Monday, November 30, 2009

Investing in our future

The approach of a political party to young people is always a test of their true values.

One of Labour's proudest achievements has been its investment in education - both in bricks and mortar, but also extra teachers too.

And here in Darlington, the Labour Council has been keen to work in partnership with national government to deliver the best facilities for young people. We've been ambitious for change, whether in the secondary (Hummersknott, the Education Village) or primary (Alderman Leach, North Road, Harrowgate Hill, Firth Moor) sectors.

Although notionally in a later 'wave' of local authorities, whose schools would be modernised in 2013, Darlington Council, together with our MP Alan Milburn, have been pressing for more rapid improvements. So it was great to learn today that Longfield, Hurworth and Branksome have all been fast-tracked for modernisation, with a £57 million grant from Government. A key argument Darlington has been able to deploy is our ability to complete school rebuilding projects on time - this meant the Government could be sure that wrangling wouldn't hold up the much-needed work.

For Longfield, which already has sports college status, it will allow the buidling of "state-of-the-art sports facilities" which are sure to make a big contribution of sports development in the town.

Rebuilding or modernising all of the Borough's maintained secondary schools was a key manifesto pledge of Labour at the 2007 local elections, and I'm delighted that we've been able to deliver on that promise.

Now maybe any local Tories would like to come on and list all the schools in Darlington that were renovated under the Conservatives between 1979 and 1997....?


james said...

This is also part of the anti-recessionary strategy - bringing forward planned investment in public infrastructure so as to put demand back into the economy.

The Tories in parliament have opposed this, ignoring the "paradox of thrift" - though the logic would appear that the govt should fall in line and cut spending during a recession, delay projects, etc, this would lead to a lengthy period of stagnation with spiraling falls in private investment and rises in unemployment.

So this announcement is not only good news for the future, it's good news for the present as these projects help sustain employment in the construction industry...

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

I think a huge vote of thanks should be given to Murray Rose, George McQueen and the staff of the Children's Services Department who carried out the enormous amount of work in preparing the bid, presenting the case and steering it to its successful conclusion and to the governors, Headteachers and staff of the schools concerned and Darlington Association of Governors who gave total support to the bid.

I have written to Murray on behalf of Darlington Association of Governors to congratulate his team on the news and I ended with these words on behalf of the Association "We are delighted that all Darlington secondary schools will at last have state of art facilities to enable staff to deliver an excellent education and for the children and young people attending the schools to reach their full potential."

As a Dad who has a son at Longfield I am delighted with this news.

Lets not play politics with this Nick and James and think instead of the staff and children who attend these schools who richly deserve state of the art facilities.

james said...

Alan, I agree with you until you talk of myself and Nick "playing politics" with this good news as if we are belittling the work of staff, pupils, and governors.

The great efforts in securing the funding would never have come to pass if we had a Tory government, because that funding would not be on offer in the first place. First, the Tories don't have a record of investing in public infrastructure. Second, they opposed the plans to bring forward spending to boost the economy.

Anonymous said...

Afternoon Councillor.

Are you going after this job?

Thursday, December 03, 2009
Labour HQ recruits blog spinner?

Now here's an interesting job on the Labour Party website. It seems they're looking for an Online Communities Organiser who's responsibility will include the need to "build relationships with key online stakeholders and encourage the creation of user-generated content from our online communities".

Expect to see ever more uncritical lines straight from Labour HQ being pushed by "independent" left wing blogs in the coming months.

They're looking for a Spammer-in-Chief to manipulate Google and deluge people's Inboxes as well.

Right up your street Councillor.

ianh said...

This is fantatic news for all those interested in delivering top class education across the Borough.

Huge thanks must go to all those involved in delivering the funding, from the school staff and leadership teams, through to Murray Rose and his team at DBC.

I would like to express my particular appreciation for the efforts of Chris McEwan and Jenny Chapman....things have certainly moved on since the dark days of 2005.

The only dampener has come from the ill-informed and undignified letter in yesterdays echo from the Darlington Tory Candidate Edward Legard, who belied his complete ignorance as to the performance of these schools in general and Hurworth in particular.

I suppose he should be excused his ignorance of state education given that as the son of a Baronette he is hardly likely to have been educated in a state comprehensive. (his pre university educational background does seem mysteriously lacking on various websites.....)

james said...

What struck me about Edward Legard's comments was that his party have been less than enthusiastic about public investment in education for ordinary people. The decision to bring forward this investment was opposed by the Tories in Parliament...

ianw said...

I was also please to see in Fridays Echo at the end of an article by/including comments from Cllr Freitag where that article closed with the comment..

"Darlington has just secured £57M to rebuild three secondary schools, which will include sporting facilities avalible for COMMUNITY USE"

I will be glad if this is in fact becomes true as I know of others who have problems with the cost of after school hire (the education village) for various uses and if the rumours of Hurworth getting a pool are true that would be great a "village pool" for all us residents that cannot afford a gym membership at the new rockliffe development at only £95 a month.

Sadly for Labour they threw all their chances of getting re-elected out the window when they tried to close our school a few years back! Who would of thought at the time, our fight to save it could ever have resulted in such a victory!

Well done to all the schools who will benefit from this funding.

Paul Cain said...

Look, why don't you just call this what it is: a crass pre-election bribe in a marginal Labour thinks it could lose?

Gerrymandering and deceit is the Labour way,so this is no surprise. But for you to claim the moral high ground is nauseating.

And, of course, another 57 million quid the country can't afford, spent on nice buildings, is not going to change the scandalously low level of numeracy, literacy and preparedness for the world of work which is the real educational legacy of 12 years of Labour.

Darlington Councillor said...

Hi Paul.

This isn't a pre-election bribe, and even local Tories aren't daring to spin that line. Indeed, 1/3rd of the schools are actually in a rock-solid safe Labour seat (Hurworth's in Phil Wilson's Sedgefield constituency).

And it isn't simply a matter of "nice buildings" - when Labour came to office in 1997, schools were in a shocking condition. We've made huge strides in remedying that, and now all of our maintained secondary schools - and a good few of our primarys too - will have been rebuilt.

The statistics show that standards in our schools are rising, and parents appreciate that the number and quality of our teachers, as well as the conditions children are taught in, are key factors in this.

As I think you appreciate, however, the dividing line between Labour wanting maintain investment in public services, whilst the Tories are itching to slash and burn, will be the key issue at next year's General Election.

ianw said...


Whilst I agree with most you submit. I can tell you as a Hurworth resident it will be a cold day in hell before the people of Hurworth vote Labour again after they tried to close this school and we as a village fought them.

People have long memories and the last ward election their candidate only got 16 votes as we ran a sweep on in and if it were not for the fact we fall into the Sedgefeild constituency we would not have a labour MP post the next general election.

Darlington has one main problem that has/will put people off voting
for Labour anymore he is extremely disliked and made more mistakes into the £M's than Frank Spencer yet despite the fact the buck always stops with him he has never been replaced and will not resign and give Labour a fair crack of the whip in the town.

Until there is a new leader who people like and trust we can expect the Tories to be our new masters with Lord Legrand and then Labour may realise the error of their ways but sadly too late.

There is still time before the election to right this wrong but will they, I think not!

So they must be prepared to sleep in the bed they have made for themselves!

The buck used to stop at the top now it is simply passed on a weekly basis depending on the overspend.

Paul Cain said...


If our local schools are so fabulous, I presume you send your own children there.


Or No?

ianh said...

Regardless of the timing of this announcement, please be in no doubt as to how important this funding is. Speaking as a parent who has had three daughters go though Hurworth i can vouch for the superb grounding and education that they have received.
This is a highly succesful school. It consistantly achieves amongst the best results in the country, both in terms of GCSEs and the value added index, with an entirely "average" intake. (based upon numbers of free school meals)

All this is being acheived despite utilising modular buildings from the sixties that had a 20 year design life.
With no major investment under either party rule it must be said that the schools long term future would be bleak without this funding.
Indeed, one of DBCs main reasons given for trying to close the school in 2005 was the state of the infrastructure. However that battle was rightly won and now we have the opportunity to rebuild the school and secure its long term future to benefit future generations.
Not only is this good news for the school, its presence in the village will mean that young families will continue to be attracted to live in Hurworth, ensuing that we have a strong and vital community.

I too have concerns about the number of labour cllrs, making decision realting to our schools who choose to send their own kids elsewhwere. However i would love to hear where the Tories candiate went to school, when he is so quick to give his opinions on what is wrong with state education.

Paul Cain said...


You make some fair points and I acknowledge them.

My point was that I think the 'investment' (i.e spending we cannot afford when the deficit will run to 200 billion quid next year) is a pre-election bribe: nothing more.

The unavoidable fact is that all the money pumped into schools and colleges in the last 12 years has, to a large extent, produced very little.

This, last week, from the BBC (and when even the BBC cannot spin it in favour of Labour you know it's pretty grim):

Billions of quid spent and all we have to show for it is an extra two GCSE passes per child at Grade C - an increase in performance of around 2.5 percent.


How dare Councillor Wallis and others on here blather on about achievement in education under Labour when, in any meaningful sense, there hasn't been any?

They can announce as much 'investment' as you like: it makes no difference.

Our schools might have nice new name tags and buildings, but even now, people like Sir Michael Rose of Marks and Spencer say, after 12 years of 'education, education, education', school leavers still lack the basic numeracy, literacy, maturity and preparedness for work that an organisation like his requires.

He is not alone.

Why do universities have to run remedial classes in English and maths for successful A level students?

I am glad that Hurworth feels it will benefit.

But for Councillor Wallis and his cheerleaders to claim the moral high ground after 12 years of abject incompetence, is simply grotesque.

ianh said...

We will have to disagree on this one.
it would daft to suggest that is all is well in the state sector but from a personal point of view i can honestly say that my childrens education has been far better than my own, at the same school.
My kids have not had to share one book between 3, or write on the covers of exercise books because they had run out of money for new ones.
But they have had to see buckets in the coridors because the roof leaks, and suffered gas and water leaks leading to closures for a number of days.
This money is truly essential for hurworth and no doubt longfield and branksome.
The investment announced for darlington will have been timed for maximum political effect, but has been persued for several yrs (since the school was saved from closure)
Finally, it is true to say that however cyncial people may be about education in the state sector, one of the main reasons so much has had to be spent in the last decade is down to the chronic lack of investment in infrastructure over many yrs under the tories.