Gazette & Herald: Reading rates and school standards rising in country

Many new school buildings are being built across the South Wiltshire area to provide spaces for families moving here as part of the Army Rebasing Programme.  However, Headteachers, including Susan Raeburn at Bulford Kiwi, made me aware some time ago that the traditional annual census that allocates money to schools based on their pupil numbers made it difficult for local schools with large increases in pupils to plan and prepare.  After some months of campaigning by myself and the Leader of Wiltshire Council Baroness Scott, the Department for Education has agreed with us that our schools need more help to deal with this specific local challenge, and I am absolutely delighted to report that we have secured an additional £2.8m to support the amazing work done in this area. 

Furthermore, across the county and the country, this Government is investing more in our schools than ever before, including the Service Pupil Premium introduced by the previous Conservative Government to provide the additional support children from service families may need.  Over the next two years school funding will rise from almost £41 billion to more than £43 billion a year, and we are investing £5.8 billion to 2020 to create even more good school places.  This money is being well spent thanks to ever improving school leadership and excellent teaching, and with reading rates and school standards rising across the country, almost 90 per cent of children are attending schools rated Good or Outstanding, compared to 66 per cent in 2010.  Locally, it is one of my key priorities to help ensure that all children in the Devizes Constituency are educated in Good or Outstanding schools by 2020 and we are making excellent progress, with just a handful still to achieve this target.

In Westminster this week a group of hundreds of girls and women from all walks of life came together to celebrate the unveiling of a statue depicting Millicent Fawcett, a prominent Suffragette.  The event was hugely significant as this is the first female statue in Parliament square – the eleven others are men – and quite amazingly only 3 per cent of statues in the UK represent women who have lived (excluding Queen Victoria who features prominently across the country in tribute to her many achievements).  This beautiful piece of art was commissioned by the Government to mark this anniversary year of the extension of suffrage to some women, and it was wonderful to listen to our second female Prime Minister pay tribute to all the women who fought injustice and made our basic rights possible.