Parents and students returning to school this month should be settling into a new term and a new academic year. But with the news that Wakefield City Academies Trust is pulling out of running its 21 schools across Yorkshire, many students and teachers face huge uncertainty. This has come as a bolt from the blue.
In Parliament, I asked the Education Secretary Justine Greening what action the Government was taking, and what reassurance she could provide the parents, students and teachers who are worried about the future of their local schools. She had no answer, and resorted to political point scoring to avoid answering my question. This is yet another stark example of failure in the Government’s management of its academies programme, and comes hard on the heels of the chaotic handling of CAPA College. I am hopeful that a new home in Wakefield can be found soon for this outstanding academy, although this will be cold comfort for the lower sixth students who missed out on a place this year because of uncertainty over its future.
After seven years of falling pay for public sector workers, the Tories attempted to play a political trick in announcing the end of the public sector pay cap for police and prison officers. But the increase is actually a cut, because it fails to keep up with inflation. The money will come from existing budgets, which means there will be further cuts to frontline staff, and could mean losing 80 officers in West Yorkshire.
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the terrorist attack at Parsons Green last week. After a summer marred by attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, the Government must do everything they can to keep people safe. It is deeply concerning that Ministers are planning a £50m cut to the budget for the Office for Security and Counterterrorism, which is responsible for Britain’s overall terrorism strategy, and which pays for the government’s Prevent programme.
After a summer of infighting and the resignation of key Ministers working on Brexit from the Department of International Trade, Exiting the EU, and the Treasury, Theresa May is now facing a civil war in her party on two fronts. First, she faces a backbench revolt over her Government’s latest Bill, which gives Ministers unprecedented powers to change or scrap key legal rights and protections for consumers, workers and the environment with minimal Parliamentary scrutiny. Parliament must not be side-lined on key decisions as we leave the EU, and I and my Labour colleagues voted against this fatally flawed Bill.
Second, Boris Johnson triggered fresh chaos last weekend by undermining Theresa May and repeating the lie that leaving the EU would magically generate £350m a week. The head of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove condemned this as a “clear misuse of official statistics.” As Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson should be focusing on the UK’s response to hurricane Irma, dealing with North Korea’s reckless missile tests and finding a solution to the appalling ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya muslims in Burma. The world is more unstable now than at any time in the last 30 years. We need a Government united and pulling together for the good of the country, not tearing itself apart over Brexit.