I have now been the leader of the council for six months and I would not be here today if it hadn’t been for the fantastic education I received in this borough.
I went to Haimo Primary School and then Thomas Tallis, which for me was about much more than books and lessons.
Stephen Lawrence had been murdered less than a mile from where I lived and tensions were extremely high.
Ms O’Mahoney worked with us on a book of poems to try and make sense of what was happening around us.
We learned about racism, about difference and about acceptance. I began to realise then that I wanted to be one of the people with a placard, standing up for something.
In Year 9 my world fell apart as my nan, who I lived with, passed away.
It was my teachers who made sure I had both the emotional and educational support I needed to get back on track.
They went the extra mile so I left with the results I needed, but more importantly helped me to understand that the world was a much bigger place than the estate I grew up on.
It was teachers who gave me the skills and confidence I needed to become a teacher myself, and eventually the leader of the council.
Last week I welcomed dozens of teachers to the town hall to discuss the challenges they face and how we can work together to provide the best possible start for the borough’s children.
After eight years of successive and sustained cuts to public service budgets, the challenges faced by our teachers are real and difficult.
No matter how the government spins it, there is less money for all schools, and particularly for those pupils with special educational needs.
The changes to the welfare system in particular mean that schools are not just helping children, but parents, carers and whole families – people who need better housing, help with domestic violence or support with their mental health.
Ninety-six per cent of all of our schools are good or outstanding, but this year, with the exception of Foundation, there was a decline in our performance and outcomes across all key stages.
We want children to get a broad and balanced education, and we don’t want our schools to be exam factories. So I told headteachers that I will work with them to give the very best opportunities to each and every Greenwich child, regardless of where they come from.
Right now there are children across Greenwich who are being inspired by amazing and dedicated teachers, and I know that by working together we can get our results to improve.
Unfortunately the government seems to care more about structures than standards. This has been particularly true in the case of John Roan School, where one-size-fits-all rules are being imposed and the school is being forced into becoming an academy.
Government rules mean that as a council our hands are tied and we have a legal duty to facilitate the academy order that has been issued.
This approach puts government ideology ahead of the needs of our children and is totally unacceptable.
I have a huge amount of sympathy with the pupils, parents and of course the staff who are caught in the middle of an incredibly difficult situation. I will ensure that as a council we use all of our influence to see that the best possible resolution is reached at The John Roan as soon as possible.
We don’t want schools to leave the local authority, but we will work with all schools in the Greenwich family as our responsibilities to get the best outcomes for our children don’t end if they become academies.
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