Nurturing children and young people
Labour believes strongly in the importance of early help and intervention for families to prevent difficulties becoming more deep-rooted and costly to solve in the long term. We also believe that family poverty combined with underfunding of early years and education holds back children’s development and exacerbates inequalities. We need to break the cycle of low aspirations and poor achievement.
We will therefore:
- • Seek to re-introduce universal rather than targeted support to ensure all families that need help are able to access it
- • Support the work of children’s centres, especially in the areas of outreach and community development
- • Ensure full availability of affordable pre-school and nursery places to meet need, and to stop loss of places following the Covid-19 pandemic
- • Support community groups that work with new parents
- • Ensure good parenting advice on techniques such as therapeutic parenting are widely disseminated and parenting support available to all
- • Ensure the Health Visitor service for early years is properly resourced
- • Ensure mothers can access expert support to breast feed their babies when needed
Schools and FE Colleges
The current fragmented education system is failing many of our children and young people. Reform is needed with an improved National Education System being developed by educational experts, and not as a political football. All Academy Trusts should be accountable. Forced academisation should stop.
The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the inadequacies of our education system which had become divided and built on competition through results and outdated curriculums. More cooperation between schools is needed to build back a system that supports staff and student centred approaches to enable all to reach their full potential. The uneven distribution of state funding and resources causes some schools to be inadequate. Students therefore do not get the same chances in life. The quality of education should not depend on where you live and what you can afford.
Devon Labour councillors, support the f40 campaign for fairer funding for all Devon’s schools through a better National Funding Formula. Devon, has been hugely underfunded partly due to increased statutory requirements being imposed by the Government without a corresponding increase in funding. Some children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are having to go to Special Schools due to a lack of resources and support staff in mainstream schools. Many of our schools and colleges also have crumbling buildings and essential maintenance delayed. Labour councillors support the calls from parents and schools who are desperate for help and push for change.
In our view, all schools should be inclusive and meet the needs of all children and young people in their local community and we will promote this at every opportunity. We will work to ensure all schools set high expectations for learner’s individual achievements and encourage the development of a curriculum to develop the intellectual, technical, creative and practical skills needed for every child. We will also promote civic education and critical thinking including current societal concerns such as those raised by the black lives matter and climate emergency campaigns and insist new skills are taught in line with advancements in methods of learning, science, engineering and technology. We believe that it is essential that both vocational and academic qualifications have equal parity, and that we must close the education gap between those that have and those that have not. We also believe that the education system must promote and protect the mental health and well being of our young people.
In Devon the centralisation under the Department for Education (DfE) and the Regional School Board Commissioner’s office has led to the slow opening of new schools or action to replace failing MATs. This greatly impacts on students and increases the costs to Devon County Council. It is our view that all schools should be under a single system of regulation and that they should be brought back under the oversight of the local authority, to ensure consistent standards and maintain local accountability. There is also a need for national oversight by the formation of a National Education Council as a centre for ongoing research and guidance for government, teachers and the public.
Labour Councillors will:
- • Ensure blended learning and Home Schooling do not reduce the chances of young people and ensure all children have access to high speed internet and computers or notebooks
- • Encourage support for parents to enable them to help their children with home learning
- • Encourage collaborative work between schools to produce higher quality online work and a better education system online
- • Focus on reducing the loss of education caused by covid-19, and on closing the education gap and lack of opportunities for disadvantaged children, including for Children in Care and Care Leavers
- • Promote better communication and listening, with parents and young people helping to drive improvements
- • Ensure all ECHPs are completed on time with improved quality and push for reviews to be done in a timely manner for successful transitions to post 16 and post 19 placements
- • Improve services and education for children on the autistic spectrum
- • With the Unions, focus on staff morale at all levels to improve trust, self-esteem and levels of staff retention. We will work to reduce levels of stress and foster respect, trust and the valuing of the expertise of experienced teachers, and improve support for trainee teachers and NQTs using properly trained mentors.
- • Work to stop exclusions and zero tolerance on behaviour, by expanding the work of the Exeter Bridge project
- • Address the mental health crisis among our children
- • Reduce those Not in Education Employment and Training (NEET), by improving access to post16 education county wide
- • Press for reduced segregation and more inclusion for those with learning needs and disabilities
- • Increase the focus of Devon on the importance of improving communication/speech and language skills
- • Highlight that sixth forms and colleges must not suffer more devastating cuts
- • Improve safe and affordable sustainable travel to schools and colleges
- • Aim for every school to be good or outstanding so that all students want to go to their local school or college
A decade of Tory austerity has seen swingeing cuts in youth service provision across the county, and a switch from universal provision to so called targeted provision. This has left too many vulnerable young people unreached and has led to rising levels of anti-social behaviour in some areas.
Labour Councillors will therefore:
- • Replace lost youth work infrastructure/provision and extend to areas where there is unmet need
- • Increase support in rural areas for access to high speed internet, sports, arts and peer group interaction outside school
- • Increase support for young people by the LA and Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to enable them to cope with pressures that may lead to mental health issues
- • Restore funding for a comprehensive careers’ advice service available to all young people
- • Call for reduced cost bus travel for all under 25 year olds
Children services in Devon have received an inadequate and requiring improvement rating from Ofsted in 2013 and 2019. Despite some improvement since 2017 there are still areas of concern.
Labour Councillors will therefore make it a priority to:
- • Ensure timely action at every stage of the legal process for all children being considered for fostering
- • Work to develop robust systems that ensure no case of neglect missed or any child let down
- • Highlight that early intervention should only be used when abuse or neglect is evident
- • Ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable children is always a top priority, including the prevention of child sexual exploitation and involvement in County Lines drug rings
- • Improve support for care leavers, including facilitating peer support and suitable accommodation
- • Work to improve the morale of social care staff and improve retention rates
- • Ensure social workers and health visitors are remunerated sufficiently well to attract and retain good quality staff
- Improve training for all staff