Whilst much of life at Westminster is currently dominated by discussion on the proposal for our exit from the European Union, other matters key to our everyday lives are also being debated. One such matter recently was improving education standards. The Government is determined to drive up standards by ensuring that every local school is a good school.
Faith communities have traditionally placed great store by education and rightly so. In most instances, our education determines our path and successes in life. Employers consistently comment on how important education standards are for future employees.
We are fortunate that in Barnet the attainment and progress of children in our schools is within the top 10% nationally and the progress of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils is accelerated in order to close the gap between them and their peers.
But there are many factors which can have an effect on education standards. Along with the need to focus on the attainment and progress of all pupils, there has to be sufficient provision for all children and young people. Fundamentally, we need teachers to undertake the teaching and we need places and spaces in which to teach. Recruitment and retention of good teachers is a major challenge locally due to high housing and living costs and this must be addressed if our local schools are to continue Barnet’s high standards.
The national funding formula introduced by the Government will abolish the former unfair system perpetuated by previous Labour Governments and this is to be welcomed. It will ensure that all pupils receive the same amount wherever they go to school. Additional funding will then be determined by the needs of the pupil, whether these relate to income deprivation, free school meals, low prior attainment, or a child who has English as an additional language.
But Barnet faces another issue. This is the formula that allows additional resources for so-called inner London boroughs. This results in inner London schools being able to offer higher salaries. Consequently, schools in Barnet are in direct competition with schools in neighbouring boroughs such as Camden. The Government must grasp the nettle and abolish this anachronism if outer London schools are to meet the educational needs of all their pupils.
In my maiden speech, I spoke about aspiration and that if aspirations were not raised, we would be on a downward trajectory. We must ensure the best possible school provision in places such as Barnet if we are to achieve the social mobility and successful participation in a global economy that will be essential as we go forward post-Brexit. The Government has made good progress, having raised the figure nationally from 66% to 84% of children attending schools judged good or outstanding, but we need to ensure that work continues and that no child is left behind.
Education standards are - and must remain - a priority.