was therefore not surprised to see him slam the Coalition’s approach to education, which he rightly stated has severely harmed “the life opportunities of Cornish youngsters” because of a “whole raft of flawed legislation driven more by ideology, than good sense or any financial imperative.”

I commend him for his courage in making this public stand and I have to say that I fully agree with his comments.

He was right to criticize the Government for scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme in July 2010, when Cornish schools lost over £70 million in promised funding.

He was right to condemn both the end of the Educational Maintenance Allowance for teenagers and the trebling of tuition fees for university students, which have seen a drop in young people staying in further education and / or applying to university.

And he was right to blast the Government for its cynical and ideological determination to cajole existing schools to break away from local authority control, with promises of funding direct from central government and suggestions, however illusory, of greater levels of investment.

This fragmentation and break-up of the education system will lead to further inequalities and it will disadvantage thousands of ordinary families, creating a “two tier” education system.

Central government has also slashed its mainstream funding for improvements / new buildings in local authority maintained schools, even though there is a significant and growing pressure on schools throughout Cornwall.

The Education Secretary Michael Gove did however set up a Priority School Building Programme. And last week, the Government announced the names of the 261 schools which will benefit from this fund. Sadly, not one of these schools was located in Cornwall.

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