|Labour councillors have fought against |
cuts in Edinburgh's schools and nurseries
Education, Children & Families is the Council’s biggest department, with a yearly budget of some £380 million. It’s responsible for the city's most important asset, our children. But while it has delivered many excellent services, too many parents and teachers feel that education is no longer this Council’s number one priority.
Why? Because just days after taking office the SNP/Lib Dem coalition set out to close 22 schools across the city; because school budgets faced cut after cut, with Parent Councils warning of basic provisions being sacrificed as these cuts took hold; because too many children are still forced to suffer overcrowding; and because our most experienced teachers have been forced out of our schools.
It’s not a great record, and after five years of the SNP and Lib Dems in charge of our Council it’s clear that parents and teachers expect better, and our children certainly deserve better.
So a future Labour-led council will start with the basics. As part of our proposal to create a ‘co-operative council’ we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. So we’ll give Parent Councils the right to share in city-wide decision-making on schools by nominating a member of the Council’s Education Committee. We’ll talk with schools about ways to give staff, students, parents and the wider community a greater say in how their school moves forward. And because we believe our schools should be assets for the whole community, we’ll seek to widen access and minimise charges for non-profit groups, truly seeking to make our schools hubs for the whole community.
It should also be recognised that in spite of the huge challenges facing our schools we still have some of the best results in the country. That’s thanks to the dedication of our teachers and the hard work of pupils. However, while we have some of the best schools in Scotland, we have others that need and deserve greater support. That’s why Edinburgh Labour wants to investigate how to get our best and most experienced teachers into the most challenging posts. We need to raise standards and tackle both inequality and lack of opportunity, but we know that we’ll only do that if this is made a political priority.
Labour’s time in office in Edinburgh was a period of unparalleled investment in our schools. School buildings were Labour’s priority in the last council, and the results speak for themselves. Some 34 local schools were either built or refurbished, transforming education for literally thousands of pupils across the city.
But overcrowding is becoming a huge problem in our schools, and under the SNP/Lib Dem council not one brick has been laid in any of the Wave 3 schools, while school closures have added to overcrowding pressures in some areas. In our manifesto we’ve promised to prioritise already overcrowded schools for action and we’ll also ask the cross-party education committee to consult with schools and parents to draw up a long-term strategic plan to tackle both over-crowding and underuse in our schools.
But we want to go further. Because we know that childcare costs remain a real barrier to work, with many families struggling to get by each month, we’ll seek to take action. Edinburgh Labour want to ensure that parents are not punished for choosing to work, so we’ll work to give every family the ability to access affordable childcare in their community. We recognise that this is a huge challenge. But we want to create a ‘childcare co-op’ which will develop the provision of breakfast and after-school clubs in our schools, and work with other Council partners to increase affordable childcare provision right across the city.
The challenges are significant, more so given the pressure that local government is expected to face over the next few years. Yet this current Lib Dem and SNP Council has given precedence to so many unnecessary and superfluous issues. Millions were wasted on botched privatisation deals, and plans to tender-out care for the elderly and vulnerable; we even have a plans for a ferris wheel for the city centre, while Lib Dem Councillors were desperate to bring back ceremonial robes in order to be kept apart from the hoi-polloi!
We want education to get its fair share of funding, and we want it to get the attention it deserves. So our pledge in this election is simple. We’ll to fight to make sure education becomes a priority once again, allowing our schools and our children to flourish. Parents, teachers and pupils deserve no less.