Across Southwark thousands of young people have by now received their GCSE, AS and A level results – an exciting and sometimes nail biting time! I hope that everyone achieved the results that you hoped for.
Southwark’s schools have been transformed since the election of the 1997 Labour government whose investment, together with the hard work of teachers, pupils, governors, parents and my predecessor Dame Tessa Jowell, delivered four new secondary schools in my constituency.
It is testament in part to the confidence local parents now have in our schools that families who might otherwise have moved out of London for school places are choosing to stay, but this, combined with an increase in the birth rate, means that there is pressure on school places.
Both the previous coalition and the Tory government have delivered too little too late on school places. It is hugely problematic that Councils have the responsibility for providing a place for every child that needs one, but cannot deliver new schools or direct the location of new Free Schools to the areas of greatest need.
Parents campaigned hard for a new secondary school on the Dulwich Hospital site and I’m delighted that the Charter School was approved by the government to deliver it. There is a tight timetable to ensure that the school can open in temporary accommodation in September 2016 and I’m currently pressing the government to give the school full support to ensure that it stays on track.
The Free Schools programme is inefficient, bureaucratic and wasteful. We need a coherent approach to school place planning, new powers for Councils to deliver new schools and a consistent approach to admissions criteria. The failure of the Tories and Lib Dems to deliver this must not turn our children’s right to an excellent education into a lottery.