Giving young people a fair start in life!

Here’s my latest Muswell Flyer column, also available here: http://beckybeach.net/?p=8145

My early years were spent at Highgate Primary – one of the many great schools in Haringey borough. And the schools here are getting better and better, with particularly impressive exam results achieved this year by our bright students.

It’s so important that young people are given an excellent education, and have an equal opportunity to succeed regardless of their background or situation at home. But I’m also aware that some students, through no fault of their own, are still finding it harder than others to achieve the results.

That’s why the Lib Dems in Government are working hard to ensure every child gets a fair start in life.

Last month at the Lib Dem party conference, Nick Clegg announced that, from next year, all infant school pupils will be eligible for free school meals.

Free meals do already exist for children from poorer backgrounds – but research showed that many were not claimed because parents were not aware of the option, or unwilling to admit they qualified.

Making all infant school children eligible will remove this stigma – for parents and children. In addition, it will save parents an average of £437 a year per child; and ensure that all children are receiving a nutritious, healthy and filling lunch – something which is proven to have a positive impact on performance at school.

The Liberal Democrat Pupil Premium has also been giving schools extra funding since 2010 – with the money specifically targeted to schools with higher numbers of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This academic year, schools in Haringey will benefit from an extra £13 million on top of their usual budgets.

Schools themselves can decide how they use the extra money. I have met with Head Teachers to discuss how the money is being spent. Employing extra support staff, employing staff with particular language skills, funding after school clubs and subsidising school trips for poorer students are among the best examples I’ve heard.

The Liberal Democrats in Government are also focusing on jobs and apprenticeships – particularly to tackle youth unemployment.

Just before the Lib Dems entered Government in 2010, people who didn’t go to university were being left behind. Youth unemployment in my constituency was 7.1%, which was far too high.

Since entering Government the Lib Dems have helped create over 1 million jobs and 1.2 million apprenticeships. Apprenticeships in particular are helping young people learn trades, earn money, and build a career.

They’re popular too. I organised an event in Wood Green to match up our young people with companies looking for apprentices – and over 130 youngsters turned up to try and secure an apprenticeship.

And I’m pleased to say that youth unemployment in Hornsey and Wood Green is down by a third (to just 4.8%).

There is still a way to go before children and young people have equal opportunities to succeed and get on in life. But I believe these Lib Dem measures – free school meals, Pupil Premium and focus on apprenticeships – are a good start towards building a fairer society.

Lynne Featherstone MP welcomes free school meals announcement

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has announced that every child in infant school in England will receive free school meals.

From September 2014, all infant school pupils (including 9,426 in Haringey) will benefit from a free hot and healthy meal at lunchtime.

This will save families around £400 a year per child, while helping to raise school standards and cut the attainment gap.

The announcement follows an independent review which found that, in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, students were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere.

Commenting, Lynne Featherstone MP said

“Free meals did already exist for children from poorer backgrounds – but research showed that many were not claimed because parents were not aware of the option, or unwilling to admit they qualified.

“Making all infant school children eligible will remove this stigma – for parents and children.

“In addition, it will ensure that all children are receiving a nutritious, healthy and filling lunch, which is proven to have a positive impact on performance at school.

“The measure saves parents money, too. During the course of a year, the average family spends £400 on lunch for each child. Now, they will not have to spend this – which means that parents of the 9,426 eligible children in Haringey will collectively be £3.7million better off!

“The Liberal Democrats are committed to creating a fairer society by giving everyone an equal chance to succeed and get on in life – and this policy is a step in the right direction.”

Lynne Featherstone MP welcomes huge boost in funding for primary schools

Lynne Featherstone - Pupil PremiumThe Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has announced the biggest ever rise in the Pupil Premium for primary schools to help ensure that more pupils are able to achieve higher standards.

The Pupil Premium provides schools with extra money to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It will be increased to £1,300 per eligible primary school pupil in 2014/15, up from £900 per child this year. That’s likely to be an extra £3,640,000 for primary schools in Hornsey and Wood Green.

Schools will be able to spend this money in ways that they feel helps their pupils best. Evidence shows some schools use it to hire extra staff, reading and maths classes for children who need an extra hand or provide appropriate IT facilities.

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg recently visited a school in Hornsey and Wood Green to discuss how the pupil premium is benefitting students.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green Lynne Featherstone said:

“All the evidence shows that if your child starts behind in secondary school, they stay behind. That is unacceptable.

“As part of the Liberal Democrats’ aim to build a fairer society, the Coalition Government is putting extra money into primary schools to help teachers support disadvantaged children.

“This boost in the Pupil Premium will help ensure we give those children a better start at secondary school, so they have a better start in life.”

Lynne Featherstone MP welcomes £550,050 for school sports in Haringey

Lynne Featherstone MPThe Coalition Government has announced a £555,050 boost for school sports in Haringey from September. Every state primary school in Haringey will receive funding for sports in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The funding is the equivalent of around two days a week of a primary teacher’s time to provide more sport for their pupils. A typical primary school with 250 pupils will receive £9,250 per year.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“This money means children in Haringey will be able to take part in more sport at their primary schools.

“Sport can help children to build confidence, understand teamwork and, above all, keep healthy.

“Liberal Democrats are determined to make sure we take advantage of the enthusiasm we saw during the Olympics last year. The best legacy of the Games would be more children taking part in sport and learning how to live a healthy lifestyle.”

 

Top schools in Haringey congratulated by Schools Minister and local MP Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone MP taking questions from students at Hornsey School for GirlsLynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has joined Liberal Democrat Schools Minister, David Laws in congratulating the top performing schools in Haringey.

Minister David Laws has written to the schools after last month’s secondary school performance tables revealed that Hornsey School for Girls, Woodside High School and St Thomas More Catholic School are among the best in the country in certain categories.

Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone will follow this up with her own letter of congratulations.

Commenting, Lynne Featherstone MP said:

“This is really great news for the head teachers, teachers, other staff and parents at these schools. They have all worked tremendously hard to ensure our children have the best start in life.

“It’s also great news for the young people who have benefited from their teachers’ continuous effort to go the extra mile.

“They will be very well prepared for what lies ahead, whether that’s A-levels and perhaps university, or further education and maybe one of the great apprenticeships the Coalition Government has invested in.”

Commenting further, Liberal Democrat Schools Minister, David Laws said:

“I am pleased to see the appalling attainment gap between the poorest pupils and their peers narrowing. This is indeed encouraging, but we must get rid of it completely.  We are targeting more funding than ever before to help all children meet their full potential, whatever their background.

“Through the Pupil Premium, schools have the opportunity to make a real difference in improving children’s life chances.”

Government gives Haringey Schools extra £202,000 to help pupils catch up

Lynne Featherstone with the head teacher of Highgate Wood School, one of the schools she visited over the summer to find out how the Pupil Premium funding is being spentLynne Featherstone MP has welcomed news that Haringey will receive £202,000 extra for the Borough’s secondary schools.

The money is specifically targeted to help Year 7 pupils who didn’t reach the expected level in literacy and maths when they finished primary school, so they can catch up with their classmates who did.

Schools will receive the equivalent of £500 per pupil, and will have freedom to decide how best to use the catch-up premium. Examples could include:

  • Small-group tuition supported by new classroom materials and resources, which could take place at lunchtimes or after school;
  • Holiday support to deliver intensive catch-up over a short period.
  • Additional services and materials to add to those provided by the school, such as tutor services or proven computer-based learning or online support.

This money comes on top of the £8.8million in Pupil Premium and £7.3 million in Fairer Funding received by Haringey Council from the Coalition Government.

Commenting, Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green said:

“No pupil should be left behind in our schools, to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to get on in life. To achieve this it is hugely important that every child has a strong grasp of maths and a good reading ability when they start at secondary school.

“Catch-up classes and personal tuition are targeted at those who need a helping hand, so their chances of success are increased rather than letting them fall behind further.

“By putting fairness back at the centre of our schools system, Liberal Democrats are ensuring that everyone can get on in life. It will allow children to flourish and will help us build a stronger economy.”

Education, Education, Education

Here’s my latest Ham and High Column on education funding. I’m really angry with Haringey Council for botching our local school funding, and will keep fighting for truly fair funding…

My mother and father were not that enthused about education. Going out to work as soon as possible and earning a living came higher up on their agenda. When you had known poverty as they had – earning took precedence over learning. I went to my local school – Highgate Primary (We are talking over fifty years ago). Luckily for me my headmistress, Mrs Jobson, called my parents in and told them that in her opinion their little girl (me) was very bright and ought to be allowed to sit for a scholarship to South Hampstead High School. And the rest is history!

Nothing is as valuable as a good education. I visit lots of schools in my constituency – often! The kids are fantastic and the teachers are wonderful. But there is a need for more help for the disadvantaged. That’s why, when I became an MP in Haringey, I was determined to right the historic wrong of our borough’s schools being chronically unfairly underfunded.

I have succeeded – but sadly, Haringey Council is conspiring to mess up all that.

The problem of this unfair funding arose out of Haringey being classed as an ‘outer London’ borough, which therefore received less funding than ‘inner London’ boroughs such as Camden and Islington. It was an outdated and arbitrary distinction with no relevance to modern day life in London.

The result was that schools were left in the position of receiving outer London funding, but having to pay inner London costs (such as wages – so they could ensure they didn’t lose all the best teachers to neighbouring boroughs.)

The Labour Council had never shown an ounce of interest in addressing this dreadful situation. Together with the Haringey Lib Dems I decided to do something about it. We started a petition, worked with parents and local schools, held high level meetings and instigated a consultation.

I was therefore so very happy when, after five years of tireless campaigning, the Government last year gave Haringey’s schools an extra £7.3 million in funding, finally righting the historic wrong.

Imagine my further delight when Liberal Democrats in Government were additionally able to implement our Pupil Premium policy – which last year secured an additional £8.8 million for Haringey’s schools. In the next academic year, this will rise to over £13 million – or £900 per pupil.

The premium distributes money to schools in accordance with the number of disadvantaged students and can be used by schools as they see fit. Some of the best examples I’ve seen – when I have met with local Heads to see how it is going – are employing trained professionals to support children from challenging home environments and/or with particular language skills, and subsidising school trips for poorer children.

With all these extra millions in mind, imagine my sheer disbelief when I saw Haringey’s projected funding allocations for Schools this year. 12 schools in my constituency were ending up with LESS money. I just could not believe what I was seeing. How is it possible for schools to lose money, after £16 million has been injected into the borough?

My disbelief quickly turned to anger, as I realised what had happened. In tandem with the new money, Haringey Council were also asked to review their funding formula (which determines how money is distributed.) This was a Government request – but crucially the discretion over which factors to use in the formula remained with the Council – and they messed up.

Instead of ensuring that all schools benefited from the correction to the historic wrongs together with the extra money from the Pupil Premium – some schools are losing out while others are getting too much. I began to wonder whether it was more than just coincidence that of the 14 schools projected to lose money – 12 are in Liberal Democrat wards.

And the final straw? Instead of owning up to their mistake and looking to reconstruct the formula, the Labour Councillors turned around and blamed the Government. The Government who gave them an extra £16 million AND the discretion over how to construct the formula! This is shocking, even by Haringey Labour standards.

The figures are not final. New pupil numbers and higher pupil premium need to be considered. But I am still concerned. The pupil premium should give schools extra money for the things I mentioned earlier, not plug a funding gap caused by a poorly constructed funding formula.

I have written to head teachers advising them of the action I am taking, and will keep them updated. I guarantee you, as I did five years ago – that I will not rest until the schools in my constituency and Haringey borough receive truly fair funding.