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The Tories’ ideological blindness is letting down thousands of school children

trinity_photo.jpgLucy's article for the Daily Mirror, first published here on 2nd November 2015.

Saying one thing and doing another is David Cameron’s golden rule of politics.

Before the election, he promised not to cut child tax credits. Yet a few weeks later he announced he would take away on average £1,300 a year from over 3 million working families. The rest of his government follow this rule too.

George Osborne pledged to parents he’d give them more help with childcare in autumn 2015. He’s now delayed plans for tax-free childcare until 2017.

The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is just as guilty. She promised parents that she would tackle every failing school yet her Education Bill going through Parliament focuses on just local authority schools when over half of secondary schools are now academies.

There are lots of excellent schools making a real difference for children across the country. There are brilliant academies, and fantastic maintained schools too; the important thing is that we celebrate and learn from all excellent schools so we can spread this success across the system.

However, there are some inadequate schools too. The Conservative answer to failure in our education system is to turn every local authority school into an academy. They view our schools system in black and white: academies are good, other schools are bad.

But this ideological view risks leaving thousands of pupils in inadequate academy schools because we know they can fail too.

The Tories seem unwilling to acknowledge that this type of school can fail and hesitant to take any robust action over underperformance in academies. They continue to push a make-believe agenda for our education system, hoping that if they turn every school in the country into an academy that standards will magically improve. This doesn’t follow the evidence and this fairy tale politics is failing our children.

The reality is that there are over 100,000 children currently attending academies that have been judged inadequate – the lowest possible inspection outcome – and one in five academies has failed their Ofsted inspection.

In fact, there are 17,000 more children in inadequate academies and Free Schools than in other schools with the same judgement. We must take action to improve all failing schools yet the Tories’ ideological blindness is letting down thousands of children because they have no system-wide plan to improve schools.

And while the Government continues to obsess over whether a school is an academy or not, they are failing to deal with the very real and very serious challenges facing our schools, such as the chronic shortage of teachers up and down the country.

Nothing is more important to raising standards than having excellent teachers in our schools. Yet the Government is set to miss its teacher recruitment targets for the fourth year in a row, applications to teach are plummeting and the constant doing down of the profession over the past five years has meant that schools are now struggling against the highest number of teachers quitting the profession since records began.

At the same time the pressures on school places continue to mount and the gap in attainment between poorer children and their wealthier peers is now widening.

The narrow academise-at-all-costs view that the Tories have of our education system will not deliver the changes we need to ensure every child is taught by an excellent teacher in a great school. That is Labour’s ambition for our education system.

First published in the Daily Mirror on 2nd November 2015

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