Manifesto - Freedom to Learn

Giving our children the best start in life is the first priority of every parent. That is why we all want a choice of good local schools. Unfortunately, too many pupils and parents in Greenwich are being failed by the system at present.

 The most recent league tables for secondary schools show Greenwich as the second worst Borough in London, with fewer than half of pupils gaining 5 or more ‘good’ GCSEs (grades A*-C) : Of the 32 Boroughs, only Islington performs worse.

At primary school level, we have the second worst English test results at age 11, and the third worst results for maths. Greenwich schools also have the highest rate of truancy, not only in London, but in the whole of England.

Unsurprisingly, a rising number of parents have voted with their feet – sending their children out of the Borough to schools in Bexley or Bromley. But they should not have to take such extreme steps. Greenwich Council spends more per pupil on education than almost any other authority in the country, so the failure in results is not a question of resources. Conservatives would maintain levels of spending in our schools, but would allow the money to be spent more wisely.

We recognise that good education comes from good schools and good teachers. That is why it is so important for schools to be given greater freedom to run their own affairs, and to develop their own ethos. Conservatives in Greenwich have consistently proposed this approach at previous Borough elections, and we continue to hold true to it.

Our policy will be based on two simple principles: trusting professionals, and sharing responsibility.

On discipline, for example, we will support a head teacher’s right to exclude unruly pupils from their school. But we will accept our responsibility to ensure a proper education for those who are excluded.

We will put our belief in school freedom and excellence into practice. The future of education is not a monopoly of conventional local authority-run schools, but a range of different types of school, where all our children can excel. That is why we support the Government’s programme of new City Academy schools. All new or replacement schools built by a Conservative administration in Greenwich would therefore be either Academies, self-governing Foundation schools, voluntary aided or Trust Schools.

We will also support proper choice for parents of children with special needs, by halting any closure of special schools until a proper assessment can be made of the needs of the Borough’s pupils.

Labour cannot be relied on to deliver genuine improvements. At Westminster, Tony Blair’s plans for limited extra freedom for schools were opposed by his own MPs and watered down. Here in Greenwich, Labour members refused to support a Conservative motion in favour of letting head teachers have more control over raising standards in their schools.

 

Only a new Conservative administration at the Town Hall can deliver the good local schools that Greenwich so urgently needs.