It’s time to stop beating teachers – Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen

There was a collective sigh of relief when the Government announced this week it was abandoning plans to force all schools to become academies.

The controversial proposal has been dropped from the Queen’s Speech and the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who was heckled when she spoke at the conference of the National Association of Headteachers, has gone back to the drawing board.

But let’s be clear – there was no acceptance that the plan was wrong.

This u-turn was down to the realisation that they would struggle to get the measures through Parliament due to significant opposition from MPs, including from their own backbenchers.

I have visited many local schools and met with headteachers, teachers, governors and parents to discuss how we educate our children.

I have even brought together a forum of headteachers so that I can properly reflect local concerns in Parliament – which is something I did in a Commons debate last month.

As one headteacher said to me: “It is time to stop beating teachers and start giving us the support we need to do our job.”

They were scathing about forcing schools to become academies. The reality of academies is they are neither inherently good nor bad and they should not be bluntly imposed on all schools.

Instead of fixating on school governance, the Government needs to ensure that schools have the tools they need to do their job.

This means focusing instead on issues like teaching standards and recruitment.

I never cease to be impressed when I visit local schools.

As well as some inspiring pupils, I have also met tremendous teachers, truly visionary headteachers and deeply committed governors. We have many schools doing incredible things.

But research by the Social Market Foundation paints a very stark picture across Yorkshire and the Humber.

They found marked disparities in GCSE performance between regions, with over 70 per cent of pupils in London achieving five good GCSEs compared to just 63 per cent in our region.

These regional differences are already apparent by the end of primary school – and they are evident even after account is taken of other factors such as ethnicity and income. Tragically for our children the region has gone from the fifth lowest achieving in the 1970s to the worst in England today.

Nearly a quarter of pupils are attending schools that are rated less than good.

Children are being left behind.

There is no doubt that there is a postcode lottery in education – and this is a disgrace.

After 30 years of neglect and a lack of focus from Government, we now live in a society in which a child born here in Batley & Spen has less chance of reaching their potential than one born in London.

The debate I led in Parliament on this issue highlighted this and I told MPs and ministers that the growing divide in regional academic attainment can no longer be left unchallenged.

Nothing politicians do matters more than ensuring that no child is left behind.

The answer must, in part, be teachers, teachers, teachers. And we need the sort of investment that has raised standards so successfully in other regions.

We have a duty to make sure every child has access to the best possible education.

It should not matter where you are born. No child should be left behind.

Jo Cox

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