Wendy Perfect, Bexley Councillor for Northumberland Heath & Deputy Labour Group Leader speaks on education

After being elected to Bexley council in May, I was appointed the Labour spokeswoman for education and set about finding out what was going on in our primary and secondary schools.

Cllr Wendy Perfect

What soon became apparent was that our primary schools were doing well, but some of our secondary modern (non-selective) schools were struggling.

Having previously been a governor at Welling School for a number of years, this didn’t really come as much of a surprise to me as these schools are challenging and difficult to get right.

This was highlighted in the BBC’s recent programme on grammar schools in Bexley, where it stated that only 15 per cent of secondary moderns were rated outstanding nationally by Ofsted, compared to 84 per cent of grammar schools.

Having read the Ofsted reports of these struggling schools the main problems seem to be unsatisfactory leadership and management and not being able to attract enough good

quality staff.

Consequently too many teachers are temporary, or engaged on a supply basis, and as a result achievement of our children has been negatively impacted.

I also know from personal experience there will be many great, hardworking teachers and staff in these schools, whose efforts should be acknowledged, too.

The situation is compounded by the fact that these schools will have a disproportionately high number of young people with a special educational need or on pupil premium, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds where they have fewer opportunities already, compared to our more successful grammar schools.

Former secretary of state Michael Gove’s turbocharged drive to turn schools into

academies, taking them outside local authority control and increasing the power of schools has done nothing to raise standards nationally.

The UCL Institution of Education suggested that it has created a ‘chaotic process of

centralisation’.

I certainly haven’t seen any evidence that suggests educational standards have improved in Bexley due to academisation and the lack of local accountability has had a negative impact, as parents have nowhere to go to if they have concerns about the school their children attend.

So what can local councillors do in Bexley if they have very little influence over these

under-performing secondary modern schools?

Well, personally I can’t walk away and say: “It’s nothing to do with me, guv”.

As a community leader I will be putting as much pressure as I can on those responsible for our children’s education, both centrally and locally, to ensure that our children get the very best education they deserve.

On a positive note there are signs of improvement.

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