Saturday, September 18, 2010

Children & Young People

This morning Conference business consisted of consultative sessions working towards policy development for the future. I spent my time at one on school governance, a very important subject at this time when the education system is being fragmented by the implementation of Conservative policy on academies and free schools (an argument which I assume we lost in the coalition negotiations). There were, of course, issues about school governance before the election but there are far more now! I can’t describe all the discussions here – we had an hour and a half to discuss follwed by half an hour of drawing it together – but there will be more at the next conference I’m sure and in the meantime if anyone has thoughts on how school governing bodies work and should work in the future do get in touch.

From there I went to a lunchtime meeting with Sarah Teather, minister for Children & Families, to discuss the implementation of the pupil premium, a Lib Dem policy being implemented from next April. The exact amount will be decided in the spending review but at least there’s a commitment to make a start. Sadly, the only way that’s been found so far to introduce it so quickly is to use Free School meals as a measure of deprivation related to the schools. We all know of families whose children don’t take Free School Meals despite being entitled to them. There are all sorts of reasons, stigma and ignorance among them. But it’s a start and there are plenty of Lib Dems around the country who will ensure that other way are developed over the next couple of years to make the targeting more precise. I’m looking forward to seeing the detail and seeing where the improvements will take place.

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