Tories are letting our children down

There is nothing more important than great schools in giving every child and young person the best start in life and in building a more just society. Our children are our future. It’s only by investing in their education that we can fulfil our duty to make the world better for them.

My parents, immigrants from Jamaica, instilled in me the value of education. I had to study hard, and was the first in my family to go to university. But this was only possible because Lewisham Council provided a grant. My degree in Physical Science with Computing has enabled me to have a fulfilling career with interesting work and job security, opportunities I wouldn’t have had without it. So I really understand why a good education matters.

As a councillor in New Cross, I have teachers and parents getting in touch with me all the time anxious about what’s happening to Lewisham’s schools. It was seeing the cuts to my son’s local school that got me involved in local politics in the first place. I decided to fight against cuts to Lucas Vale Primary School budget, horrified by what it would mean.

This is what it means: Tory cuts year after year after year mean that schools are now facing impossible choices. Just imagine the dilemma facing headteachers. Do I make some of the teachers redundant? Do I allow class sizes to rise? Do I take subjects such as Music and Drama (deemed by the Tories to be ‘unimportant’) off the curriculum? Or do I reduce support for children with special educational needs? Schools in Lewisham and other deprived areas are being hit hardest. And let’s not pretend we don’t know why. The Tories simply aren’t interested in deprived areas because, in the words of David Cameron, they are “not our voters”. It doesn’t seem like things have change at all under Theresa May. It’s outrageous.

This week the government claimed that they were putting more money into day-to-day school funding. As the National Union of Teachers have said, it is pure “smoke and mirrors”. It does not make up for the cuts already announced. It’s not even new money – it is being taken out of the budget for building new schools. We have a growing population of school age children and not building new schools means children who are 5 or 6 today being taught in porter cabins when they are 15 or 16. The Tories are letting them down.

I am campaigning to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, because I believe we need a Mayor truly committed to ensuring that every child and young person here gets the best start in life. I will never stop fighting against Tory austerity that means cuts to our schools, and I will always make a priority of making our schools the best they can be. Because I know how important that is.


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