Our children are our future – let’s invest in them

In the Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made jokes about ‘Eeyore’ and ‘Tigger’ as he congratulated himself on better than expected growth figures; a whopping 1.5 per cent increase in GDP instead of the predicted 1.4 per cent.

On the same day, however, residents lost a very valuable local resource. After 23 years of service, the Banbury Playbus, which provided support to families across North Oxfordshire, announced it will be closing in June.

Without wishing to rehash political arguments from the past two years; the decision to leave the European Union has had an impact on our economy. We have gone from the fastest growing economy in the G7 on the eve of the referendum to the slowest.

Britain’s future rests on trade deals signed with the likes of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping in the US and China.

Alongside this instability over our trading relationships, Britain’s productivity is struggling to get off the ground.

If Britain is to have a successful future post-Brexit, we need to ensure that all children have the best start and are able to reach their potential so that they can contribute to our nation’s economy.

That is why the closure of the Banbury Playbus is such a damaging blow.

UNICEF states that, “Children who receive assistance in their early years achieve more success at school. As adults they have higher employment and earnings, better health, and lower levels of welfare dependence and crime rates than those who don’t have these early opportunities.”

Yet despite this, children’s centres and early years provision have been among the biggest victims of austerity.

The closure of Oxfordshire children’s’ centres like those at Glory Farm and Ambrosden has led to an increase in school exclusions of more than a quarter in a year and 62 per cent from the year prior to that, according to the County Council’s own Education Scrutiny Committee.

Last week figures came out also showing the number of English secondary schools in deficit had trebled in four years.

A quarter of secondary schools are paying out more than they have coming in.

If we look at Bicester, St Edburg’s has increased the number of pupils on its books by 23 per cent in two years. Yet the funding has gone down by £253 per pupil in the same timeframe.

For secondary schools it is even worse. At Bicester School, funding is down £341 per pupil while at Cooper School even though the number of pupils declined between 2015 and 2018, the number of pupils per teacher actually increased.

Whatever the future holds when we leave the European Union, Britain needs an educated and skilled workforce if it is to compete.

But austerity is damaging our long-term competitiveness. Our children are our future. So it is time to invest in them, properly, and that’s exactly what Labour will do.