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Opinion:  James Windsor-Clive asks “Can Labour be trusted with our schools?”

In an op-ed, Conservative and Unionist Party parliamentary candidate for Ealing Central and Acton in the 4 July 2024 General Election,  James Windsor-Clive writes: “Can Labour be trusted with our schools?”

“It is nearly 30 years ago that Tony Blair gave his famous speech to the Labour Party Conference where he outlined his three main priorities as ‘education, education, education’. While his intentions were good, the Labour Party’s results were not.

“In 2009, when Gordon Brown boasted about students receiving more As and Bs in their GCSEs and A-Levels than ever before it was true. However, this grade inflation masked the reality. When objectively compared to peer nations we were falling down the international league tables.

“Between 2000 and 2009, the UK’s global rankings plummeted— from 7th to 25th in reading, from 8th to 28th in maths, and from 6th to 16th in science. These drops highlighted what was actually going on under a Labour government – falling educational standards.

“Since 2010, the Conservatives have prioritised education and made real progress. School funding is now at over £60bn – the highest ever level in real terms – and 27,000 extra teachers have been recruited in the last 14 years.

“It has not just been about throwing money at the problem. We have overseen a comprehensive reform agenda. We introduced free schools, an extension of academies, a more rigorous curriculum, stronger Ofsted inspections, an end to coursework, improved teacher training, and many other initiatives.

“The results have been staggering. Primary-aged children in England are now the ‘best in the West’ for reading, after we promoted greater use of phonics. We have climbed from 27th place in mathematics to 11th.

“The benefits of these educational improvements extend far beyond the classroom. It is the main driver of social justice. Higher educational attainment leads to better job prospects and higher earning potential – the engine of social mobility.

“I am worried that this progress will be undone by Labour and they will take us back to square one.

“Their headline education policy is to impose a parent tax, of 20% VAT, on independent school fees. In fact, it is one of the only policies that they have not flip flopped on in the last couple of years! I find it remarkable that they are so focused on the 7% of pupils attending independent schools, rather than improving the educational standards of the 93% of pupils in the state sector.

“The impact of this policy is disputed. Labour claims it will raise money to pay for more teachers. Independent think tanks, including the Adam Smith Institute, estimate that it could cost the taxpayer £1.6 billion. The tax take dwarfed by the cost of additional pupils in the state sector. Emily Thornberry, a Labour spokesperson, even admitted we might have to deal with larger classes as a result.

“It will certainly have an outsized impact on the school ecosystem in Ealing Central and Acton, with a high proportion of pupils attending independent schools. It will put immense pressure on our fantastic independent schools like St. Augustine’s Priory, St. Benedict’s, Notting Hill & Ealing, and Durston House. Parents often work incredibly hard and make big sacrifices to send their children to independent schools. Labour wants to take away that choice.

“Children displaced by the policy will have to find places in the state sector. Many of the excellent state schools in the area like Ada Lovelace and Twyford Academy, are already heavily oversubscribed. The increased competition for places will certainly cause anguish for parents.

“Labour’s policy is not driven by educational needs and outcomes; instead by its traditional ideology. Sadly, many parents will get caught in the crossfire. I hope it is not a portent for things to come.”

Click here for all Ealing Central and Acton candidates standing.

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