The Camden New Journal published the below letter following up on my previous letter on Camden’s falling school standards, in response to a letter by the Cabinet member for Best Start in Life (i.e. children, schools, and families).
As noted before, standardised exam results have fallen in Camden relative to other London boroughs. Yet Camden’s Cabinet member responded to me mentioning this by saying I was ‘badmouthing’ Camden. Nothing could be further from the truth – she is letting down Camden by not caring about how our schools are deteriorating under her watch.
I welcome the question that Camden’s Cabinet member for schools, Angela Mason, posed in last week’s CNJ: what is the best response to Camden’s schools falling behind those in almost every other London borough?
With Camden’s schools joint-last among the thirteen Inner London boroughs at age 7, third-last between 11 and 16, and second-last at age 18, it’s an important question for councillors to answer.
My answer differs from Cllr Mason’s. I believe that the Council should continually improve our schools, and hold our heads in shame when we fail our kids by falling behind nearby boroughs.
Instead, Cllr Mason buried her head in the sand and said anyone that didn’t want our kids falling behind the rest of London was ‘badmouthing’ Camden.
I note that her position is not just a personal one piqued by someone noticing her own bad report card. It was also shared by Labour council candidate Luca Salice, who wrote a near-identical letter, so it appears to be the Labour Party view.
With due respect to Labour’s position, shirking responsibility is not an option. Under the Education Act 1996 s13A, Local Education Authorities like Camden have a legal duty to promote high standards and help all children fulfil their potential.
Indeed, Camden’s Cabinet member’s own job description says she’s personally responsible for ensuring ‘excellence in education for all’. Camden’s obviously not achieving that.
This is in contrast to other boroughs, whose schools face the same challenges but which perform far better. Cllr Mason bemoans the comparison with Barnet, but Camden lags behind almost everyone in London.
Camden’s schools are in the bottom quarter of Inner London boroughs – most of them poorer than Camden – at three of the four assessment age brackets: letting down our children from 7 through to 18.
I put this to the Cabinet member two weeks ago, and she was non-plussed. But this week, the latest A-Level results have been published. By the age of 18, pupils in Conservative-run Westminster and Barnet both perform a whole grade better than schools in Camden – only one inner London borough does worse.
As the evidence mounts that Camden’s schools are under-performing, Cabinet members with a legal duty to promote high standards in education cannot bury their heads like ostriches.
There needs to be a root and branch reassessment of Camden’s school standards. It’s not talking down Camden when we say that – Camden’s holding back our kids if we don’t.