It’s that time of the year again. Summer is coming to an end and students are going back to school or university.
Which is why it seems right to reflect on how far we have come with education in Dover and Deal. Because every parent wants to give their children the best possible start in life. Delivering it is a key priority of mine.
Back in 2010, school standards were heading in the wrong direction. The UK was tumbling down global league tables. A major study found that within a decade we had dropped from 7th to 25th in reading, from 8th to 28th in maths, from 4th to 16th in science. Things looked bleak.
Fast forward to today and the picture is completely different. Some 27 local schools have improved Ofsted ratings. It means that three quarters of our students are now getting at least five GCSEs. The number of people in our community with no qualifications has halved.
How has this been achieved? Firstly, our schools have been given more freedom. Teachers and parents have a far greater say in how they are run. The academy system has meant that across the country 85 per cent of schools are now judged to be good or outstanding, compared to just 68 per cent in 2010.
There’s more funding too. I was one of those who fought hard for a new formula to address historic unfairness. Our pupils got so much less than their London peers. The new formula means Dover district secondary schools will get 7.2% more from 2020. That means millions extra, for years and years to come. Total school funding in Kent has now topped £1 billion for the first time – the highest amount for any local authority area in the UK.
And one of the key reasons I backed Boris Johnson to be our Prime Minister was his pledge on primary schools. Every pupil in the country will have at least £4,000 spent on them. In our area it means schools like Eastry, Kingsdown and Ringwould, River, Sibertsworld, St Margaret’s, The Downs, Warden House and Whitfield Aspen will all get significant increases to their budgets.
That means we can build on the work that has seen our area lead the way on social mobility. A Government report puts us in the top 10 in the whole country for both primary schools and early years providers. We must continue to send a message that no matter where you come from, you have the chance to work hard and get on in life.
Yet I know there is always more to do. I want to see more support for further education colleges. These places do fantastic work, training thousands of our youngsters. They need more money so that they can be even more ambitious for our future.
Because we must look after every single pupil in Dover and Deal. Only then will we realise the full potential of our community.