Lib Dems 5 point plan for Education

The Liberal Democrats have announced a ‘Five Point Plan’ for teachers and parents

The front page of the Lib Dem manifesto states our commitment on education, to protect education funding from nursery to 19.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party to guarantee the protection of per pupil funding in real terms over the next five years.

The Liberal Democrat five point commitment for teachers and parents will:

– Provide an additional £2.5bn of funding for 2-19yr-olds by 2020; protecting per pupil education spending in real terms over the next parliament and increasing the education budget as a whole.

– Guarantee all teachers in state-funded schools will be fully qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by September 2016.

– Establish the Royal College of Teachers to oversee QTS and professional development. And support the Teach First programme to attract high calibre graduates into teaching, in particular in STEM subjects.

– Establish a new National Leadership Institute to promote high-quality leadership targeting the most challenging schools in the UK.

– Get politics out of the classroom. We will give teachers more freedom over what they can teach by introducing a minimum curriculum entitlement – a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. As well as establish an Independent Educational Standards Authority (ESA) to remove ministerial interference in curriculum content and exam standards.

In Coalition the Liberal Democrats stopped the Conservatives cutting the schools budget. The scale of Conservative cuts in their plans is equivalent to axing four starter salary teachers in every school in England.

Find out more here.

Liberal Democrat achievements in Government

The British economy is improving and it’s also worth remembering all the achievements the Lib Dems have succeeded in making, in spite of being in coalition with the Tories. Click here for a full list but here are a few highlights:

  • Raising the tax threshold means that 25.4 million people will receive a tax cut of £800
  • 1.5m apprenticeships have been created since 2010 – that’s 78% more than in the same period under Labour
  • The pupil premium is giving an extra £1300 a year for each eligible primary school pupil and £935 for each eligible secondary school pupil
  • The state pension has once again been linked to earnings. Pensioners will receive on average £15,000 more over the course of their retirement
  • Richest pay a fairer share – someone earning £1m a year will pay £381,000 more during the 5 years of this Parliament than during the last 5 years of the Labour government.

Suffolk education’s long hard road to recovery

At last Suffolk is beginning to claw its way back up the education league tables according to an article in today’s East Anglian Daily Times. Well it had to, as the only way was up from a woeful 142nd place out of 151. GCSE results in the County have now climbed 5 places – not much, but movement in the right direction. For years we warned the Tories that the massive schools reorganisation programme would destabilise education in Suffolk. We also advised against the huge cuts which they made in the budget for school improvement.

When the Lib Dems jointly ran the council from 1993 to 2005, Suffolk was widely admired and our results placed the County near the top of the English league table. For twelve years we prioritised support to schools, in the face of national Government cuts to local authority budgets (plus ca change!). When the Tories took control they were hell bent on abolishing Middle Schools, whatever the cost. They must judge in hindsight how much that decision has damaged a generation of pupils in Suffolk. Ironically the County Upper school in Bury St. Edmunds (the only remaining three tier area in Suffolk) is in the top three best performing state secondary schools in the County.

Let’s hope the Tories have now realised the error of their ways and that they will at last give schools the support they deserve.

Good luck to my Lib Dem colleagues

As I draw to the end of my 20 year term of office on Suffolk County Council I thank all those who have voted for, and supported me, over that time. I have enjoyed working with my parish councils in Belstead Brook. They have been a great bunch of people. I have also enjoyed working with campaign groups, including “Bury not Blight”, who want to stop new electricity pylons, and recently “SIT”, who are campaigning against two giant 430 foot wind turbines on land between Belstead, Wherstead and Pinewood. Both groups are trying to stop further unsightly clutter in our beautiful Suffolk countryside.We have been quite clear from the start that we don’t want any more pylons or giant wind turbines. Other parties have been rather shy about making their views known – apart from the Greens, who are backing the wind turbines.

In 1993 we ended 104 years of Conservative rule in Suffolk. For 12 years we prioritised education and social care, and made our streets safer with 30mph village speed limits – the initiative of my Lib Dem colleague, Peter Monk. Education in Suffolk was widely admired. We were in the top 30 councils in England – unlike now, after eight years of Conservative rule, when we are close to the bottom of the league table.

It is with great sadness that I’ve watched the decline and closure of services under the Conservatives. Household waste sites have closed, as have youth clubs. Bus services have been cut, with no services on Sundays and Bank Holidays and very few evening services. Conservative Guy McGregor closed the Bury Road Park and Ride service two years ago and passenger numbers on the two remaining Park and Ride services have plummeted from just over one million to half that. The introduction of a charge for over 60s and disabled pass holders and the increased fares for families has clearly discouraged many people from using the service – coupled with the Countywide ban on using bus passes before 9.30am – even for hospital appointments. So much for the Greenest County!

Although we still have all our libraries, they are no longer run by the County Council. Suffolk Libraries have been outsourced and their future funding is uncertain. They’ve been told that they must raise £100,000 from local communities this year. So, whilst council tax is frozen, the public will still have to stump up if we want to retain our much cherished library service.

I attach a copy of the Conservatives’ end of term report (School Report web) which gives a much fuller picture of their record in office. I and my Lib Dem colleagues have worked extremely hard over the last eight years to hold them to account. We joined the public in the campaign to keep all our libraries open, fought against the closure of Middle Schools, household waste sites, youth clubs, the Bury Road Park and Ride service and the eXplore student discount card (which we introduced in 2005 and they axed in the middle of the 2011 academic year). They have failed to keep contract costs under control, having abolished the committee where councillors monitored such contracts.

We have exposed some of the excesses of their spending – £500,000 in one year alone on gagging orders for departing staff; £20m – a £6m overspend – on new offices at Landmark House next to the A14 in the North West of Ipswich. On the other side of the road lies the derelict Bury Road Park and Ride terminus. Ironically the spend on Landmark House would have kept that Park and Ride service running for nearly 40 years! Heaven only knows that Ipswich Town centre needs all the support it can get right now. The continuing road works are a further discouragement to shoppers.

We also exposed a rise of £10m in salaries paid to top earners at Suffolk County Council in just 5 years – including the £218,000 a year paid to the former Chief Executive, Andrea Hill. The list goes on. And whilst they have been cutting services, they have amassed reserves of £152m. Whose money is this? Shouldn’t it be spent on services?

It is easy when in power to forget that the principle role of councillors  is to provide the best possible services within the resources available. There is no room for arrogance and egotism, which can easily blind those in power to the needs of the people they are there to serve. I won’t miss the Conservative front bench, who regularly treat opposition councillors – and the public – with contempt. “How do you put up with that behaviour?” people ask. Well there’s only so long that you can tolerate being treated in that way. In my case my health – and my family – have dictated that I stand down.

The public will decide tomorrow who runs Suffolk County Council for the next four years. The last eight years of Conservative rule in the County have been disastrous. Democracy is officially dead. Eight Conservative councillors make all the decisions and the backbenchers are just voting fodder.

Suffolk deserves better.

For a list of Lib Dem candidates go to our website

Published and promoted by D. Busby, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, all at 16 Two Acres, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2XP

 

Suffolk’s Education Results – a question of political priorities?

When Conservatives at Suffolk County Council started on the process of abolishing Middle Schools 7 years ago, we warned that there would be major problems ahead. We knew that at some point the then Labour government would run out of money for new school buildings and that the council would be left to foot the bill.

We were also extremely suspicious that the figures they produced, comparing results from 3 tier with 2 tier schooling, did not take deprivation into account. We were concerned that the focus on re-organisation would take resources away from 2 tier areas. The position of Suffolk in the national GCSE league table tells its own story:

Primary school SATS show a similar picture. When we jointly ran the council the education of our children and young people was our top priority. We always made sure that any shortfall in government funding for education was made up from local resources. The Conservatives clearly did not feel the need to prioritise education in the same way. The budget for school improvement has almost halved. Our amendment to the Conservative budget this year and last included additional resources for school improvement. The amendment was rejected.

The latest phase of reorganisation will result in more split site schools. More than 1500 pupils are now being taught in temporary classrooms. The Conservatives have let down children and young people in Suffolk in a major way. It will damage both their future employment and health prospects. I wonder how they sleep at night?

February Report to parishes in Belstead Brook

Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Strategy

This strategy is a ten-year plan to improve the well being and lifestyle of everyone in the county. There are four central priorities for Suffolk:

Priority one: Every child in Suffolk has the best start in life

Priority two: Suffolk residents have access to a healthy environment and take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing

Priority three: Older people in Suffolk have a good quality of life

Priority four: People in Suffolk have the opportunity to improve their mental health and wellbeing

  • >65’s will increase by 56% in next 20 years
  • Up to 12 years’ difference in life expectancy between some areas (worst: Kirkley in Lowestoft and best: Rougham near Bury St Eds)
  • 1 in 6 children living in poverty
  • General affluence masks pockets of deprivation
  • Only 52% of children start school ready to learn
  • Improvement in rates of early death from cancer of 34% despite growth in incidence/diagnosis
  • 66,109 “family carers” – 3,414 are aged between five and 24 – their health and wellbeing is essential.
  • Overall educational attainment is below national average – but with huge variations in achievement

 “Prevention” is seen as key to success – so the plan is to:

  • take action in early years
  • improve access to suitable housing
  • address fuel poverty
  • lessen problems of older age with lifestyle changes and home adaptations

 Sizewell C

The County Council Cabinet has confirmed its response to the Sizewell C proposed Nuclear Power Station.  Whilst this is only stage one, the Cabinet indicated that they supported the nuclear power plant, but made a significant number of comments about the proposals.  This included the lack of information provided by EDF, the locations for workers campuses, and the need for the four village by-pass on the A12.

 For more information and a copy of the reports that are set to be discussed, pleased head to –

http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/meeting.aspx?d=29/Jan/2013&c=The%20Cabinet

 

Highways Procurement          

 You will recall that in previous Parish Reports I stated that the County Council had agreed a contract with Balfour Beatty to provide the highways services across Suffolk.  However they have had to go back to the drawing board on this, as the agreement appears to have fallen through. They are re-entering negotiations with all the original bidders – including Balfour Beatty.

They state that their key objective is to achieve a saving of £2m per year on the highways service. These savings are now in doubt and we are unclear about what will happen when the current contracts expire on the 31st of March.  The Lib Dem group have asked a number of questions on this subject and we are still waiting to hear what exactly the consequences of this will be.

 

Wind turbines exhibition

 I attended the exhibition organised by Partnership for Renewables at the end of January, which showed their proposals for the two wind turbines. One is on land owned by Ipswich Borough council and one is on private land owned by the Aldous family. They will be 130m high – which is 3 times as high as the Orwell bridge.

National planning guidance has not kept up with current developments or wind turbine sizes. I have previously written about the proposals on my blog. 

Suffolk drops down national GCSE rankings table

 After the release of the GCSE grades across the Country, Suffolk has now dropped to 141 out of 152 authorities for GCSE results.  The County’s primary school test results have  already placed it 3rd from the bottom of English authorities. However I am very pleased to see that the three primary schools in my own Division are amongst the best performing in the County and can be very proud of their achievements.

 We have warned for some years that the school re-organisation in Suffolk would be a major distraction. This has involved the closure of middle schools and has resulted in a number of schools working on split sites, with many temporary classrooms. The budget which supports school improvement has been greatly reduced over the last few years. Prior to 2005 ie before the Conservatives took over the running of the council, the County was highly regarded in the academic world and was in the top 3rd of all English authorities.

Snow clearing on roads and pavements and info on school closures

Spare a thought for the gritter crews who are out in all conditions and times of the day, making sure we can get to our destination. Information about road conditions can be found on local radio sites like Radio Suffolk. The County Council also has information about snow clearance and road gritting. Use this link

The national site DirectGov also explodes the myth that you will be sued if you clear the snow outside your property! It also gives practical advice on snow clearance here

School closures

For reliable information about school closures use the County Council’s website. Link here

Replacement of the Education Maintenance Allowance

I have shamelessly cribbed the following from my colleague, Caroline Page, as her briefing is very comprehensive and informative:

Remember – although EMA has been abolished, this doesn’t mean that post-16 students will  be left high and dry (although some people want you to believe this, for purely political reasons). Instead the coalition  are proposing a new allowance that will be targeted at those who need it most.

This is very good news for those who are worried that loss of EMA will prevent them attending school or college

The government’s intentions about EMA are therefore very different  to Suffolk County Council’s disgraceful and undemocratic decision to scrap Suffolk’s Explore card tomorrow – right in the middle of the academic yearThere was not even a figleaf of a consultation or ‘conversation.’  So please don’t stop signing the Save the Explore Card petition and pressing for this decision to be reversed. We are now only 1000 signatures short!

The government’s proposals are that:

  • Everybody who started their course this academic year and is on the £30 per week rate will continue at the current rate to the end of the academic year  and will receive payments of £20 per week in their second year.
  • All students on EMA who started their course in the 2009/10 academic year will continue to receive the full rate.
  • An additional £15 million will be set aside to provide bursaries of £1,200 for the most vulnerable students, for example those in care, with severe disabilities or single parents living on their own. This is more than the maximum available to students currently on EMA.
  • Finally, schools, colleges and training providers will have £165 million put into a discretionary learner support fund each year which will be available for them to distribute to students facing financial need.
    This is the equivalent of just over £800 for every young person who received free school meals at the age of 15.

Across the country students face very different costs and barriers to attending school or college. In some places – such as huge swathes of rural Suffolk –  students have to travel a long distance to attend, or may find it hard to get transport. On the other hand, some courses involve prohibitively costly equipment.  Under the new plans schools and colleges can decide individually exactly how to distribute the money available to support their students in need.

The government wants to have a short consultation on its plans. You have till the 20 May to respond to this consultation – which you can do online.

So, if you get or got EMA, if you are a parent, grandparent or friend of someone who had it, has it, or will need support in the future  – or if you are just interested in social justice, please  add your two pennorth. We can ensure properly targeted support for the workers of the future if we all contribute to the decision-making!

Pinewood parking restrictions – Rights of Way committee decision

Suffolk County Council’s Rights of Way committee met today to discuss the proposed parking restrictions within Pinewood Parish – or at least those being dealt with by the County Council. They were very unhappy with the restrictions on residential streets and suggested their deferral until Suffolk One has been up and running for some months. They did, however, suggest approval for the twenty four hour restrictions on Scrivener and Shepherd Drives, the A1071, Poplar Lane, Ward Road and Laburnum Close. They also approved the 8am to 6pm restriction on Cottingham Road.

These recommendations will now go to the Cabinet meeting on July 20th. Caroline Page, the Lib Dem councillor for Woodbridge and a member of the committee, pointed out that there was too little parking on site – this is what I and the parish council, and the vast majority of residents have been saying from the start. As an enthusiastic cyclist Caroline recognises that, although the aspiration may be that everyone comes by bus, bike or on foot, the reality will be far different.

There will be more than 2200 students and 350 staff when the college is fully operational. Yet there are only 155 car parking spaces for staff. 25% of staff are expected to arrive by means other than the car and the rest are to car share. There will be no car parking spaces for students, but there will be spaces for bikes and mopeds, as well as a drop off area for parents.

Ipswich residents are equally exercised about the parking restrictions on their streets. The consultation for that finishes tomorrow, but neither I nor the parish council have been consulted about the area they cover within Pinewood parish, which includes half of Sprites Lane and roads off Hawthorn Drive. As we are statutory consultees this surely makes their consultation invalid?

Whilst I am sure that Suffolk One will be an excellent educational facility, residents in the area are getting a very raw deal and the process of consultation on the parking restrictions has left a lot to be desired. We must now wait to see what happens at the Cabinet meeting in July.

Parking restrictions at the new Suffolk One college

Currently analysing the responses to the survey I carried out with my colleague Nigel Bennett in Pinewood this week. We asked residents in the streets closest to the new college for their views on the restrictions proposed in their streets. We will then be feeding back the results to them and submitting the findings to the County Council before the deadline of the 27th April.

The demonstration outside the college went well last Sunday and was covered in the Evening Star.