Thursday, 23 June 2011

Education

New figures released last week concluded that Pengegon is the most deprived neighbourhood in Cornwall. I think that politicians and officials need to be careful when they talk in broad terms about "deprived communities". It is very easy to sound patronising when the truth is that people who live at Pengegon know things about life that the officials who compile data and write these reports will never understand.

There is also some very good work being done at Pengegon led by Claire Arymar, the neighbourhood manager. Whether setting up youth groups, taking children for a day out at the beach, organising community events such as the summer barbecue or helping protect families against loan sharks. It has all started to have an impact and there is pride.

Longer term, education is the key. It is the single most important thing that can help raise aspiration and get families off benefits and in to work. Last Friday, Michael Gove visited six schools in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle. He was very impressed by what he saw, whether the focus on languages and enterprise at Hayle, science and international exchanges at Camborne, the focus on reading and literacy at Pool and the new school uniform being introduced at Redruth.

We also visited Trevithick Primary school which educates most of the children who live at Pengegon. Michael Gove was impressed. This school had been failing eight years ago but, today, is rated as outstanding by Ofsted and has just become an academy. Much of the change is down to good leadership and the commitment of the teaching staff and the children were clearly enthusiastic about learning and were happy. The officials who compiled the data on deprived neighbourhoods in Cornwall ought to meet them.

There is a strong emphasis on reading and literacy at Trevithick with one to one tuition outside the classroom where teachers develop the reading skills of individual pupils. I think this is so important because, in the past, things have sometimes gone wrong in the early years. Unless children learn to read and write at primary school and develop basic numeracy skills, then they will struggle to keep up at secondary school and before you know it, their morale suffers and they start to conclude that school is not for them. That is an appalling waste of human potential and we need to do all we can to ensure that standards are high and that the system does not fail children in those crucial early years.

Parents have a responsibility too. There is very clear evidence that the first three years of a child’s life are crucial to their later life chances and good parenting, with plenty of love, lots of communication and opportunities to play and explore their surroundings can make a huge difference to a child’s development. We must ensure that parents really understand this.