Sunday, 24 June 2012

How to improve social mobility

Social mobility across Britain is in a rapid decline, with children from poor backgrounds now having less chance of improving their prospects then they would have done in the 1950s. Top jobs in journalism, media, medicine and law are dominated by workers who have enjoyed the benefits of a private education. Internationally, Britain has one of worst records for social mobility in the Western world, and this has to change.

There are many causes for these problems, but a theme which underpins them all is education, the engine of social mobility. Since the abolition of grammar schools in 1976, social mobility has effectively ground to a halt. Our once competitive education system, offering a route out of poverty for millions of poor children, now does not. Michael Gove has described this as a “deep rooted problem in our country” and he’s right.

In Croydon when grammar schools converted to comprehensives they effectively became abolished.  This resulted in us losing our brightest pupils to grammar schools to Sutton, Bromley and Kent, a problem that still occurs today.

I have personal experience of this, having grown up in Croydon and going to school at Regina Coeli in Waddon before finishing my studies at Wallington High School for Girls in Sutton. Getting into grammar school transformed the prospects of my family, allowing me to be the first person in my family to go to university, enabling me to achieve.

I believe that education is the engine of social mobility, a privilege that transforms the lives of children financially and culturally. We have a duty in Croydon to help the brightest children from disadvantaged families reach their full potential. Grammar schools provide their students with aspirations and fill them with the self-confidence to fulfill them.

Grammar schools offer hope and excellence to those who need it most and will provide life changing educational opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged families.

Like the boroughs that surround us, Croydon should be a place famous for its quality grammer school education. Offering disadvantaged kids an opportunity to benefit from teaching excellence will encourage social mobility and improve lives for many children and their families.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Supporting Aung San Suu Kyi in her struggle

One of my heroines Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in the UK yesterday on her 67th birthday. She is on a two-week long tour around Europe and on Saturday collected her Nobel Peace Price in Oslo, 21 years after it was awarded to her in 1991.

In 1988 she was an Oxford housewife, raising her two young sons. However when she returned to Burma to nurse her sick mother, she became the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement. During the last 24 years there have been several assassination attempts on her life, her supporters have been killed or imprisoned and she was placed under house arrest for 15 years. Yet she persevered and carried on fighting for democracy and speaking out against the regime. In 1999 she faced an impossible choice; to either leave Burma forever to nurse her dying husband or stay in Burma to fight against the regime. She chose the latter and was rewarded by being elected to parliament in April with her party winning 43 out of the 45 seats contested in by-elections. The next landmark for her is Burma's 2015 general election and if they are free and fair then she will probably be elected to lead Burma's government.

For the first time in 24 years she has been able to leave Burma, trusting President Thein Sein's promise that she will be allowed to return after her tour.

After being awarded an honorary degree in 1991 from her old university of Oxford, she finally collected it today- its citation said:

“Here you studied and formed friendships, here you knew the delights of youth, here as a wife and mother you lived a quiet domestic life, until your love of your country and passion for the cause of freedom summoned you back.

But you were forced to leave behind a beloved husband and children, so that your return to your native land was made into a kind of exile.

For many years you bore the burden of isolation, displaying patience and endurance to a degree no easily imagined.

Your silence has sounded longer than the jabber of politics and the clang of military power.

Out of deep darkness your little lamp has shone across the planet. Your stillness has moved the world.

Sitting in this theatre, we are conscious that we are also spectators of a drama played in the theatre of the nations, one whose ending is as yet unsure.”

This citation provides a poignant reminder that her political struggle for freedom is not yet over in Burma and that we all have a duty to support 'The Lady' with her ongoing fight.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Jubilee Celebrations in Waddon

I was lucky enough to spend Monday celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at the local Waddon Street Party organised by Grace Faddon and the local Residents Association. As always, there was a solid turnout from local Waddon residents who brought along cakes, sandwiches and treats for the kids. Grace and her team had been up since the early hours putting up the bunting, setting up the stalls and organising all the elements that made the day so special.

The Jubilee celebrations across the whole of the country have been nothing short of spectacular. The events over the weekend have inspired communities to come to together and hold street parties and other events, under a shared banner of pride in our Queen and all that she’s done for us. But as always it was the community spirit of Waddon residents that made our street party so special and a weekend to remember.

Waddon residents celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee!