152015Sep

My article on the value of education – In the Bath and Wiltshire Parent magazine

My article on the value of education – In the Bath and Wiltshire Parent magazine.
Michelle Donelan article in the Bath Parent
I grew up in a small village called Whitley in Cheshire and attended the village primary school. We had outside toilets so when the pipes froze the school closed! The recreational area was a metal swinging bar and later we got a hopscotch design painted on the playground. With only 63 pupils, it was more like a large family than a school, with tiny year groups that meant we were taught in joint year group classes. It was a real village school, with close links to the local community and lessons that included exploring the nature around us on walks and trips to local woodlands and farms. I particularly remember dressing up in WWII-era clothes and going down our real air raid shelter.

You might assume I would have been completely unprepared for the leap to a town secondary school but I was actually more than ready and that was because of my teachers. The truth is good teachers make a good school. I was a late developer and I did not actually really like school until the last two years, despite remembering it now as idyllic. I was labelled as someone who was not academic and to an extent left to get on with it. Then a new headteacher arrived, someone that realised my potential was whatever I wanted it to be. With Mr Bonner’s encouragement, support and praise I went from the bottom of the class to top. That was when I learnt first-hand the value of a good teacher and how he or she can change lives.

On I progressed to Leftwich County High School where I was fortunate to be blessed with a collection of truly inspirational teachers. I was an ugly duckling who had an interest in politics so I suffered from bullying but it was because my teachers believed in me that I concentrated on my work. Mr Cloake was someone who praised me, my strengths and my interests, and he helped me to develop my understanding of history and politics. Some children do better with praise and I was one – I needed that encouragement, I needed others to believe in me so that I could learn to believe in myself. My teachers did this, they taught me that everyone should have opportunities and this really is the purpose of education – to open doors. I believe that this is also the purpose of a Member of Parliament.

I went from strength to strength with the support of my teachers and so the girl once dismissed became a straight-A student. The point is that everyone is good at something and the role of a teacher is to identify that ‘something’ and work with pupils to help them shine. I went on to the university of York to expand my knowledge of History and Politics. I chose a career in Marketing working in business overseas and the UK from The History Channel, Marie Claire to WWE. This May, my dream came true when I was elected as Member of Parliament for Chippenham constituency. The dream to create more opportunities and open more doors for more people,regardless of their backgrounds.

Readers from within the Chippenham constituency will know that I am campaigning hard for increased funding for local schools. For years our schools have received significantly less funding per pupil than cities because Wiltshire schools have suffered from being part of a relatively prosperous county.

Wiltshire is one of the lowest funded authorities in the country. Similarly sized schools in Swindon receive £434,000 more than ours and in Bristol it is £1.9m more. This gives those children a huge potential advantage and I want to see the disparity in funding reduced so that our young people get the same basic funding as pupils in other areas. I know that money is not everything, inspirational teachers count for more but you need the money to afford enough teachers. I want to see the UK move to a national funding formula so that local pupils do not lose out. This is one of my major priorities as the local Member of Parliament.