For todays post, I am pleased to share an article by Tom King, an activist and organiser from Wyre Forest CLP, and part of their ‘Young Labour’ group.
Tom is passionate about investment in education and schools, and I hope you’ll agree that this comes across. Tom also shows, as always, why we cant trust the Tories.
Throughout the election campaign the Tory candidate, Mark Garnier, insisted that his number one priority was rebuilding Wyre Forest’s schools and dismissed other candidates who alleged a Tory Government would the cut of Labour’s school rebuilding programme.
As our MP, Garnier watched on as Michael Gove announced that over 700 schools would lose their BSF rebuild, five in his own constituency. He didn’t even ask a question to the Secretary of State for Education on the numerous occasions Gove was called to clarify and apologise for his gaffe-filled statements. Garnier seemed distinctly inactive on the issue that was his number one priority.
When Gove made his ‘efficiency saving’ and took the axe to Building Schools for the Future, he had no comprehension of what it would mean for communities up and down the country. Communities like Wyre Forest. The reorganisation of schools in the area had left many, with hundreds more students than they were built for. At Stourport High, our 1950s building, built for just 900 students, must now accommodate over 1,300. As a result, the school has spent £1 million on nine portable classrooms and a further four portable classrooms are rented at the cost of £50,000, the equivalent of two teachers. This is not only a drain on the school’s resources but also provides an impractical and inconvenient learning environment. The fact that these temporary solutions must now become permanent arrangements shows the arbitrary way in which this cut was made. No consideration was taken of the unique demands placed on Wyre Forest schools. Furthermore, Wyre Forest schools have been twice hit. During the reorganisation, funding for building improvements was put on hold whilst decisions on the future of our schools were made. Meanwhile, money was poured into improving Haybridge, in the already affluent Hagley, creating a modern, high-tech school environment to be envied. The canceling of BSF leaves some children to be educated in the same run-down buildings, whilst others have had millions invested in fantastic new buildings. It creates a two-tier education system.
Gove condemned the BSF programme for not producing results quickly enough, however, he seems completely ignorant to the process and significance of BSF. The ambition of BSF was bolder than anything seen since the Victorian school building programme; the rebuild of every secondary school in the country. It was recognised that such a major investment could not be wasted on schools for today, with no thought for tomorrow. The programme involved not just bureaucrats but teachers, students and the whole local community. They took on the challenge of designing a school not just fit for current needs but one that would last for generations to come. This was not a project to be undertaken in a few months but one that took dedicated, hard-working teams, several years to complete. The process was far from inefficient; it was effective in delivering the schools for our future, however, time-consuming that process maybe.
Callous cuts have defined this coalition government so far. Politicians, detached from reality, make decisions they cannot imagine the consequences of. They don’t consider the dashed hopes of students excited about the prospects of an investment in their future. They don’t have to walk through rain to get from building to building for lessons. They aren’t part of the generations condemned to an education sat in cold portable classrooms. Scrapping Building Schools for the Future is not cutting waste, its wasting young people’s lives.
If rebuilding Wyre Forest’s schools was Mark Garnier’s number one priority, he has a funny way of showing it.
Links: Wyre Forest Labour