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We all know the importance of education. A good education means a great future for our children. The drive for a good education for their family led my parents to come to this country from Nigeria in the 1980’s. It leads many parents to move to constituencies like mine, Hitchin and Harpenden, where they commute long hours – because they know the quality of the local schools.
Yet although many strides forward have been taken over recent years – with 2 million more children in good or outstanding schools under a more rigorous Ofsted regime – we need to do more and do better. Many young people still don’t have the right opportunities to fulfil their inherent potential.
I have spoken to Boris Johnson several times about this issue, and he agrees that our education system needs improving and these are my ideas for how we can do that.
First, although funding has increased significantly over the past twenty years – funding per pupil is up 50 per cent on the year 2000 – costs have risen greatly over the past few years of this Government. We need to deal with the squeezed budgets that many schools face. We need an increase of funding in both primary and secondary schools, at a rate above inflation, coupled with a widespread engagement with the sector that can lead to the production of a ten year plan for education – similar the 10 year plan that we have published for our NHS.
The precise level of increase will be up for debate, but it is worth bearing in mind that an increase of 10 per cent would represent an increase of between £4 – 5 billion, about 0.5 per cent of what the UK Government spend each year. This is what Boris has committed to.
Secondly, as the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, I have been struck by the number of parents who have told me of the sheer difficulty of getting a high quality education for those with special educational needs. The schools are doing their best, but the method of funding and support at local levels needs real reform. We need to build more special free schools, but we also need to improve specialist provision for those taught in a mainstream setting.
I know that Boris is committed to addressing these issues on day one of being Prime Minister. He has committed to putting almost £5 billion more into the education budget, making sure apprenticeships are placed as an equal to a university education and giving children with special educational needs the help they need and deserve. This is exactly the kind of vision we need from a Prime Minister as we move beyond Brexit, and why I’m delighted to be able to support Boris.
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