Having spoken in the House of Commons about my concerns for proposals to force all schools to become academies, I was delighted that the Government has rethought its policy and will leave outstanding or good schools to make this decision for themselves (assuming that the local education authority is performing). Much has been made of the Government having made a policy reversal. However, the proposals were a starting point for discussion. Having taken the time to discuss with, and lobby, the Secretary of State and her Ministers, I would rather take the more charitable view that this is a listening Government and I am all the more grateful for it.
Ironically, at the exact same time that the Government announced this change in policy, I was sitting with the Headteacher and Head of Governors at Claverham Community College, discussing the pros and cons of schools becoming academies. I would like to see Claverham expand to offer a 6th Form. It is a huge shame that pupils attending this outstanding school have to take a bus from their town to study A levels. If the extra freedom afforded to an academy would allow this expansion to happen, I would be a huge supporter.
Earlier that day, I spent an inspiring couple of hours with Heidi Brown, the Headteacher of Bexhill Academy. It was with relief that I viewed the £6m building works which have seen the ‘pods’ for 90 students replaced by more conventional classroom designs. It was heartening to hear positive stories from the teachers about being back in a classroom environment. In my view, everything is now in place for Heidi and her team to reap the rewards of their efforts. I hope prospective parents will take the time to view the school and be a part of this new era.
At both Claverham and my third school of the day, Battle Abbey, I held Q&A sessions with students on the role of an MP and the policy challenges which the Government is currently facing. Having considered myself on the left of the spectrum at the same age of many of these pupils, I sometimes wonder how my younger self would have quizzed me. In this instance, there were plenty of critics in the audience, as well as those who were more receptive to my arguments. I welcome the passion and determination with which young people argue their cause. I also welcome the advice and guidance which teachers, parents and students have given to me on the proposed education reforms. I would like to see some of these views and ideas taken in to account so I have asked to sit on the bill committee of MPs, who will take these new education reforms into law.
As I continue with my ‘school a week’ constituency visits, I very much hope that further ideas will continue to come my way.