Stephen Hepburn MP: Outstanding schools are a necessity, not a luxury

Education played a key role in Labour's election manifesto.
Education played a key role in Labour's election manifesto.

I’ve every faith in the next generation after visiting another wonderful local school, this time Cleadon Church of England Academy.

Pupils in our area are always smart as buttons, clued-up and confident. The teachers are pretty good too!

I’ve always found invitations to schools in South Tyneside and the part of Gateshead in my Jarrow parliamentary constituency to be among the more enjoyable requests to serve people as your Labour MP.

Cleadon is a terrific primary school, stretching children academically in a nurturing, friendly environment of mutual respect.

I popped in under the umbrella of Parliament Week to discuss the value of democracy and the importance of political engagement. So I was absolutely delighted the kids and teachers are so switched-on, aware of the tremendous potential of politics to change life for the better.

School visits are strictly non-partisan, party politics put to one side.

But there’s no doubt Labour and Jeremy Corbyn have caught the idealism of the young, a belief problems can be overcome instead of cynically tolerated.

Exciting younger voters was one of the key successes of Labour at the General Election, my party winning the endorsements of a whopping 60% of those aged 18-24.

Our eye-catching manifesto captured their imagination including a promise to introduce a £10 an hour living wage for grafters from the age of 18 when the Tories force them to wait until 25 for only £7.50.

And of course our pledges to create proper apprenticeships and scrap university tuition fees, reintroducing maintenance grants, would reward the ability and aspiration of young people from working and middle class homes.

The manifesto was the star of a campaign in which Labour defied predictions of a rout to secure the largest increase in the Labour vote since 1945 and strip useless Theresa May and a Conservative Party marooned in the past of their Parliamentary majority.

Corbyn guarantees a Labour Government led by him as Prime Minister would reverse damaging Tory education cuts which are putting school budgets under unbearable strain.

It’s also unfair that teachers who educate the next generation were forced year after year to endure drops in their living standards, below inflation pay rises under the Tory pay cap an utter disgrace.

Politics is about choices and priorities and the Tory choice of austerity as a priority was a triumph of ideology over the interests of our country.

I’m proud the Labour Government replaced crumbling schools with new classrooms and buildings.

I’m proud the Labour Government recruited tens of thousands of extra teachers plus more than 100,000 teaching assistants.

Over the past seven and a half years the Tories have undone much of that good work, driving through wicked cuts across our education system.

The £2.8billion filleted from school budgets since 2015 means the education of the next generation will suffer.

I believe every child matters and want us to invest in the future. Outstanding schools aren’t a luxury. They’re a necessity.