I went to school in Tory-controlled Kent where the 11-plus test channels disadvantaged children into inferior secondary education.
Being middle class I passed the test but being idealistic I insisted on going to a comprehensive. It meant lessons in crumbling portakabins delivered by up to seven different subject teachers a year with hopeless equipment and low expectations.
In contrast most Lambeth children go to non-selective, overwhelmingly good or outstanding-rated schools with higher than national and Kentish average exam results.
This is the result of the last Labour government doubling investment in state schools and working with inner-city councils and communities like ours to improve schools.
Those excellent schools are increasingly threatened by the ideological Tory approach that blighted my education.
So far the Tories have axed the building schools for the future programme, the educational maintenance allowance and benefits to under 25-year-olds whilst trebling university tuition fees with further increases announced in the Queen’s Speech.
At the same time the government is wrecking the support children receive outside of school by cutting the public health budget by 20%, our council by 56% and in-work benefits of their parents. Tory cuts mean that one in five Lambeth residents are worse off and more than a third of our children live in poverty.
Now the government is trying to force all schools to become academies removing locally elected accountability and support – even the need for parent governors.
This is not based on the evidence of what works best for children but on ideology that the market is always right.
That ideology means free schools can set up in places they are not needed thereby threatening the viability of existing outstanding schools.
That ideology means these free schools and academies do not even have to abide by minimum nutrition standards leading to 90% of them to feed their children junk.
When the Schools Food Trust survey revealed this to the Department for Education it did not reinstate the standard instead the then education secretary Michael Gove had the survey scrapped.
Gove also scrapped minimum teaching qualifications for these schools despite the evidence that in the highest performing education systems, like Finland’s, teachers have masters-level qualifications.
In his new job as justice secretary Gove has just announced he wants to get graduates to teach in prisons. I fully support improving the education of offenders as part of their rehabilitation but I do think that our children deserve at least as well-qualified teachers as convicted criminals.
As if this damage to minimum standards and sensible locally accountable planning weren’t bad enough now the government intends to cut up 20% from the Lambeth schools budget.
In the name of ‘fair funding’ the Tories will take one in every £5 from schools in areas of high deprivation like Lambeth and give it to grammar schools in comparatively affluent places like my home county.
Not only is this immoral but it is economically nonsensical. Maintaining current investment in quality, locally accountable education in deprived areas means a better qualified and healthier workforce who will therefore pay more income tax, extract less benefits and use fewer expensive public services.
Ideology blinds the Tories to any public sector success or any market failings – it means they are destroying the ladder we all built to enable our children to reach their potential.
Let’s get behind this Labour council’s campaign to protect their ladder and stop the Tory cuts and damaging reorganisation.
By Councillor Ed Davie, co-chair of the Lambeth Education Scrutiny Commission