Archive for Education

Tom Blenkinsop MP urges local school councils to enter Speaker’s School Council Awards

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today urged local schools to enter the Speaker’s School Council Awards.

The Speaker’s School Council Awards seeks to recognise the role that school councils have in promoting citizenship.

Tom said “I am delighted that the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, has is having these awards for pupils aged 4-19.

School councils are often the first democratic organisation young people will be involved in, and as such, I think they have a vital role in promoting and increasing awareness of politics and democracy.

Not only that, but young people in school councils often lead projects that will help not their fellow pupils, but also their broader community.

These awards are a fantastic opportunity for Parliament to recognise the hard work of these young people, and I will be writing to every school in my constituency to encourage them to enter this competition.”

Since this scheme launched in 2009, over 3,000 schools from throughout the United Kingdom have taken part. The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2012. All entrants will receive a certificate, whilst the four winners will be invited to attend a gala day at Parliament.

For more information, schools can visit www.speakersschoolcouncil.org

Tom Blenkinsop MP in “Think Again” Plea to Middlesbrough Council Over Future of Lollipop Crossings

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP has today (29th February 2012) pleaded with Middlesbrough Borough Council to “think again” over the future of a number of school crossing patrols near to local primary schools.

Amongst the threatened patrols are crossings in South Middlesbrough – part of Tom’s constituency, including crossings on busy roads like Stainton Way and Marton Road

Tom said “I am a realist, and I am only too well aware of the tremendous pressures put on local councils by the financial cuts imposed by the coalition government, and it is no surprise that they do have to look to economies across all heads to help to fund other – equally crucial – services. However, I do have to say that the local community do see their lollipop ladies as crucial for child safety.

To say that crossings like the one at Marton shops are signal controlled and are safe, may look good on paper, but local people and parents well know that on this busy road, drivers often jump the lights. A lollipop lady is needed as an effective deterrent to bad driving.

Other crossings such as across Stainton Way at the Brunton Arms, across The Avenue in Nunthorpe or at Amersham Road in Park End, are also on busy through roads and I can guess that many parents will be firing off angry letters to me on these issues.

Middlesbrough Council have not said as far as I can make out that these plans are a done deal, and I will be contacting the council as a matter of urgency to carry out proper up to date speed and traffic surveys, as well as looking to see if schools themselves could help financially to keep these services alive. Our children’s safety cannot be reduced to an accountants logic.”

Tom warns Michael Gove: “Hands off our schools”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has warned Education Secretary Michael Gove to ‘stop bullying’ local primary schools in his constituency to accept new ‘Academy’ status in place of being part of Middlesbrough Council’s education authority.

Tom said: “The heads and governors at local primary schools are now being told by Mr Gove and his civil servants that they must make a decision to become self-governing academies rather than stay as part of the Middlesbrough Council school family.”

“I have been told by governors, teachers and parents – who will remain nameless as they feel intimidated by the whole process – that Mr Gove’s civil servants at the Department for Education are putting pressure on schools to make a decision within weeks. These are fundamental decisions affecting the whole future direction of these schools but they are being presented with no financial plan and no knowledge of who, if anyone, is willing to become sponsors.”

“My message is simple: Mr Gove should back off, and allow these schools the time and the space to make their own decisions. If schools want to become academies then they should be allowed to do so but should not be forced by the Secretary of State into making snap decisions.”

“On the one hand he claims to be giving schools more autonomy yet on the other – as we can see in this case – he is trying to force them to accept his will without fully considering the impact. This is typical of the Education Secretary and is happening across the country – in one case I know of this is being challenged in the courts. Our schools and our children deserve better.”

Teesside hit “hard” by Government’s new tuition fee regime as Teesside applications drop by 10.2%

Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and Teesside Young Labour today revealed how Teesside had been hit “hard” by the Government’s new tuition fee regime.

Tom asked Vince Cable in a formal Parliamentary question how many applications had been received by UCAS from residents of his constituency to university. Statistics released by the Government in response to Tom’s question showed that applications submitted by Teesside residents have fallen by 10.2%, whilst UCAS figures show that applications to Teesside University have fallen by 12.5%.

Tom said: “In 2010/2011, before the Government introduced their £9,000 tuition fees, 700 of my constituents had submitted applications by the deadline to UCAS. This time around, only 646 have — a decrease of nearly 8%. Meanwhile, Teesside University has seen a drop of 12.5%.

Whilst I would still encourage anyone who wants to go to university to apply, the Government’s decision to triple tuition fees appears to have deterred many Teessiders from applying to go to university. This could have potentially catastrophic effects on our area’s future, as our workforce could find itself without the skills and education it needs to compete in today’s global economy.”

Dan Johnson, Chair of Teesside Young Labour, said: “Applications to Higher Education from Teessiders have plummeted. Redcar shows an 11.4% drop, Hartlepool a 16.4% drop, Stockton North a 14.2% drop and Stockton South an 11.5% drop.

It is clear that Cameron and Clegg’s Higher Education policy is not working; they are hurting the North East the hardest, and they are apparently discouraging young people in Teesside from going to university.”

North East Student Numbers in “Freefall”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said that the recent drop in student applications showed that the Government’s Higher Education policy was “hitting the North East hard”.

Figures released at midday on Monday 30th January 2012, by the University Clearing and Admissions Service (UCAS) showed that applications to Higher Education from British residents had dropped by 8.7%, with a massive decrease of 11.2% in applications from people living in the North East. Teesside University has recorded a 12.5% decrease in applications.

Tom said “If we want our region and our country to move forward, it is vital that we encourage people to go to university.

Whilst the Government are going to try to spin these figures away, they clearly show the impact of the Government’s decision to nearly triple tuition fees to £9,000 per year. This can be seen by the fact that in Scotland and Wales, where these fees are not being charged, that university applications only fell by 1.5% and 1.9% respectively.

The crash in application figures is disproportionately impacting the North East. I fear that our young people and mature students will not receive the education that they deserve, being put off by these large fees. This would have a disastrous effect on our region’s future, as well as the futures of our region’s universities, and threatens to even further increase regional disparity.

I intend to quiz Business, Innovation and Skills ministers about the decrease in university applications from Teesside residents, and I will continue to urge them to reverse this unfair policy.”

“Shock” over university application drop

Tom Blenkinsop, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland’s Labour Member of Parliament, today expressed concern over the decrease in university applications, with applications dropping in Middlesbrough over 30%.

Official statistics show that applications submitted to UCAS by 21 November 2011 has decreased by 28% in the Tees Valley compared to the previous year. Middlesbrough local authority has seen applications drop by 33.3%, from 180 to 120, whilst Redcar & Cleveland has seen a 13.6% drop. Elsewhere in Teesside, Darlington has faced a 18.7% drop, Hartlepool has faced a 29.9% drop, whilst Stockton-on-Tees has seen applications fall by 33.8%. This compares to a national average decrease of 15.1%, and a regional one of 21.4%.

Tom, alongside Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham and Darlington Labour MP Jenny Chapman, exposed these “shocking” statistics through asking Parliamentary questions to Vince Cable, the Secretary of State of Business, Innovation and Skills, which were answered by Tory Universities minister David Willetts.

Tom said: “These statistics are very disappointing, and it is appalling that deprived areas like Teesside and the North East are showing the sharpest falls. Although applications do not close until 15 January (or later for certain courses), these figures are a very scary preliminary warning.

I doubt it is any coincidence that the number of university applications are collapsing at the same time that tuition fees are tripling to £9,000 per year. Although I would still urge anyone who wants to go to university to do so, these fees seem to be acting as a barrier.

I find it extremely concerning to hear that university applications in Teesside have fallen by a percentage twice the national average, when our local economy will rely on future generations having the necessary skills.

It is not too late for the Government to change their Higher Education policy. I hope they have a look at how it is affecting the aspirations of young people in places like Teesside, and reconsider the merits of tripling fees. I will continue lobbying them to do so, and will keep asking for these statistics to see if this worrying trend continue.”

It’s Official – The ‘Old School Tie’ Network Disadvantages Teesside University Hope

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (31st October 2011) said a damning report issued today by the body that regulates university admissions shows how ‘the old school tie’ network works against the interests of students from areas like Teesside.

Tom said “Today the University and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) has shown that the existing processes that govern university admissions favour the rich. They say the present rules which allow pupils, often helped by their teachers, to apply well in advance of their examinations, gives students and teachers a head start in securing conditional places.”

“This, says UCAS, favours students, their teachers and families who are familiar with the university world and the admission process, and puts those not in this magic circle at a disadvantage.”

“In one damning paragraph UCAS say that – and I quote – ‘The current system also assists pupils whose schools employ tutors who are very familiar with the university applications process, and do not feel intimidated about phoning University admission tutors to plead the case of particular students’”.

“Put simply, they are talking about the fee-paying public schools and the top elite Grammar schools that still exist. These are the schools for the sons and daughters of the wealthy, and the ability of these schools to grease the wheels for their students and their fee paying parents is unparalleled. UCAS are now calling for a level playing field in university admissions and I, on behalf of all those local Teesside college leavers looking for a university place, agree wholeheartedly with them. The old school tie network should not hold them back”.