Education – Open letter to Michael Gove

Judith Bunting addressing sixth-formers at Kennet School
Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing from West Berkshire, where we have a problem in our education system which I am hoping you, as Secretary of State for Education, can help explain.
West Berkshire recently ranked one of the best places to live in the UK (top 20% places to live). It is the kind of place where kids receive encouragement at home. The area’s relative affluence also means Conservative led West Berks Council is not strapped for cash. Despite these positive factors, educational attainment across the district is in decline.
In 2011 on average 58.2% of pupils across the UK achieved five good GCSEs. In West Berkshire this figure stands at 60.1% (figures here 2011). In 2012, the equivalent figures were 59.4% and 57.2% (figures here 2012) . As the National average for students obtaining 5 good GCSEs went up by 0.8%, results in West Berkshire went down by 2.9%. In a single year, results in Newbury and West Berkshire fell by nearly four times the national average.
If that doesn’t persuade you we have a problem, let’s try another example: From 2011-2012, the percentage of the district’s pupils gaining A* to C grades in English fell by 9.86%. The Council blamed this on a national downturn in GCSE results. The national downturn, however, was only 2.71% (English figures here). Once again, a downturn of nearly four times the national average.
For students’ performance to fall so dramatically across the board, the failings cannot be with individual schools. The problem must be systemic. Such decline cannot be allowed to continue.
Mr Gove, as a local resident I can tell you that West Berks is not a below average place. We have fantastic teachers, parents and schools who know education is the key to empowering the next generation and to employment in the skills economy of the future – which, locally, means with industries such as Vodafone, Bayer and AWE Nuclear.
I recently started a petition – Education for a Fairer Future – because I believe the educational decline in West Berkshire must be addressed. I am also meeting local head teachers to discuss what they think could be done to improve results across the District.
I am writing to you to ask whether the Department of Education will help me investigate why West Berkshire is under-performing in education, before the decline in our local schools damages the futures of young, striving students in Newbury and West Berkshire.
As a good Liberal Democrat, I am copying David Laws in on this enquiry. I will also be sending a copy of this letter to our local paper, the Newbury Weekly News.
Yours Sincerely,
Judith Bunting
07914 835 073
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury and West Berkshire
The Liberal Democrats

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