My thoughts on education Part 1

GCSE results are out today and I’m sure these will be met with the usual many mixed emotions across the country.  The moment you open that envelope will stay with you for many years, in fact, I remember the day I received my results quite clearly.

When we look at the news surrounding ‘education’ there are a plethora of articles about our education system (the framework as opposed to actual learning).  What can be seen quite clearly is that our system is going through many changes at the present.  We have free schools, the uprising of academies, a new curriculum on the way, with all the arguments about whether our GCSEs and A-levels are too easy, the debate about how and whether phonics is taught, as well as how successful all the different teaching strategies are and which ones to use, a new Oftsed framework and now a new criteria from September.

The big questions are: What is it we want from our schools? What do we want our schools to achieve? Is it all about results?

Ultimately we want our schools to equip our youngsters with the skills and resilience to survive and prosper in a, lets be frank, turbulent and complex world.  We want what goes on in our schools to be instilling in young people a confidence to take risks, we want them to challenge and be challenged and so to thrive in life.   We then need to be thinking about what our children are going to need in order to achieve this and without doubt this conversation needs to involve teachers, parents, the community and not forgetting the pupils themselves.

I believe there needs to be much more independent learning happening our classes.  ‘Building Learning Powers’ in schools is becoming much more widely talked about and is concerned with helping young people to become better learners in school and, just as importantly, out of school. It is about preparing children for being lifelong learners – of course we are all learners! The ethos is: ‘It is about creating a culture in classrooms – and in the school more widely – that systematically cultivates habits and attitudes that enable young people to face difficulty and uncertainty calmly, confidently and creatively’.

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Train fare increases are never met with much gusto, as you would imagine.  The reports that fares will increase by an average 6.2% in January, though in some cases the rises could be as much as 11%, will further strengthen the UK’s reputation of having some of the most expensive train fares in Europe.

At a time when we are supposed to be encouraging people to use public transport, these rises really do send the wrong message. More importantly, at a time when the cost of living is already high, it is going to be yet another tough pill to swallow for hard pressed commuters (some of whom spend up to 15% of their salary getting to work in London). From a personal perspective, I know my husband never looks forward to renewing his season ticket.

The option to drive isn’t much better either with fuel prices at some of their highest for years. I drive to work and have seen consistently high fuel bills for the past few years with the average week costing me about £30.

In both these cases, it is the Government pushing up the cost of living via taxation. Of the inflation plus 3% rise due on train fares, at least 2% is going to the treasury. Even more scandalously, 60% of the pump price is a result of Government taxation. If the Government wants to promote economic growth, it needs to let more of us keep our hard earned wages. Instead of buying goods and services, we are spending a significant portion of our wages getting to work instead.

I will certainly be lobbying our MP, James Duddridge, to pressure George Osborne to abandon these fare increases as well as supporting the Taxpayer Alliance ‘Freeze Fuel Tax’ campaign.

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Neighbourhood Action Panel

An interesting meeting at the Kursaal Neighbourhood Action Panel (NAP) this evening.

For anyone that doesn’t know what NAP meetings are; they are a forum where residents of the ward in which they live, talk about any issues in their community to local police, Councillors and on occasion officers from the Council.

I firmly believe that such forums are a vital way for residents to connect with those who are charged with keeping their community secure. The meetings are chaired excellently. They give the police the opportunity to provide residents information on what is going on in their ward to counter the problems they are facing.  The police also find the meetings useful themselves, because they can often obtain information that is more widely known by residents, than themselves.

I think if more people knew of the benefits of attending they would feel more inclined to also take part.  Whenever I am about in the ward and speaking with residents I always encourage residents to take part in NAP meetings. Those that have attended often agree that the meetings provide a very important function.

The next NAP is Monday 29 October, 7pm at the Plaza Centre, Southchurch Road.

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Sport and Education

What a great few weeks it has been for sport in Britain.  I don’t know of many people who have not watched any of the Olympics or been impressed with how well our country has performed in the games.

We are third in the medal table which is fantastic news.  Naturally, the more success our Olympians have achieved, the more people have really caught the Olympic fever.  As many have said, it is now imperative that we capitalise on this interest in sports, particularly in our schools.

As a teacher, I would like to see schools spending more time thinking about Games and Physical Education.  I know that there are many pressures on schools to deliver results for our youngsters, but sport is key for so many reasons.  I would also like to see all schools spending the total amount of time on PE in their timetabling.

I have heard it said that we are doing well at the sports where ‘money is involved’; namely rowing and equestrianism.  A recent article in the ‘Times Education Supplement’ discussed this point further, pointing to the England Rugby team, the world’s best cricket side – England – and recent Olympic success in cycling, equestrianism, rowing and sailing largely having their roots in the Independent sector’.

Competitive sport is healthy (both physically and mentally) and should not be only experienced by only those who have money.  If Head teachers and governors want PE to be key in the curriculum, they will ensure that they have the resources, staff and time for this.

I believe sport plays a crucial role in life.  You do not win everything in this life, an important lesson that can be learned early on. In sports (whichever you choose to follow), it is the individual/team that works hardest that can achieve.  When you suffer disappointment on the football pitch, that can help you deal with disappointment in other areas of life.

When I was growing up, I didn’t have access to PS3s, Xboxes and the like. I had a park up the road and my friends and I played sports. In these times when we hear of the obesity problems our children are suffering, its great to see so many youngsters sit up and take notice of our athletes and the effort and sacrifice they have put in to be at the Olympics.


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Selective Licensing

What are the benefits of Selective Licensing?

There is a review taking place in parts of Southend on Sea , to see if Selective Licensing would be a good scheme to be introduced.  Parts of Kursaal, Milton and Chalkwell wards are being looked at to see if it would help the local communities, in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour, improve the quality of accommodation and help the general areas to improve.  Selective Licensing requires owners of privately rented dwellings to pay for a license.

Under the scheme, every residential premises which is privately let to one or more tenants – subject to certain exemptions – must be licensed,  if it is within the designated area.  The relevant fee must also be paid.

 With this in mind the council have put this scheme out for consultation.  Roads in the borough have been suggested, residents and landlords are being asked for their views on the scheme.

 What are the benefits?

  • Reduction in anti-social behaviour
  • Conditions on license relating to gas safety/smoke alarms
  • Anti-social behaviour clause to be signed at commencement of each new tenancy
  • Improved living conditions
  • Fewer complaints

 For Landlords:

  •  Better behaved tenants; longer tenancies, potentially increased rent levels and improved property value (over time).

 The consultation is showing that there is support for the scheme, but that landlords are also very concerned too. 

 I think the principle is good, to bring up the quality of tenants living in Southend properties and landlords do have a big part to play in that. 

 Landlord’s concerns range, from whether the license costs too much, the effectiveness of policing, the need for CCTV, to council tenants just as culpable for ASB.  There maybe some valid arguments from landlords and the main thing is, that we the council and the landlords work in tandem to deliver an effective policy that reduces ASB and helps improve the community for all our residents.

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Film Fun

 A film afternoon was put on by Cllr Burdett in partnership with Estuary Housing  in the summer holidays.  Children were able to watch ‘Spy Kids’ whilst eating popcorn.  The event was completely free.  Cllr Burdett said “Film clubs provide the opportunity for communities to see films they may not otherwise have access to”.

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The crisis of our times

In the last few days England has seen unprecedented chaos, scenes that I have never witnessed in this country in my lifetime.  People have spoken about the riots of the 1980s, but from what I gather, these are by far more widespread and intense.

 The behaviour of the people who are looting and causing havoc is completely unpredictable. We simply do not know what will happen next; how they will react. As a result, our friends and family who live in London and other parts of the country, have been at times, completely frightened.

 People have lost their homes and had their livelihoods taken away from them, with some people just having a bag of clothes to their name. 

 The question is, what lies behind criminality?  Why have we got so many criminals?   In my opinion it boils down to responsibility.  We have a whole raft of people in this country who have no sense of responsibility, who are not playing their part in society and in the last four days have grabbed an opportunity for excitement and fun. These people have been continually told what their rights are, but have never been informed that they also have responsibilities.  These were not protesters, this was thuggish behaviour pure and simple.

 Responsibility is a learned form of behaviour.  These people who were rioting and looting have parents that are not there for their children.  Boys need male role models, who they can look up to and see what being responsible looks like.  The result of these broken families are that these boys find solace in gangs and groups and then often the first people to say no to them, are the police.  They can’t cope when the police stand up to them and they then go mad at the police.

 The big issues now are what we do in these areas?  We must accept that there are damaged people in the aftermath of the riots.  I do not believe that it is just down to deprivation.  In the 1930s, when there were ‘protests’, there was no violence of this kind. Arguably there was a sense of morality.  Therefore you cannot just blame the riots on austerity, it is not just cuts that cause this.  We need to address the motivations and grievances of those participating in these riots.

 The government spends over half our national income, yet in the last four days, were not able to properly protect our citizens, those tax payers who fund this government spending.  It has to be one of the first priorities of our government to keep us safe; yet on Monday and Tuesday night people were frightened, they had their homes taken away from them. 

 We had 16,000 police officers on duty inLondonon Tuesday evening, but this is not sustainable all the time.   As Douglas Carswell writes ‘Any debate about “broken Britain” must look not only at social breakdown, but at the broken levers of control that allow official Britain to set its own priorities without full regard to the concerns of striving Britain’.

 Right now, the causes of the rioting can be put to one side. For now, our government needs to restore faith in the ability to protect us. I believe we need elected sheriffs, who have the authority to make decisions, which would have led to a more robust response from the police right from the start.


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