THE BLOG

Affluence Without Education: Newbury's Hidden Tragedy

05/04/2013 11:17 BST | Updated 04/06/2013 10:12 BST

Newbury is one of England's most beautiful and affluent areas and was recently ranked one of the best places to live in the UK. Therefore people move to places like Newbury with certain expectations. Young families see the town as a perfect place to raise children. These expectations are now becoming disappointments: for many years our educational establishments have been allowed to fall behind the rest of the country.

Newbury educational attainment has been in decline for some years - typified by a 9.86% reduction in English GCSE attainment last year. The Conservative West Berkshire Council blamed this on a national downturn in GCSE results - however the national downturn was only 2.71%.

I am the first person to stand up and bang the drum for Newbury - we're a great market town with a great sense of community. We're above average in almost every respect - most notably in employment and affluence, yet still we seem to be letting our young people down by failing to provide them with the education they so badly deserve.

Padworth College achieved a pass rate of just 19% in 5 good GCSEs in 2011 despite a national average of 60% in the same year. The Kennet School in Thatcham has seen results fall by 11% in just two years. In 2012 Newbury became 'below average' in GCSE results for the first time.

As a local resident I can tell you first hand that Newbury is not a below average place. We have fantastic teachers, parents and schools who believe that education is the key to empowering the next generation. Education means the United Kingdom can take its place in the skills economy of the future - especially in our local industries Vodafone and AWE Nuclear.

I recently started a petition - "Education For a Fairer Future" - because I believe educational inequality in West Berkshire is an urgent issue that must be addressed.

If you have a moment, please take some time to sign the petition.

In a harrowingly honest interview Education Secretary Michael Gove outlined the state of social mobility:

"We live in a profoundly unequal society. More than almost any developed nation ours is a country in which your parentage dictates your progress. Those who are born poor are more likely to stay poor and those who inherit privilege are more likely to pass on privilege in England than in any comparable country."

Mr Gove seems to have identified the problem - now we in Newbury are asking him to put forward the solution.

Newbury's Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Judith Bunting will be writing to Michael Gove at the Department of Education to ask them to investigate why West Berkshire is under-performing in education.

The decline of local schools in such an affluent area is a stain on the conscience of West Berkshire Council. Let's ensure they do more to support the futures of young, striving students in Newbury.