Along with a loving family, a good education is an important building block for our children’s futures. While learning starts as soon as we are born and it is important to nurture all aspects of development, time in school can shape much of our future chances in life.
Given the importance of education not only to each person but to the whole of our society, it is not surprising that it is a policy area that I spend considerable time on. Time listening to local teachers, academics, leaders of schools and colleges, parents, carers and young people. I also listen to local and national employers about future opportunities for our young people. This enables me to represent the views of my constituents with Ministers as they undertake their role of shaping government policy.
Over the past six years we have made great strides forward, with more than 1.4 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools than in 2010. The academies programme has helped unlock the potential of many schools. This Government is committed to helping all schools enjoy academy status freedoms and school-led system improvement through multi-academy trusts.
Conversion to academies in Cornwall has improved educational outcomes for children and young people. The majority of young people are in schools that are academies and Cornwall now has an above average proportion of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools, and a proven track record of securing improvement. In 2009, 62% of our schools were judged to be ‘good’ or better, and this has risen to over 90% in March 2016. It is well reported that throughout this period school inspections have become tougher. As two members of my family are recently retired teachers, I have seen first-hand how dedicated teachers are to providing a great education.
We are fortunate to have highly effective leadership of our two local secondary schools, which have both enabled local young people to achieve excellent results in recent GCSE exams. These results are significantly above the national average and amongst the best results of any school in Cornwall.
During a recent conversation with Brett Miners of Falmouth School, I asked him about the success of the school. I thought you would be interested in his response. He summarised the journey over the past three years as being built on a belief that tolerance and respect coupled with high aspirations, standards and expectations underpin much of what the school does. Aiming each day to give students the highest possible quality of support and in return expect excellent standards of behaviour in and out of the classroom ensures all students have every opportunity to succeed. “This way we can make a real difference.”
He went onto say, “We are also determined to make the school a community school. We have increased the use of the building in the evenings and at weekends and we now work with an increasing number of groups who regularly hire the school facilities.”
I very much support the new Sports Development Project at Falmouth School, the construction of which is imminent, as it will enable many more local people of all ages to participate in a range of sport.
The commitment to ensuring that every child in this country receives a high-quality education and that we narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor is the driving mission of the Government’s education reforms.
This Government is putting the interests of ordinary working-class people first. We want this country to be a truly meritocratic country, where what matters most is a person’s individual talent and their capacity for hard work, so we need to build a schools system that works for everyone, not just for the privileged few.
The Government wants to build on the progress made over the past six years and make the schools system truly fit for purpose in the 21st century. The current “Schools that work for everyone” consultation is about engaging with as many views as possible so that we can design policies that make the most of the expertise that we already have, and widen access to good and outstanding school places for all. There is so much potential in our country, and that talent base needs us to ask the big questions, leaving no stone unturned so that we can build a schools system that truly works for everyone.