Since becoming your MP, I have successfully argued for schools and further education colleges to receive more funding and for greater prominence for skills. I also spend a lot of time focused on early years education.
I passionately believe in lifelong learning and education being fundamental to growing the economy.
Families throughout Stroud know this too. Many bend over backwards to assist their children to attend the best school they can, buy books or computers, organise tuition and ferry kids around to various clubs.
So, it’s bizarre to me the Labour party’s only clear education policy is trying to shut down certain schools they do not like and wrongly suggesting the taxpayer is funding public schools through ’tax breaks’. I fear they did this to distract from the government’s well received £4 billion additional funding for our state schools.
I personally fail to see how limiting choice for parents, closing smaller independent schools through VAT changes and an estimated 90,000 children being forced into the state school system will promote fairness. It looks more like the politics of envy than anything else.
Lots of parents who educate privately are not rich either. They often go without holidays and things for themselves to pay fees. Some schools offer specialisms and some parents have jobs that mean longer hours or boarding schools are necessary for their children.
Around 35% of students attending fee-paying schools are on a bursary.
Education, in all its forms, is vital to fulfilling aspirations. Public schools are part of this and while we should always ask whether they can do more in communities and with other schools, we should be clear-eyed about the facts and the jobs they create locally.
It is also economically illiterate. Labour says it will raise money to fund state education from the VAT on fees but as the fee-paying schools close any income will diminish. Class sizes would increase. Teachers would be further stretched. Time allocated to each student would decrease. And that is all without yanking children from schools they are currently happy attending.
I went to a comprehensive school, left home at 15 and continued my education through night classes to become a solicitor while working full time. My parents separated when I was young and my mum was on income support but if she had had the money, my siblings and I would have gone to the best clubs and schools she could afford.
I will continue to stand up for Stroud’s primaries, secondaries, comprehensives, academies, public schools, free schools, grammars, special educational needs, colleges, UTCs, nurseries, child minders and more.
I do not want to see any of them closed or harmed for ideological purposes. The teachers, staff and students in all of them deserve support and praise.