EDUCATION MATTERS, NOW MORE THAN EVER
- We will campaign for national government to respond to the concerns expressed in the July 2019 OfStEd report into Multi Academy Trusts that MATs lack proper accountability to the local community or to OfStEd. MATs should be accountable to their communities for the education they provide.
- We will seek to establish high speed broadband throughout north Wiltshire. Poor internet access has severely damaged children’s access to remote learning in our constituency. In the light of Covid 19 high speed broadband should be an educational right.
- We will seek to ensure that all children have access to appropriate ICT. The Covid crisis has exposed how many of our most disadvantaged children are unable to access remote learning. These children are entitled to the same education as their peers.
- We will seek to ensure that Wilshire Council follows the lead shown by Somerset and supports post 16 students with their travel 16-18 year old students are entitled to a free education, and in a rural are this is not free unless it includes free transport.
- We will campaign to ensure that SEND funding cuts are reversed, and we will oppose the closure of Larkhill and St Nicholas Special Education Schools – SEND provision cannot be one size fits all.
- We will seek to ensure that early years’ provision and wrap around care are available to all. Wiltshire has lost a quarter of its childminders in under 5 years.
- We will lobby national government to work towards parity of funding between post 16 colleges and schools by abolishing VAT charges for higher education colleges.
- We will put pressure on central government to increase school funding, investing in our children’s future should not be done on the cheap.
Multi Academy Trusts now control the majority of our schools, and these organisations that control the education of our children have been exposed by OfStEd as lacking accountability and even internal self-evaluation structures. Many of the governing bodies do not even understand their responsibilities. We must pressurise government to put this right and ensure our schools are run efficiently by locally accountable organisations. The Covid 19 pandemic has not created the problems of educational disadvantage, it has exposed and exacerbated them. Far too many children had to struggle with inadequate ICT and broadband, and were unable to access their remote learning as a result. Government pledges to support these families came to very little and the resulting attainment gap for disadvantaged children has grown. Wiltshire Council needs to ensure that children have the ICT resources necessary to learn, and can access high speed broadband to be able to have parity between all our children. In addition to this the rising numbers of SEND children without an appropriate school setting is alarming, and we would campaign to keep a range of settings available. Furthermore, in a rural are like this there is no point in saying our young people have a free education if they have to pay the costs of their travel. Travel to school or college is a right in a civilised society and North Wiltshire should follow the example of Somerset and support 16-19 year old children with their educational travel costs. At the other end of the age spectrum, it’s a scandal that as a result of funding cuts Wiltshire has lost 25% of it childcare support. The lack of this further disadvantages the children who need pre-school care the most, and makes working with children very challenging, particularly in a rural area. To allow families financial security and avoid entrenching disadvantage – all children should have access to pre-school and wrap around child care. Finally, post 16 education has long been under funded compared to school, that have themselves faced appalling cuts over the last decade. As a starting point we will be campaigning to ask government to start moving towards parity of finding for higher education by abolishing the VAT charges for them, charges that schools do not face.