IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Lessons of education cuts should be focus in election

14 November, 2019

Former education secretary Michael Gove

HOW can it be that a primary school, encircled by some of the most densely populated housing estates in Camden, is facing closure?

The “falling birthrate” argument is an accurate but far too passive explanation. It implies some fault lies with would-be parents, who have simply chosen not to start a family in Camden.

But the admissions surplus­es affecting several Camden schools should be seen as a direct consequence of a decade of austerity, and a market-driven funding system that sets flagging schools up to fail by pitching them against each other.

Since the Conservatives’ former education secretary Michael Gove ordered the scrapping of New Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, there has been a wholesale failure to modernise existing school buildings.

A mismanaged housing policy on a local level, coupled with an out-of-control private property market, has for several years forced couples to move out to the fringes of London, and beyond, to start families.

Few have returned.

Welfare reforms, notably the “bedroom tax”, have no doubt played their part in the crisis.

It is no coincidence that schools with the biggest surpluses – Argyle, Rhyl, Brecknock and St Dominic’s – are among the most deprived areas and with higher levels of black minority ethnic pupils.

Why can’t there be schools with smaller class sizes?

For years, that was what teachers and parents were calling for. Why should only private schools enjoy this?

There is an unequal development of pupils.

The cuts to the education system over the past 10 years is nothing short of a national scandal. It should be taking centre stage in the run-up to this general election.

Honourable Frank Dobson

FRANK Dobson (above), who died this week, came from a long line of left-of-centre Labour MPs representing St Pancras. Essen­tial­ly they represented its working-class character. He learned his trade as council leader and will be remembered for his masterful campaign over the British Library.

But best of all, today, residents of all political persuasions, are grateful that without any hesitation he saw through the shallow planning of the HS2 project – and the vanity that lay behind it – and opposed it.

The fact it put him at odds with trade union friends made no difference. It wasn’t simply a matter of principle but of common sense that both he – and Jock Stallard, the St Pancras MP he succeeded after Holborn and St Pancras became one – would often rely on.

The present incumbent of the seat, Sir Keir Starmer, shows signs of a collaborative team effort and steady thinking but in the coming climate crisis will he set down a rigorous challenge?

Frank Dobson braved the course and died an honourable and courageous man. The real testing time for today’s legislators and politicians is yet to come.

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