Cllr Nick Bennett is a Conservative councillor in Bromley and a former Conservative MP and Welsh Office Minister
The London Borough of Bromley, in SE London is the largest borough in London stretching from Crystal Palace and Penge in the north which have inner city characteristics to the countryside south of Orpington.
The Darwin Ward is larger than the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but only has an electorate of 4000. Bromley has been Conservative since its establishment in 1965 save for the three years 1998-2001 when a Lib Dem-Labour coalition ran the council.
Currently there are 53 Conservatives, four Lib Dems and three Labour councillors. Two of the 17 secondary schools, Newstead Wood School for Girls and St Olave’s Boys School are selective schools.
In May 2012, Bromley Conservative Council transferred child welfare to a new Social Care portfolio and established a standalone Education one. Cllr Steve Wells was appointed cabinet member for Education and I became the chairman of the Policy and Scrutiny committee. We were determined that there should be clear political leadership based on our philosophy and objectives.
Underpinning everything we do is the belief that every child matters’ and deserves a first class education to suit their individual needs and talents. A rounded education is the key to a fulfilling life. The investment we make in our schools and colleges helps to ensure a successful future for the country.
We took to the Conservative Group a paper setting out a series of education commitments and these were subsequently endorsed by the full council as policy.
One of the key pledges was is encouraging all Bromley maintained schools to become academies. All but one of the Borough’s 17 secondary schools have converted to academies and over 60 per cent of the 74 primary schools have converted or are in the process of doing so. Four free schools have been approved with another four proposed.
Amongst the other commitments are:
- Strong support for parental choice including faith schools, free schools and the expansion of selective education;
- Backing the concept of education vouchers;
- High quality technical education for 14-19 year olds;
- Improving the life chances for under-performing children particularly in early and primary years;
- Continued improvement in the provision of SEN education;
- Support for ‘life-long learning’ and the important work of adult education.
We have also gained approval by the full council for an education covenant to complement the pledges.
As Steve Wells explained:
“We need a new relationship with our schools, residents, and businesses as we cease to be the operational providers. We still have more than 250 legal duties as an education authority and, although rightly, independent of borough control, our residents will expect us to ensure the highest possible quality of education for their children”.
The Covenant sets out what the Council commits to and it also sets out the role it hopes school leaders, governors, parents, pupils, local residents and businesses will play in supporting Bromley schools.