‘Worst place in England to be a child from a poor family’

Judith on the Sunday Politics Show - Nov 2012

The chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said recently that West Berkshire is “the worst place in England to be a child from a poor family, in terms of education opportunity.”

In a speech in London last Thursday, Sir Michael said, “Disadvantaged children in this lovely, affluent part of south-east England last year had:

  • the worst attainment in the whole country at primary school;
  • the second worst at secondary school;
  • and, were in the bottom local three authorities for attainment at 19.”

Sir Michael went on to say, “West Berkshire is an example of a much wider problem affecting the relatively prosperous counties of south-east England. On the surface, education outcomes for these areas may look good but, for children eligible for free school meals they hide deep and shocking failure.”

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Newbury and West Berkshire, (pictured) said: “These troubling findings are why I started an education petition back in March, aimed at improving education outcomes in West Berkshire. Newbury’s educational attainment has been in decline for some years.”

Judith went on to say, “It’s outrageous that somewhere like affluent Newbury is not only seeing GCSE figures fall below average and English results tumble nine percent in one year, but that we are also now one of the worst authorities for failing poorer pupils.”

Referring to the Liberal Democrat Pupil Premium policy adopted by the coalition government whereby schools will receive £900 in extra funding for each pupil who has been eligible forfree school meals for the past six years, Councillor Irene Neill (Con, Aldermaston), the executive portfolio holder for education at West Berkshire Council, said: “I’m confident that it will make a difference.”

Councillor Neill went on to say, “We should not be making a political football of our children’s education.”

Judith Bunting responded: “This is not about party politics. I wish there wasn’t a need to campaign about education provision in West Berkshire, but local children are being let down and that is simply unacceptable. Our children deserve the best education possible, no matter what their background.

The decline in local schools in such an affluent area should be a stain on the conscience of West Berkshire Council. The Council snd our MP must do more to support the futures of young striving students in Newbury.”

You can sign our Education for a Fairer Future online petition here: www.change.org/petitions/increase-education-provision-in-west-berkshire

You can read Judith’s open letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, here: http://westberkslibdems.org.uk/en/article/2013/679180/open-letter-to-michael-gove-secretary-of-state-foreducation

You can keep up to date with Judith’s views and activities around West Berkshire here: http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

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