Thursday, 6 October 2011

The importance of education

On Monday during our conference in Manchester, I took part in an event which discussed, among other things, education policy. I have always believed that one of the lasting legacies of the current government could be a transformation in our schools and I am a strong advocate of the policies being put forward by Michael Gove.

This part of Cornwall has had its share of hard knocks in recent decades and as a result there are thousands of local people who are trapped in welfare dependency and have lost the confidence to get a job. In some cases the culture of dependency and low aspiration spans generations with children leaving school when neither their father nor grandfather worked. Turning this culture around will take time but we have to start now and good schooling is the central ingredient to raising aspiration for the next generation.

Many schools in Cornwall have now become academies, becoming independent schools within the state sector. They have all the benefits of private schools but they are free to all. Last Friday I visited Bodriggy Academy in Hayle. This is a school that has come a long way in the last ten years and is now rated as outstanding by the schools regulator. One of the governors told me that at every meeting they ask themselves the question, “how can we make it even better next year?” So far they have used their new freedoms to create a new reception area and to employ a full time speech therapist to give intense support to children starting at school but who have difficulties with communication. I think that is absolutely crucial because unless children can communicate and use language, they will never learn other skills, will slip further and further behind the rest of their class and become resentful and disruptive by the time they are teenagers. Bodriggy had also bought new uniforms for all the children and it was touching to see the pride that they took in their newly formed Academy.

Many of our other schools are getting better and better each year. There is really healthy competition between the schools in Camborne, Pool and Redruth. Both Pool Academy and Redruth School have launched a new uniform this term following Camborne’s successful change a couple of years ago. The motto of Redruth, “Expect the best” sums up what we need our schools to do. They should all unashamedly champion excellence and achievement.

It is funny how things go full circle. During the 60’s and 70’s, the teaching profession went through a phase of thinking it was trendy and progressive to throw out old fashioned values and standards but the tide has turned and standards are on the way back.

George Eustice can be contacted on george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or at 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.