Shadow Portfolio for Education and Skills

I am the shadow portfolio for Education and Skills and so I monitor what goes on with the county’s 326 schools, and hold the administration to account.  Education in the county has been very fragmented with many schools now controlled by Academy groups of variable reliability and quality. We also have two University Technical Colleges for 14- 19 year olds and we have proposals in for two free schools. Much more of the schools budget is now directly paid to schools, which has meant that central services have been cut. NCC no longer provides services to school like the Behaviour Management team. This is resulting in a huge spike in permanent exclusions.
There are concerns about the Academies because they are not accountable to the electors and the tax payers. There are also concerns about some Academy chains in terms of financial regulation and misuse of funds. OFSTED inspections show that Academies and Free schools do not outperform maintained schools

Academies are answerable to the government and do not have to report to NCC. However, NCC remains responsible for ensuring schools are properly run and produce good results. NCC has negotiated with the academies that they will apply the NCC admissions policy and report on achievement and exclusions.

Achievement in the county is below national averages and below statistical neighbours. The gap is highest in Corby. The gap is getting smaller. Exclusions have gone up rather dramatically. NCC pays for complementary education through an Academy chain but also pays private providers to take our children.

Some children with SEND are placed in private schools. Our specials schools are mostly outstanding. There is an inclusion policy so many SEND children are also in the mainstream.

Rates of home educated children are going up. There are over 400 children currently educated at home. There is an issue with children missing from education.

The Connexions Service has provided a really good service to schools over many years but schools are now responsible for their own IAG provision and can choose not to buy in from Connexions. Young People report that school IAG points them to Academic options and not the full range available to them. The work is going out to tender. Effectively privatised.

Issues. School places. We needed 10,000 more Primary over the last three years. Pressure is now on secondary places. 2 Free schools are being developed- Barrack road and Wootton Hall. Underachievement in the county persists. Race to the Top is an American programme taken up by NCC but it is under-funded. White working class boys are being prioritised. This has caused a bit of a storm because it is class that is the issue, not colour. It is working class boys of all ethnicities who need to be targeted. We have issues about the lack of take up for 2 year old places and three year old places. There is not enough provision in the right places.

Other Issues
Childrens Centres under threat – see my blog

NCC has to save 66 million pound next year and £146m over the next 5 years.
This is going to lead to a slimmer LA with most services outsourced.

We have 925 children and young people in care, an increase of 25% in the last 18 months.

Centres of Excellence for the Early Years

Early Years Funding

This is a longer version of the statement I made to the Schools Forum on Tuesday 2nd December. Also presenting were the Leader and deputy leader of the County Council Labour Group and representatives from Pen Green and Camrose.

“I am the shadow portfolio holder for Education and Skills, a County Councillor and a Borough Councillor for central areas in Northampton. I have worked in education all my life as a teacher and as an education officer. I want to talk about my experience of living in Northampton, and as a Councillor going on the doorstep talking to people, holding surgeries and representing the people of this area. I am concerned about the direction of travel the Childrens Centres are taking.

And I want to make three main points.
One is that it takes a village to grow a child. We are all responsible for creating the right conditions for children to flourish. Children, and their parents, like all of us, need to be integrated into society, they need engagement with their communities and they need inclusion- not isolation. Buildings do matter. Centres do matter. They are social centres where social networks are developed.

The second is that we cannot improve outcomes for children and achievement in schools if they have a rocky start to life. Educationalists need solid foundations on which to build, and pre- school experiences and social education is of paramount importance.

The third point I want to make is this.
Families in Northamptonshire are under more pressure than I can ever remember.
This is because for many working conditions have nosed dived and many working people are under employed, working part time or on zero hours contracts for the minimum wage.
Wages have been frozen but prices have risen. The bedroom tax is a tax on people who are already poor.

Housing is another huge area of stress in urban areas with an acute housing shortage leading to overcrowding, so for example in the privately rented sector there are cases of one, two and even three families sharing a modest terrace house. In the social housing sector there is a lot of social overcrowding where the living room is deemed a bedroom and children living in flats have no play space, no-where to do homework and where the adults have no privacy. The stress that puts families under is unbearable. I am on a scrutiny group for the borough looking at interpersonal violence and the evidence is that it is an under reported but growing area of crime. Interpersonal violence, domestic abuse badly affects children as we know.

Poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor has grown considerably in the last few years and Health Watch tell us that there are 20,000 children living in poverty in this
county, 9000 in Northampton. Managing poverty burns time and energy and of necessity leaves little left over for anything else.
This is a serious issue.

Austerity measures have also affected middle income families as well with head teachers reporting that there is a growing incidence of emotional neglect in families. The long hours both parents work to pay for the house, the car, the social standing and the accoutrements of the good life leave little time for parenting.

To sum up.
It takes a village to grow a child and we are that village.
Good outcomes and high achievement are built on secure foundations.
Families of every stripe are under unprecedented pressure.
It is my fervent wish that the Schools Forum consider these three things when making decisions today about early years funding. Social and economic  problems faced by families isolate them. We must not isolate them further by taking away opportunities for community engagement.

We need to protect and encourage centres of excellence like Pen Green and Camrose who achieve the outcomes we want for all our families. We should not be thinking about diluting their offer in any way. This is not about a lack of equity. This is about cutting edge practice leading the way for the rest of the county. Equality is not about a race to the bottom- it is a journey to the top.
We need more Camroses, more Pen Greens. We need to talk to them and learn from them about how to build social capital, how to develop our community assets and how to produce good foundations for the schools to build on”.

The School Forum agreed to continue the funding for the two centres for another year. A victory for commonsense!

Harriet Harman Hits Northampton

The Bondfield Lecture and Gala Dinner

somali women's group
The Somali Women’s Group at the Bondfield Lecture

It was a privilege recently to welcome Harriet Harman, QC, MP and deputy leader of the Labour Party to Northampton. Harriet was in town to support Sally Keeble’s campaign to get back into Parliament. Harriet gave the annual Bondfield lecture staged by Northampton Labour to honour a remarkable woman who came up through the ranks to become the first woman Cabinet member.
Harriet is well known for her life- long commitment to equality and the rights of women. Much progress made on these issues by the last Labour government was a result of Harriet’s campaigning.

The Bondfield lecture                                                                                                          Harriet talked about the damage inflicted on families and communities by the Tories and their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats. She described the unfairness of the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich in the taxation system and how hard working families and young people had paid for austerity measures that hadn’t worked. Very few people see any improvement in their own living standards. Economic recovery was not knocking on many doors
She also warned about the populist nature of UKIP and their appeal to fear and panic.

On immigration                                                                                                                 Harriet acknowledged the huge contribution incoming communities have made to Britain, bringing with them entrepreneurial energy and skills that benefit our economy. She talked about how we will continue to need people coming in willing to contribute their expertise where it is needed. (An example-Northamptonshire has a shortage of experienced social workers and has started recruiting from India).
Harriet was very critical of the present coalition government taking resources away from the UK Border Agency leaving our borders vulnerable, causing huge log jams of visa applications and becoming ever more inefficient while staff are increasingly overworked.

Building Trust in Politics                                                                                                      Harriet acknowledged that politics in Britain is a real turn off for lots of people. Her answer to that is that Labour party people need to be out on the doorstep talking to people. We need to make politics personal and re4levant and engage with people on their areas of concern. She welcomed the candidates that will be standing in the next borough election and called on them to maintain the high contact rate we have in the borough.

Winning for Labour                                                                                                               Harriet talked about the hard work and commitment shown by Sally to the people of Northampton. What she said was, “If you need something doing, if you need something to change, call Sally. She will work tirelessly until it is done”. She went on to say that nationally party is watching the progress made in the key seat of Northampton North because it is an indicator of how we are doing nationally. To win the election and to get a Labour government we need to win Northampton North.
Harriet left us with the message- , “We are not the predictors of the future we are the makers of the future!”

Is Northampton Borough a Good Employer?

Northampton Borough Council has agreed a worsening of staff terms and conditions.        As the amount being saved in year one is almost the same as the cost of free parking in the town it could be said that borough staff are paying for the free parking in the town.
In my view this is a short sighted policy.
We are a major employer in the town with around 600 workers.                                         We want to be able to provide jobs and apprenticeships to our citizens.                             We want to be known as a good employer so we can attract the best staff.
Staff have already suffered wage freezes and lower than inflation pay rises
We need workers in the town with money in their pockets to spend in the town as part of our regeneration plan.
We know that half of all benefit claimants are the working poor.                                             We don’t want to make that worse.                                                                                       We also know that the huge increase in the use of food banks and pay day loans comes from the working poor.
We don’t want to add to that.
The changes include:-
• Increasing the normal full working week to 40 hours with a related reduction in hourly rates of pay from 2015/16. Staff will be forced to choose between maintaining salary by proportionally increasing hours or maintaining current hours and taking a reduction in salary.
• There is a vague pledge to introduce ‘a new performance rating mechanism and pay progression scheme that will reward high performance’ but so far there has been no detail of how this would work in practice.
• No payment for the first three normal working days of any period of sickness absence taken.
• Remove Northampton Borough Council from national local government pay bargaining and terms and conditions in order to set up local pay bargaining and conditions.
It’s wrong that current terms and conditions of borough council staff are going to be torn up in order to pay for profligate Tory spending. Most borough council staff are poorly paid, work long hours just as the private sector does, and help deliver vital public services.
The only people that are well paid are the senior management and of course the Cabinet get a ‘Special Responsibility Allowance’. At the last budget meeting in February the Labour Group suggested the Cabinet reduce their special responsibility allowance to show solidarity with the staff but they declined to do so. The Labour Group has long supported introducing a living wage at the Borough Council but the Conservative Administration has ruled this out. The Trade Unions are opposed to this measure and rightly so.
We should be more creative and look for alternatives to this cost saving measure:              There is a conversation to be had about increasing the council tax. We are suffering from an accumulated deficit on this income caused by years of freeze, estimated to be to date in the region of £4million pounds.
We could stop using expensive agency staff and consultants
We could save money on allowances, the Councillor Empowerment fund, and vanity projects like the digging up of Abington Street. Abington Street, because the money to do the work is borrowed money, will cost the revenue budget around £300,000 a year.

Mental Health and Youth Provision

At the County Council meeting on 25th September we had a presentation from the County Young Leaders on mental health issues as they affect young people.

The Young Leaders shared with us the impressive amount of research they had conducted and presented a motion asking the County to sign up to a mental health charter.
The motion was passed unanimously.

The Labour group further presented a motion on mental health asking for this area of health to be integrated into physical health and accorded the same priority.
This motion was also passed.

The labour group then presented a motion calling on the County to lobby government for more resources to be made available for youth services.
This motion was lost!

This is the argument put forward in favour of lobbying government for resources for young people.

“This motion is calling on us to lobby government for a better deal for youth.
I am hoping it is not controversial and something we can all get behind.

Why is it important? Our young people need to be resourced so that they can participate in social, sporting, leisure, creative, citizenship activities. They need safe spaces where they can congregate, plan and execute activities, take responsibility, learn how to be self-motivating, how to be a member of a team, to take risks, decide rules, set boundaries.

They need resources so they can learn outside of the strictures of school how to be safe and healthy, to enjoy and achieve around their own interests, to make a contribution and achieve economic success.

International research tells us that our young people are among the most stressed and unhappy in the world. We know that mental illness is accelerating in the young.

I have in front of me a list of 24 issues that our young people are facing that negatively impact them. It’s too long to read out but it includes abuse, anger management, bullying, cyber bullying, depression, eating disorders, family problems, sexual exploitation, suicidal feelings- a whole host of issues. We have in this county a focus on support for some of those issues. Service 6 has been awarded a contract that highlights 3 of them- Domestic Abuse, Parenting and challenging youth behaviour. Lowdown offers counselling and other support around all 24 issues. These interventions are to be welcomed.

But they are not sufficient. We should not be having a focus on young people purely around these issues. Some of these issues are caused by or made worse by the fact that young people in this county do not have enough support for their social, leisure and creative energies.

As well as support for when things go wrong we need to be developing services that support young people as they grow into adulthood in terms of leadership, citizenship, self-determination etc.

Conservative MP, Tim Loughton, an ex- minister for children, has recently said that young people have been disproportionately affected by austerity measures and he has criticised the move of youth services out of Education to the Cabinet office as a retrograde step.

Fiona Black, CEO of the National Youth Agency said recently
We‘re going to see more young people in the criminal justice system, more young people who are not engaging in education. The cost to the taxpayers is enormous compared to the very small investment required for youth services.

Local Authorities at present face stark choices and rapidly rising demand for expenditure on Child Protection Services. We all understand the imperative of that.
It is because of that we need to lobby government to put Youth Services back into LAs.
To properly resource youth services. To make the element that has become non- statutory, vulnerable to cuts, a lower priority back where it belongs- a high priority, so that we can work with our young people on a sense of place, a sense of worth and a sense of entitlement”.

All the proceedings of the County are webcast and available on the County website.


Jarrow – London = 300 miles!

The 300 milers arrive in Market Harborough

The 300 milers arrive in Market Harborough

I joined the Darlo mums on their journey from Jarrow to London, the people’s march to save the NHS,  on the 18 mile  leg from Market Harborough to Northampton.
I expected it to be easy walking along the Brampton Way.
After 4 miles on stony ground, even with my best walking boots on, I found it hard going.

The commitment, the humour and the stories of the other marchers is what kept me going.

And the slogans.
Whose NHS? Your NHS
Whose NHS? My NHS
Whose NHS? Our NHS.

That and the fact that many of them had already walked 200 miles! Amazing!
How are they doing it? Sheer determination; blisters and leg cramps not withstanding.

Along the way the the unions, individuals and progressive parties have been turning out to cheer them on.

On our leg someone arrived with chocolates and flowers! Someone else arrived with hot coffee! The Northamptonshire Labour Party and the CWU put on a fantastic lunch time spread at Brampton Halt, and we were cheered by lots of drivers honking their horns as we walked into Northampton. All very encouraging.

But will it work,  was the question I was asked by radio Northampton?

I think it already has. Ed Milliband has promised to make the NHS a key issue for the general election. And the next Labour Government has committed to repealing the 2102 Health and Social Care Act which forces GPs and commissioning bodies to put services out to tender in a competitive market.

I have taken the following from Andy Burnham’s blog. Andy is the shadow minister for health and passionate defender of the NHS.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Labour to bring forward Bill to repeal David Cameron’s market framework in the NHS
This week, Labour will back a Private Member’s Bill from Clive Efford MP to repeal the damaging competition rules that the Tory-led Government inflicted on the NHS in its Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The Bill will focus on two main areas:

1. Section 75 rules

These are the rules that many doctors say are forcing them to put services out to the market, even if they do not want to, for fear of legal challenge.

Labour oppose these regulations because they risk fragmenting care and are seeing large amounts of money spent on tendering exercises rather than patient care.

• In a recent survey by Health Service Journal, two thirds of commissioners said they had experienced increased commissioning costs as a result of the new regulations (Health Service Journal, 4 April 2014)

• Last year, the Chief Executive of the NHS said “You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty…We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing . . . significant cost in the system” (Sir David Nicholson, Financial Times, 5 November 2013).

(Locally this has cost Nene CGC £331,356.00
Source: Labour Party Freedom of Information request to all NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in England. Wednesday, 30 April 2014)

Labour will scrap these rules and return to a system based on collaboration and integration.

2. Competition framework

The Health & Social Care Act exposed the NHS to the full force of EU competition law. It also established Monitor as an economic regulator to enforce competition in the NHS, along with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Labour opposes this framework because it is hindering important service improvements, and is seeing further large amounts of money wasted on competition administration and competition lawyers.

The Efford Bill would scrap the competition framework, remove the role of Monitor as an economic regulator enforcing competition in the NHS, and remove the Competition and Markets Authority from any role in the NHS.
Sharp Decline in standards in England’s hospitals
Reports disclosed to me by the official care standards regulator in England suggests a sharp decline in standards in England’s hospitals over the last 12 months.

In the last year, inspectors observed examples of unacceptably poor care at one in five hospitals. By March this year, the care regulator listed 45 hospitals not providing safe care following 215 inspections – close to three times the 16 hospitals failing on this measure in the same month in 2013.

In the same period, Care Quality Commission inspectors found 32 hospitals without adequate numbers of staff – more than one in six – after inspecting 175, up from 14 only a year earlier.

The inspectors’ official reports catalogue the failings witnessed, including:

• a trebling of bed sores put down to under-staffing;
• patients on the wrong wards not visited by doctors over the weekend;
• patients transferred from other hospitals without any medical notes;
• diabetic patient left without insulin;
• unstaffed ambulance triage area, leaving patients and paramedics waiting;
• unanswered call-bells;
• patient needing fall assessment every 48 hours not seen for 3 weeks;
• inexperienced A&E receptionist told patients with chest pains to take a seat, against hospital policy on suspected heart attacks;
• patients at risk of malnutrition or dehydration not given assistance to eat and drink;
• backlog of X-rays and CT scans reports caused by lack of staff;
• an over reliance on locum and agency staff.

This provides indisputable proof that the NHS is heading seriously downhill on this Government’s watch. Hospitals across England are operating way beyond safe bed occupancy levels and without enough staff.

It is simply not good enough for the Government to blame the NHS, as they always trying to do. Hospitals are having to pick up the pieces from their botched policies. Severe strains on general practice, mental health and social care are piling pressure on hospitals. There is a limit to what hospitals can safely do and these reports show that many have now reached and even gone beyond it.

We need to campaign to win for Labour at the next election. We deserve the best health care we can get. It is our NHS. Labour will do what it has always done and work with the health professionals to ensure we have once again a world class service free at the point of need.

Sex Entertainment Venues in Our Community.

The License for the Sex Entertainment Venue Urban Tiger came up for renewal this week.

I was asked by local women who object to the license to represent them at the hearing.
I was happy to do so as I feel offended by the4 venue on a daily basis as I have to pass it on the way to town. I was pleased that there was another woman present also objecting to the license.

I represented the voice and the views of organisations and women in my borough ward, where the venue is located and in my County division, and of course my own views.

I questioned the location of this club. In spite of having formerly and repeatedly asked why this location was ever allowed I have had no answer to that.

In my view the venue is inappropriate because it is in a residential area; it is on a major thoroughfare, on view to passing traffic.

It is a main route into town; children, women and families pass by all the time.

Worst of all, the borough council, in granting a license, normalises a culture which degrades women. It normalises the commodification of women whereby they are seen as the sum of their parts not as a person with dignity worthy of respect.

This is taking place in a context of rising crime against women. We know that generally crime and serious crime is falling but domestic violence and sex crimes are increasing.

In January this year the police reported that Northamptonshire has the highest rate of recorded rape in England and Wales. We know that rape is an under reported crime with as few as 5% reported.

Statistics show that Castle and parts of Abington are the wards with the highest incidence of reported sexual crimes. Peak times for sexual offenses are from midnight to 4am at weekends. This coincides with the hours the club is busy.

I worry about the safety of women, who for example, have to pass the club on their way home from a night shift from the hospital. Or go to work cleaning offices early in the morning.

The borough council has a duty to promote gender equality.
Supporting the commodification of women runs counter to this.

The borough council has a duty to promote well- being and safety. Allowing a sex entertainment venue in a residential area where men are discharged on to the streets and go home in an aroused state is a recipe for disaster.

I was not asking for Northampton to take a radical step. I am asking for Northampton to follow the lead set by other authorities. Protecting its communities from normalising a culture that uses women as sex objects and adds to the fear of and the fact of sexualised violence.

I was able to ask the license applicants questions and this is what I found out.

The club allows 29 women from age 18 -39 to dance in the club.
The manager calls the women ‘girls’ –itself misogynist and demeaning.
Each woman pays the club 25% commission from their takings.

In the club there is a large dance area and 8 booths. 4 of the booths are VIP areas. I asked what constitutes a VIP. I was told it was £200 an hour.

I then asked what is it a VIP pays for?
I was told the VIP can invite a ‘girl’ to the booth and invite her to drink champagne with him, to undress for him, to do a strip tease for him, to lap dance for him.
No touching or sex is formally allowed though an ex-employee has given a statement to the contrary.
Some ‘girls’ earn as much as £700 a night.

I wonder whose husbands these men are? Whose sons, fathers, brothers?

In summary I argued-
This venue is inappropriate because of its residential and retail location.
It contributes to the commodification of women and a culture that degrades and makes sexual violence more likely.
The Borough has a duty of care and must not normalise a culture that has a detrimental effect on women.

The wholly male panel did grant the license.
Sadly I see this as the exercise of male power.
An exercise in maintaining the status quo.
A decision that operates against the wider cultural interests of women

One disaster with 3 Names

Bus station, Interchange, Northgate – What do you call it?

The issues around the new bus station are not going to go away.                                  Why? Because it was ill conceived. How many planning authorities does it take to come up with a bad design? In this case it is TWO.                                                                    And we are paying for it in more ways than one.

So now we are into the amelioration of the effects of this bad design and the 13th hour decision making that relocated long distance buses to Victoria Street and indeed made Victoria Street a coach terminus. Coaches providing services to London Victoria, to Luton, Heathrow and Gatwick are required to lay over for minimum of 45 minutes to meet driver regulations.

We need therefore to make the area hospitable to passengers both on arrival and departure but also hospitable to drivers.

What do passengers need? Have they been asked? I have actually asked some of them and what they told me was simple. They need somewhere to wait, out of the weather. They need access to timetable and travel plans so they can plan their journeys. They need real time information to tell them what is happening. What bus is late, early, cancelled? They need help with their onward journeys so – access to local buses, taxis etc. They need facilities to help make their departures and arrivals pleasanter, toilets, drinks machines. The drivers, in addition need a coach park where they can lay up.

I went to catch a bus from the Drapery the other day. It was raining and there were already 5 people in the shelter so I got wet and cold. Leopold’s is opening a second cafe at
48 The Drapery. Having a commercial café on the right hand side opposite Debenhams will meet some of the needs of some of the South bound passengers.
But not the needs of all of the passengers all of the time.
I am sure the café will not welcome people sheltering from the weather.
They will want paying customers.
And will it be open 7 days a week?
All day and most of the night?
And will non -paying customers be able to use their toilets?

What is going to be provided for west-bound passengers on the opposite side?
We need to think again.
What is really needed is a passenger’s transit area where passengers can sit and wait in comfort. Where information about the town including the buses is available and where real time information is displayed.

Labour took a motion to the last full council asking for all these issues to be addressed before Winter sets in. It was great to have contribution from the Bus Users Group.

The motion was passed. Now lets see what is going to happen.

Free School ? Who Pays?

Plans for the Royal Mail site, Barrack Road

I want to make some general observations about Academies and then some observations about this particular plan.

The general observation would be that too many free schools and academies are now subject to poor OFSTED judgements. With academy and free schools this authority has responsibility for ensuring good results but none of the powers to make sure that happens.

A growing number of Free schools and Academy trusts have been found guilty of poor financial management with an imbalance of funding going to the sponsors and not to the children. There are at least 10 schools in this county where this is true.

On the government web sites Academy and Free schools are trumpeted as being cheaper that new build schools. This is particularly worrying when we look at why this is so- conversion of industrial buildings, and a policy of packing them in, the reduction of square footage per pupil and an acceptance that in urban areas children will be deprived of play space.

The government is driving the agenda and have decided to pay for one very large school on one site rather than build 3 new schools.

Gove’s education practice took choice away from families and created a very instrumental form of education. This is putting schools and children under increasing pressure and we are witnessing a horrifying rise in mental health problems in even young children and stress related illnesses. Thank God Gove has Gone.

There are major issues connected with the Barrack Road development.

the design of the building.
the numbers of places being planned for.
the impact of the development on the area.
health and safety

This is a huge building and from the plans it looks as if a lot of internal space will have natural lighting coming through the Atrium. This must mean that some internal areas will have no natural light. e.g. Hall 2 in the Primary school.
In a new design for so many pupils it is surprising to find halls being designed for curriculum and lunches. This type of multi- use should be a thing of the past.
There are issues to do with access to the school. Not all staff will be able to bring a car onto the site. It is going to be nightmare with parents delivering and collecting their children.
Having 10 drop off places for parents seems hardly credible when we are talking about in excess of 2000 pupils.

The children attending the school will be drawn from a very wide area and so that will bring challenges to do with transport, traffic congestion, parking, road crossings, speed of traffic, parents dropping off, young people traveling in on their own.

The nature of Barrack Road will need to completely change. This will be problematic in advance of a planned ring road development to take traffic off this road. We should be looking at making this section of Barrack road a dual use pedestrian friendly road that brings the Lorne Road area in to a closer relationship with Semilong.

There is concern about the school being a 10 Form entry as all the research shows that 8 form entry is about the maximum for an effective secondary school. Any bigger than that leads to underachievement and behavioural problems.
There will not be enough outside space to meet all play and sport needs.
The school will have to use public parks and that will bring its own challenges re health, safety and security.

Castle Primary will share their outside space in return for access to science labs and other specialist teaching areas. This will need to be very carefully planned for in terms of time allocation and movement of younger pupils through the secondary school.

Castle school will be affected by the proposed development and see their well- being tied up with EMLC. EMLC sponsor Castle already and would continue at secondary phase the philosophy developed at Castle. The through school for 4- 19 year olds will have one leadership team.

In terms of philosophy EMLC would like the secondary school to be an International Academy and offer the International Baccalaureate. They are happy to work with parents and teachers to develop a curriculum that offers a mixed economy of arts, sport, academic, vocational responding to the needs of the learners. They are strong on autonomous, student led learning.

We only have two bidders and I regret Cooperative schools have not been invited to bid.

Having listened to both current bidders, David Ross Foundation and EMLC view, I would say EMLC offers the broadest and most exciting vision for education.

We need to be vigilant at all stages of development of this school.
Vigilant in demanding excellent facilities for indoor and outdoor education.
Vigilant in terms of health and safety.
Vigilant in terms of the curriculum offer.
Our children are not battery hens to be packed in and turned out the other end as drones ready for jobs in warehousing or other low paid jobs.
They are our future and we should demand the best for them.

I have lots of questions about this development.                                                                   These are the questions I have asked the portfolio holder for schools.

Questions to the Portfolio Holder for Education

Given the outcome of the last round of commissioning for Children’s Centres, should members declare a faith interest in faith based provision of new schools and facilities?

Are there any educational or recreational areas in the planned new school that are without natural light?

New regulations have reduced the amount of space per child by 15%.
Does the new school adopt this new regulation in order to pack the children in?

Are the proposed businesses to be run by the school or private sponsors?
If private sponsors how will the school make money from them?

The proposed businesses will negatively impact existing businesses in the area. Have talks been held with these businesses to ensure that the rise of one lot of businesses does not mean the demise of existing businesses?

Will the school day include breaks and lunch time and will all the pupils be able to access outdoor space at these times?

The Primary school is on 3 levels. Will the school have lifts? Will it be wheelchair  accessible?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Bidders have been sought for the site. Why have Cooperative schools not been invited to bid?

Hard Hearted Tories

An Anti- Poverty Strategy for Northamptonshire

At the last full council meeting the Labour group put a motion to the council asking for the county to facilitate the development of an anti -poverty strategy. This follows good practice in many other authorities. It recognises that we are witnessing in the country and in this county internal levels of poverty at the same level found in developing countries. 1 : 7 of the county’s children live in poverty, (Total number of under 17 years, 157,826,  i.e. 11, 147 children in poverty).

It recognises that in order to tackle poverty we need to understand the deep and structural causes and the structural partnership solutions.

We know for example that 75% of poor households are the working poor. We are seeing an increase in minimum wage jobs, jobs paid at not even minimum wage levels, (Witness the two Northants firms that have recently been fined for this), an increase in zero hours contracts, in underemployment and the rest.

In this county we have talked a lot recently about the need to grow the well- being of our citizens. We know that as politicians we need to lead by example in our personal lives. We need to also acknowledge our political responsibility and provide leadership for the process.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that poverty is a condition that any of us can fall into. Poverty is caused by lots of life changing events, natural disaster, loss of employment, bereavement , illness, divorce, mental or physical disability and so on.

It is no-ones interest to live in a county of huge inequalities. We need to move away from the stigmatising of people and children in poverty to a realisation that it is in our gift as a society to act locally.  We can affect positive changes that reduces the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Poverty is not just an issue about income. It is also about access to resources, to opportunities, to well- being, to hope for the future.

There are two really serious consequences of being trapped in poverty it seems to me.     One is that managing poverty takes up the most enormous amount of time and energy. Poor households spend the most enormous amount of time finding the cheapest food, the cheapest goods, negotiating with debtors, seeking support, visiting the doctor, trying to keep warm. The second one is the terrible social exclusion that is a consequence of poverty. If you are poor it is next to impossible to have friends round, for the children to have friends round. It is next to impossible to attend the social gatherings, the weddings, the birthday parties, the friends get togethers.

Both the time and energy spent on being poor and the social exclusion is what leads to despair and loss of well- being. There is a consequence here for the rest of us. Who wants to live in a society full of alienated dispossessed people? Not me. And I am sure not any of us.                                                                                                                                 The recent Milburn report states:-                                                                                    ·         3.5 million Children are expected to be in absolute poverty in Britain in 2020                                                                                                                                     ·         The Department for Work and Pensions has committed to ending child poverty by 2020 with plans to tackle the root causes of poverty, including worklessness, low earnings and educational failure                                                                                                          ·         We are not on course to meet that target – so there is a need to act locally

The Effects of Poverty include:-                               Malnutrition                                                                                                                                         Hunger                                                                                                                                   Cold                                                                                    Debt                                                                                                                                           Illness                                                                                                                                       Loss of well being                                                                                                                      Mental and physical deterioration                                                                                   Homelessness                                                                                                               Family Breakdown                                                                                                                            Exclusion                                                                                                      Underachievement at school                                                                                        Alienation and lack of hope

We need the world as we make it to be a hospitable place for all our children and the yet to be born. And to all our old.   We can make a difference.

How did The Tories and UKIP vote?                                                                                        Against .  The motion was lost.