We must have more free schools and academies

Click HERE (or see below) for my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.

Michelle Donelan Gazette & Column 03 September 15
A good education can be the single greatest transformer of lives. It is, for many, the route out of poverty or the path to a better life. It is also the crucial piece of the jigsaw to ensure the children of today have the skills to meet the needs of the economy of tomorrow.

Providing our young people with the best start to get on in life and have a rewarding career is an area close to my heart.

Apprenticeships can give young people this opportunity to learn a valuable skill while earning at the same time. The businesses I visit locally are crying out for scientists, engineers and technicians. They are also desperate for pupils to leave education better prepared for work, I see apprenticeships as the best route for this. More GCSE students are now studying key subjects such as languages and sciences, which are most valued by employers but I want every young person leaving school to view an apprenticeship or going to university in equal merit.

Last week I met with Wiltshire College who have just secured a Good Ofsted inspection and are improving dramatically under their new leadership team and Principle. Their new Chippenham building will open later this year and will be an important step in further improving their results, expanding their apprenticeship schemes and giving more opportunity to our local young people. I will continue to give them my full support and am working with them to create an apprenticeships festival for 2016 – more details to follow soon.

In Parliament, it was an honour to be elected to the Education Select Committee and I am excited about returning to Westminster next week in order to begin helping shape national education policy. I see it as a key part of that role to have regular contact with local head teachers, teachers, pupils and parents.

I am a strong supporter of academies as I believe that the best people to run schools are teachers, not bureaucrats. It is a good thing that the Government has given schools greater control over crucial responsibilities such as the budget and discipline, through academy freedoms and I would like to see these expand. Our schools should be able to specialise more in subjects and extra curricula activities aligned to local social and employment need. I am also speaking with parents and teachers interested in setting up new free schools which provide parents with an ever expanding choice of a decent local state school, with high standards, a sense of discipline and a broad and balanced curriculum. The choice of going to a good school should be for everyone, not just those who can afford private education.

Nothing is more important than providing our children with the excellent education they deserve, which is why I am so focussed on educational standards locally and nationally. What are your thoughts on local education standards? Let me know by emailing michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk