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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

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Full marks for west Cumbria's teachers says MP

Workington's MP Tony Cunningham has heaped praise on local teachers after a fellow Labour politician said the town has struggled to attract “high quality” education professionals.

Tony Cunningham photo
Tony Cunningham

The issue shot up the political agenda after Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg claimed there is an “arc of under-achievement” in some English seaside towns and northern cities.

He said too many schools in these areas had failed to match the improvements in results elsewhere in England.

Mr Twigg went on to warn of a “catastrophe of neglect” blighting the life chances of thousands of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Commenting on the situation in Cumbria, he said that some areas – including Workington, Barrow and Ulverston – have struggled to attract high quality teachers and headteachers.

Reacting to the speech, Mr Cunningham – himself a former teacher with 18 years of experience – said his colleague was not questioning the quality of commitment of local teachers.

He said: “We have the highest standard of headteachers in Workington, which is important because schools need leadership.

“I was at the Beacon Hill School prize-giving ceremony last night and though it’s only a small school, it achieves great things under the leadership of Mrs Julie Richardson, who is a tremendous headteacher.

“In west Cumbria, we have got some of the best headteachers anywhere.”

But Mr Cunningham suggested it would have been easier to attract good teachers to Workington had it not been for the coalition government’s decision to scrap the last government’s “Building Schools for the Future” scheme.

That would have given Workington a new school and upgraded others.

“If that had gone through as intended the building of a new school would now be well underway,” he said.

“There is a problem in recruiting in west Cumbria but it’s also the case that once people come to this area they don’t want to leave.

“I intend to speak to Stephen Twigg and invite him to come to Workington to see our schools and to speak to our teachers so he can see for himself the tremendous quality of their work.”

Councillor Duncan Fairbairn, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning, said: “I would agree that the recruitment of high quality teachers and school leaders is essential to maintain the high standards of education we expect for our children in Cumbria, but the comments by the Shadow Education Secretary about Cumbria are wide of the mark.

“The county council is confident in our recruitment processes, and our schools, including those in Workington, are well served by excellent headteachers and staff. It is unfortunate that the Shadow Education Secretary has not taken the time to establish the facts before making statements of this kind.”

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