Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Reading Labour will work with 'anyone' to get the best for our young people

At the moment it feels like the Conservatives in Reading are taking it in turns to say silly things: whether that it's a myth that doctors are against the NHS bill/act or that the Conservative councillors are 'a united team'.
Now the MP for Reading East has decided it's high time he had a chance.

The minority Labour administration in Reading has repeatedly called for the government to support the building of a new 11-19 comprehensive to be built in East Reading.  At present our secondary schools have spare places but we know that in a few years this will change and there will be 11 year olds looking for a place who on current projections couldn't get one.

We are taking a pragmatic approach to this- but what's clear to - almost - everyone is that a 14-19 'technical academy' with a catchment from High Wycome to Basingstoke is not the answer.

My collegue John Ennis in response to a petition said on Monday:

We will lobby the Department for Education and the Secretary of State for Education to reconsider the decision to only fund a new technology-based secondary school in East Reading and invite Mr Gove and the DFE to plan with us and our neighbouring authorities to support the provision of the best comprehensive education from the age of 11 that will ensure that Reading continues to develop young people with the necessary skills to power the vibrant economy of the town, region and country.”
We will work with anybody to ensure that each child gets a school place.
We will work with free schools, we will work with grammar schools, we will work with academies.”
It's remarkably silly for the Conservative MP 'representing' East Reading therefore to go on the attack about this issue claiming that we are following 'old Labour dogma'.

I make no apologies for believing that community schools - like the one I am a governor at - can deliver an outstanding education to our young people or for believing in local accountability but neither will I apologise that Labour in Reading is willing to work with any organisation or individual to serve the best interests of Reading's young people.

For East Reading we believe this includes a school that starts at the age of 11 as this is where the shortage of places are going to be in a few years.  In a town where there were unlimited sites, unlimited funding and projections of surplus places for year 7 a 14-19 technical academy might have a place.  In a town where we have none of these our priority must be to ensure that every 11 year old has a school place.

I know it's election time but young people and parents deserve better than the kind of knock about that we've seen in the last couple of days from the Conservatives: they deserve MPs who will put their constituents first.

Our council leader Jo Lovelock asked at the cabinet meeting on Monday that Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors use their influence with the Reading East MP to help him see the need for a school from 11 upwards but at the moment it sounds like he's more interested in point scoring than delivering.