Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Newspaper column 26 August 2020 - returning to school

The controversy around exams results of the past few weeks have brought into sharp focus the consequences of closing our schools and not being able to get pupils back to the classroom.

Firstly, while I have a number of concerns about the long term impact of the decision to award all pupils the higher of their Centre Assessed Grades or those moderated by the OFQUAL, it was clear that in the circumstances it was the only right decision to make. Too many pupils were adversely affected, and we needed to end the uncertainty for our young people.

It is well established that teacher assessed grades are often, on average, higher than the grades pupils achieve in actual exams. There are very genuine and understandable reasons for this as teachers will predict grades that pupils are capable of achieving which is not always the same as what is actually achieved.

While there is a reasonable argument that the Department for Education and OFQUAL could have handled this situation much better, the reality of the situation is that once exams were cancelled there was no easy way to deal with awarding grades and where we have ended up is probably the least worse outcome.

But all this should bring home to us just how important it will be to see all our schools open next month and all pupils return to the classroom. Too much time has already been lost and it is vital our children are able to recommence their education. It was pleasing to see at the weekend that England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, confirm that in his expert view it is safe for schools to reopen. In fact, he went as far as to say that not returning to school is likely to cause more long-term damage to children than the risks of Covid-19.

I know our local schools have already been working hard to ensure this can happen. I recently wrote to all our local schools asking them to confirm what their plans are for September and I am pleased to say all those who have replied to date have plans in place to ensure they are able to welcome all pupils back.  I want to say a big thank you to all our headteachers, teachers and school staff for all they are doing.

It is one of the government’s top priorities that schools fully open at the beginning of September and all pupils are able to return and I will certainly be doing all I can to support our local schools to achieve this.

If any parents of school children have any particular concerns or questions about their children returning to school, please do contact your school. My office is also available to assist and answer any questions you may have, so please do get in touch if you feel I can help.

We have also had some very good news with regards to school funding in recent weeks with the announcement that spending on schools nationally will increase by £4.8billion next year. Further good news is that our local schools will be receiving an above average increase which will continue to close the funding gap Cornish schools have been facing for many years now. It is good to see that our continual campaigning on funding for our schools is paying off and this government’s commitment to ‘level up’ education is happening.

Overall funding for schools in our constituency will increase by 5.9% next year, well above inflation, rising to more that £69million. Some of our smaller rural schools will be allocated much larger increases with some receiving over 12% more. As always these are indicative allocations and the final sums received by schools will depend on how Cornwall Council apply the new budget. I certainly hope that they will ensure all our schools receive the uplift in funding allocated to them in full.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm. If there is an issue you would like my assistance with then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I will be recommencing regular, appointment only, advice surgeries from next month. Do get in touch if you would like an appointment to see me.